The Washington Capitals, apparently hoping to fill one more square in their Stanley Cup blueprint, yesterday obtained Jorgen Pettersson, a left wing with a scoring touch, from Hartford in exchange for center Doug Jarvis.
Statistically, the price was cheap. Jarvis has only one goal and two assists in 25 games this NHL season. But Jarvis takes with him a reputation that Pettersson and many of the Capitals at this stage can only envy. He is a proven winner.
During a career of 10-plus years in which he has played 825 consecutive games, second-longest iron-man streak in NHL history, Jarvis, 30, has earned four Stanley Cup rings and has not played with a team that finished fewer than 14 games over .500.
Pettersson, 29, averaged 32 goals in five previous NHL seasons with St. Louis. Traded to Hartford in April as part of the Mike Liut deal, Pettersson has struggled this season, managing only five goals and five assists while recording a minus-12 rating, worst on the Hartford team.
Obviously, the Capitals think Pettersson can rejuvenate himself playing on the left side with Bengt Gustafsson and Dave Christian, two of the NHL's hottest forwards.
"This wasn't done overnight," said Washington General Manager David Poile. "I've worked on this with (Hartford General Manager) Emile Francis at least six weeks to two months on an almost daily basis, talking about Jorgen Pettersson.
"We're getting a goal scorer, a left wing with good speed and a chance to play on one of our top two lines. He gives us a chance to be more offensive, which everybody and his brother told me was missing from our club. I'm confident he'll score goals for us."
This was the Capitals' second major trade in three weeks, with the other sending goaltender Pat Riggin to Boston for goalie Pete Peeters. In each case, Poile seems to have added a necessary ingredient if Washington is to compete for the Stanley Cup in the spring.
Coach Bryan Murray has tried virtually every forward on the team at left wing in an effort to generate some scoring punch there.
"I believe Gus and Pettersson are familiar with each other as juniors and the thought now is to play them together," Murray said. "Pettersson has a chance to score some goals -- he's proven he can do that in this league.
"He hasn't scored much this year, but we think in the right position, with the right motivation and playing with the right people, he can be a big help."
Jarvis long has been recognized as one of the NHL's premier defensive centers and two seasons ago he was voted the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL. That same season, the Capitals, with Jarvis leading the way as both player and assistant coach, finished with the league's best penalty-killing record.
Last year, the penalty killing sagged to 15th, for no reason that was readily apparent. And this fall, with Ron Lapointe joining the coaching staff and the penalty-killing philosophy adjusted to a more aggressive stance, Jarvis was dropped from the coaching role.
Jarvis' ice time also was reduced and he spent much of the first 25 games as a fourth-line center, although he was moved up to the No. 1 line with Mike Gartner and Gaetan Duchesne in Thursday night's 3-2 victory over St. Louis.
"It's kind of been a strange situation," Jarvis said. "I realized before the season started that I probably wouldn't be here very long. I was told I'd have limited playing time, with the possibility of being in and out of the lineup from time to time.
"I didn't think I was ready for that in my career just yet. I figured maybe it would be better if I moved on, but deep in my heart I hoped it would be cleared up, because I liked it here so much. It wasn't, for whatever reasons, and now I hope I can be a positive factor with the Hartford Whalers. I'll certainly give it my best shot."
Asked about his iron-man string, second only to Garry Unger's 914, Jarvis replied, as he has so often, "I don't think about it. You play them one game at a time. It just isn't in my thinking at this time."
But when asked whether he would report to Hartford in time to play against Boston tonight, Jarvis chuckled and said, "Yeah, I guess I'll fly up tomorrow."
There can be no more vivid memory for a Washington hockey fan than of Jarvis being carried off the ice in Detroit last January, after being knocked unconscious by the Red Wings' Randy Ladouceur. The next night, Jarvis was an important factor in the Capitals' 4-2 victory in St. Louis.
Of Jarvis, Murray said, "A quality person and a quality player. He's been a great individual around this club. When he arrived with (Rod) Langway and the others (from Montreal in 1982), he was a major factor in the difference in this club."
Poile said, "Doug Jarvis was a big, big part of any success attributed to us in the last three years, especially the first year when we had a club that didn't know how to win or protect a lead. With his defensive style, he helped so many of our young players.
"Emotions do get involved in this business. This was a hard deal to do, but we did it."