Richard Zednik's second stint in Washington ended after a mere 32 games yesterday when the veteran right wing was dealt to the New York Islanders for a second-round draft pick in June. The move was a prelude to what figures to be a big day for the Capitals as the 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline approaches.
Zednik, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens last July in exchange for a third-round draft choice, was a disappointment, amassing only six goals and 12 assists in an injury-plagued season. The 31-year-old, who was originally drafted by the Capitals in 1994, missed 31 games with wrist and abdominal ailments.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee and Zednik's agent, David Schatia, had discussed an extension for the pending unrestricted free agent, but the talks broke off Friday. Zednik, who is scheduled to earn $1.976 million this season, was seeking significantly more money and a longer term than McPhee offered.
"It just didn't work out," said McPhee, who declined to get into the specifics of the negotiations.
Schatia added: "We thought we made a reasonable proposition. But I guess Richard wasn't within their budget."
Yesterday, the Capitals also traded defenseman Lawrence Nycholat to the Ottawa Senators for minor leaguer Andy Hedlund, a 28-year-old defenseman, and a sixth-round draft pick in 2007. Nycholat, 27, appeared in 18 games for Washington from Dec. 23 to Feb. 1, but was scratched the past 11 contests.
That trade capped a productive day for the Capitals, who, according to NHL sources, could be busy today, too. Veteran defenseman Jamie Heward also could be dealt, possibly for a mid-round draft pick. The 35-year-old journeyman is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and could be of some value for a contender seeking to add depth on the blueline before the playoffs.
Another player who could be changing teams is veteran center Dainius Zubrus, another pending free agent. Zubrus's agent, Jerrold Colton, said he was in contact with the Capitals yesterday, but the sides remain apart on an extension. The sticking point, as has been previously reported, is the length of contract the Capitals are offering Zubrus, who wants a long-term pact.
"There have been discussions, but we are not there yet," Colton said. "And there's not a whole lot of time to do so. There's been progress, but not enough to get a deal done. We're certainly hopeful that we can make a deal, but it has to be the right deal."
McPhee said: "We would like to sign a deal. But it had to be a good hockey decision. If the numbers are right, and it makes sense to the hockey department, then ownership will provide the money. But we're not there yet."
It's believed the Capitals have offered Zubrus a three-year contract worth slightly more than $10 million. Zubrus, who plays alongside all-star left wing Alex Ovechkin and has 20 goals and 32 assists, is believed to be seeking five years and $15 million.
McPhee said he expects to have one more conversation with Zubrus's agent before the deadline.
"We'll see what happens," McPhee said.
McPhee spent yesterday at the Capitals' downtown office, surrounded by his pro scouts -- Brian MacLellan, Larry Carriere and Dave Draper -- weighing offers and discussing trade scenarios. Amateur scouting director Ross Mahoney also was there.
McPhee took only a brief break to address reporters. On the conference call, he was asked when he first thought his club might be sellers at the deadline.
McPhee didn't hesitate to answer.
The turning point, he said, came just after Christmas, when the Capitals were defeated in Buffalo, 6-3, then lost the next four games as injuries and a stomach virus took their toll on the team's thin lineup.
"We were pretty good through about 35 games," McPhee said. "Then we had some injuries, got sick, we lost all five [of those] games and we never recovered. But that's the nature of the game. We didn't have the depth to survive that."