On Monday, the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets made a fairly substantial deal that could improve the youngest roster in the NHL and make them more competitive in the Central Division in 2010.
The Jackets traded veteran forward Jason Chimera to Washington for veterans forward Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina. Chimera, 30, was a well-respected leader in the Jackets’ locker room and had 17 points (8 G, 9 A) so far this season. Chimera, with 47 penalty minutes, becomes Washington’s new leader in that category. The struggling Jackets have enough holes that this was a move of necessity.
Clark had been the captain of the Capitals for the last four seasons and was enjoying a moderate renaissance this season with 15 points already (4 G, 11 A). The younger Jurcina, 26, has only four assists on the season while averaging over 17 minutes per game for the first place Capitals. Washington has the luxury of depth on the blue line, so Jurcina was an affordable loss.
It has been an interesting couple days in Washington. On Sunday, the team announced a one-year extension for emerging 25-year old forward Alexander Semin, and then traded their captain on Monday. It isn’t very often that a first place team trades a captain in the middle of the season, and Washington will not rush to select a replacement.
On Monday, without the traded players being available, the teams saw opposite results. The Jackets shut out the Red Wings 1-0 in overtime behind a fabulous 34-save night from Steve Mason. The Capitals, meanwhile, lost 6-3 at home to the bad Carolina Hurricanes.
While the Blackhawks have already wrapped up their season series with the second-place Nashville Predators, they have only played the last-place Blue Jackets once this year. The Hawks will get three shots at the Jackets before the Olympics, though, and will see Chimera again on March 14 when the Capitals come to Chicago.