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Tuesday, March 19
Oates brings offensive help to Philadelphia

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- With two of their top centers hurt, the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday acquired center Adam Oates from the Washington Capitals for a minor leaguer and three draft picks.

Do the Flyers make this deal if Jeremy Roenick doesn't get hurt? I don't think so. But, JR (and Keith Primeau) went down during Monday's game against the Lightning, forcing Flyer GM Bobby Clarke to take emergency measures.

To his credit, he was able to get Oates, the league's top playmaker, on short notice.

In Philly, Oates will be in seventh heaven passing to goal-scoring wingers like John LeClair, Mark Recchi or Simon Gagne. These guys will be lining up to play with Oates, who won't have to play major minutes in this star-studded lineup.

Oates will also help the Flyers sagging power play. He can quarterback the unit from the point or along the wall. If the Flyers start scoring some power-play goals on a consistent basis, they may be tough to stop in a wide-open East.

The Flyers do pay a heavy price for their win-now attitude. They surrender a first, second and third round pick in the upcoming draft as well as 20-year-old goalie Maxime Ouellet, their top pick in the 1999 draft.

The offer was simply one that Caps GM George McPhee could not refuse. He could have never imagined he could get such a package for the 38-year-old Oates. After dealing three top prospects to get Jaromir Jagr last summer, McPhee can use these three picks to rebuild some young depth on the organizational chart. Plus, he gets Ouellet, who'll likely step in as Olie Kolzig's backup next season.

In exchange for Oates, who leads the league in assists, the Capitals received minor league goalie Maxime Ouellet and a first, second and third round pick in the 2002 draft.

Oates, 39, recorded 11 goals and 57 assists in 66 games this season. He has 327 goals and 1,020 assists in his 16-year career, which began with Detroit in 1985.

The trade came as the Flyers were evaluating the status of leading scorer Jeremy Roenick, who suffered a knee injury Monday night, and No. 2 center, Keith Primeau, who suffered bruised ribs the same game in a hit from Tampa Bay's Shane Willis.

Roenick is expected to miss two to four weeks, but return for the playoffs. Primeau is likely to be back next week.

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said Oates will fill the injury gap, add scoring power and help on faceoffs.

"Obviously he's a tremendous playmaker. He'll help our power play which has been very anemic. He's going to help whoever he plays with because some of our better scorers have had trouble scoring recently," Clarke said. "We've been a good team this year, but like all good teams, it was our responsibility to identify the needs of this team had to try and get better."

Ouellet, 20, was 16-13-8 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage for the AHL Phantoms this season.

The deal was announced before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

The Capitals had expected to contend for the Stanley Cup this year with the acquisition of five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, but have struggled to a record of 27-31-10-1 and are unlikely to make the playoffs.

Oates asked to be traded last summer, but the Capitals didn't oblige. When Oates returned for training camp in the fall, he was stripped of his captaincy.

However, Oates mended his fences with coach Ron Wilson this season and said he wanted to play two or three more seasons in Washington and then retire. He said he didn't want to be dealt at the trading deadline just to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup.

"We didn't plan on trading Adam Oates 24 hours ago," Capitals general manager George McPhee said in a statement. "But when Philadelphia lost Jeremy Roenick to an injury last night, they had a need for a playmaking center. Given Adam's unrestricted free-agent status, it was uncertain if he was going be a Capital next year."

In Oates, the Flyers, who lead the Atlantic Division at 37-20-8-3, get another veteran to lead the team's playoff run. Team doctors were still evaluating an MRI exam on Roenick's knee Tuesday, though Roenick said he expects to return in time for the playoffs.

The Capitals also claimed left wing Benoit Hogue off waivers from the Boston Bruins. Hogue started the season in Dallas and was traded to Boston on Jan. 12.

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