NHL trading frenzy continues as deadline nears

Three centers moving to playoff contenders

Posted: Friday, March 05, 2004

Three teams fighting for playoff position acquired centers Thursday, five days before the NHL trade deadline.

The Boston Bruins got Michael Nylander from Washington, Jim Dowd went from Minnesota to Montreal and St. Louis obtained Mike Sillinger from Phoenix.

It was the second trade in two days between the Bruins and Capitals. Boston acquired star defenseman Sergei Gonchar on Wednesday for rookie defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and first- and second-round draft picks.

The Bruins, who entered Thursday night two points behind Toronto and Ottawa in the Northeast Division, got Nylander for a second-round draft pick in 2006 and future considerations.

''We went into this time of year looking for a defenseman and a second-line center and we accomplished that,'' general manager Mike O'Connell said.

Nylander broke his leg during training camp and played his first game of the season last week. He was in the Boston lineup Thursday night against the New York Rangers.

The 11-year veteran has twice scored 20 or more goals in a season and has at least 50 points in each of his last four seasons, including a career-high 61 in 2001-02 with Chicago.

''Nylander is something we've been looking for this year, someone to play behind Joe (Thornton) and provide another offensive punch,'' Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. ''We feel like now we have three legitimate lines who can provide offense for us.''

Nylander, making $2.675 million this season, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He became the sixth Capitals veteran to be traded this season as the team slashes payroll. Steve Konowalchuk (Colorado), Jaromir Jagr (Rangers), Peter Bondra (Ottawa), Robert Lang (Detroit) and Gonchar have been dealt since October.

The Canadiens, seventh in the Eastern Conference, acquired Dowd for a fourth-round draft pick, two days after getting talented right wing Alexei Kovalev from the Rangers.

Dowd had four goals, 20 assists and 38 penalty minutes in 55 games with the last-place Wild this season. On injured reserve with a sprained knee, he's been out for a month but is expected to return soon.

''Jim's style of play will be a good complement to our team and will help us in our efforts to secure a playoff spot,'' Montreal general manager Bob Gainey said.

Dowd is making $700,000 and can also become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The Coyotes sent Sillinger to the Blues for goaltender Brent Johnson. St. Louis was four points behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

''I think he's a versatile player, and I think he gives the coaches some options,'' Blues general manager Larry Pleau said of Sillinger. ''He can definitely help us on penalty killing and he's got some quickness.''

The 26-year-old Johnson was once a rising star in the NHL. He became the first goalie in league history to record shutouts in his first three postseason appearances in 2002. He has been plagued by inconsistency, and lost his starting job late last season when the Blues acquired Chris Osgood.

Johnson cleared waivers in January and reported to Worcester of the American Hockey League. He was 4-3-1 in 10 games with St. Louis this season, with a 2.43 goals-against average.

The 32-year-old Sillinger, strong on faceoffs, played in all but one of Phoenix's 61 games this season. He had eight goals and six assists.

Sillinger joins his 10th NHL team in 14 seasons.

''Things have been flying off the shelf and I'm not so sure things are going to abate,'' Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. said. ''It certainly seems like there's plenty to go around.''

In other news Thursday, an arbitrator ruled that Columbus forward Nikolai Zherdev can keep playing in the NHL and does not have to return to Russia.

Zherdev's former club in Russia, CSKA Moscow, claimed he was still obligated to serve in the military there.

The fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Zherdev has played in 42 games for the Blue Jackets this season, scoring seven goals and adding 11 assists.

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