Caps Add a Blueliner
Washington added 23-year-old Slovakian defenseman Milan Jurcina to its roster today, obtaining the big (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) blueliner from Boston in exchange for a conditional draft choice (sources say it will be a third- or fourth-rounder).
Jurcina has skated in 40 games for the Bruins this season, picking up two goals, three points and 20 PIM while averaging 10:42 a night and posting a minus-5 defensive rating. For his NHL career, Jurcina has eight goals, 14 points, 74 PIM and is minus-2 in 91 games. He averaged 16:28 per contest in 51 games with the Bruins last year, his rookie season in the league.
Jurcina played his junior hockey with Halifax of the QMJHL, and was Boston’s eighth round (241st overall) pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. A fourth-year pro, Jurcina represented his native country in the 2006 Olympic Games at Turin.
At a time when injuries have cut into the Caps’ organizational depth on defense, Jurcina gives the Caps another young defenseman at a reasonable cost. Jurcina has a big blast from the point (he’s a right-handed shot) and has seen some power play duty in his days with Boston. He’s not a speed burner, but he can and does compensate for that shortcoming with his significant wingspan. After a strong rookie campaign in 2005-06, Jurcina (and several of his young teammates) had struggled as a sophomore. He had fallen out of favor with the besieged Bruins, and was benched for the third period of Boston’s Jan. 18 game with Pittsburgh. He had been a healthy scratch on six occassions with the Bruins this season.
Washington is still without defensemen Brian Pothier (upper body), Bryan Muir (fractured foot) and John Erskine (fractured foot). The Hershey Bears’ defensive corps has also been thinned by injuries, leaving the organization a bit threadbare on the backline.
Jurcina’s contract pays him $500,000 for the 2006-07 season. A change of scenery could give him a confidence boost and give the Caps another viable blueline option at least in the short term and possibly in the long term.
The trade is Washington’s first since it acquired Richard Zednik from Montreal on July 12, 2006. It’s the first deal the Capitals and Bruins have made since the Mar. 3, 2004 swap that sent defenseman Sergei Gonchar from Washington to Boston in exchange for defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and Boston’s first- and second-round picks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.