The struggling Washington Capitals, attempting to get themselves on track for the Stanley Cup playoffs, traded defenseman Bob Rouse and center Peter Zezel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Al Iafrate yesterday.
Iafrate, 24, in his seventh season in the National Hockey League, has three goals and 15 assists in 42 games. Last season, Iafrate had a career year with 21 goals and 42 assists in 75 games. He led Toronto defensemen in scoring the past three seasons.
"He is an excellent player with a lot of physical tools," Capitals coach Terry Murray said after practice in St. Louis. "He has size [6 feet 3, 220 pounds], strength, skating ability and a nice scoring touch. I'm confident he will play very well with the Capitals. We are going to work with him, and I'm sure we can get Iafrate back to where he was last season."
Off-ice problems were blamed for Iafrate's subpar figures this season, and he asked general manager Floyd Smith to trade him.
"I respect him [Smith] for making the trade," Iafrate said from Toronto. "I wasn't very happy, and I'm glad to be getting out. I feel really good about leaving, and I'm glad Washington showed confidence in me."
Among Iafrate's problems were the breakup of his marriage and a paternity suit filed in St. Louis. Maple Leafs teammate Gary Leeman is dating Iafrate's ex-wife.
Murray was asked if this was the final trade for the Capitals or just one of several deals to get new faces. The Capitals have lost two in a row and have not won in their past four games. They visit the Minnesota North Stars tonight.
"The object of the trade was to improve our team," he said. "We are in fifth place in the Patrick Division, and the reason is that we have been very inconsistent. We hope this trade will get us moving in the right direction because our goal is to make the playoffs. It is imperative that we make the playoffs.