Oilers acquire Nedved, Markkanen

The New York Rangers continue to clean house.

On Wednesday, the New York Rangers dealt centre Petr Nedved and goalie Jussi Markkanen to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Dwight Helminen, a second-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and goalie Stephen Valiquette.

The trade comes one day after the Rangers sent Alexei Kovalev to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Josef Balej and a second-round in this year's draft.

Sitting six points behind Los Angeles for the last Western Conference playoff spot, the Oilers believe Markkanen and Nedved can help them close the gap and earn a post-season berth.

"With the addition of Jussi, it gives us added depth in goal as we are still unsure as to when Ty Conklin will be able to return to our lineup," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe.

Conklin was placed on the injured reserve on Feb. 14 with an injury to his right hand.

"We probably wouldn't have done the deal without Jussi involved," Lowe said.

"Petr is a proven scorer who can play centre, provide us with some added offence and help us in our drive for the playoffs."

Nedved and Markkanen will debut for the Oilers Thursday in St. Louis.

"Petr is a good guy and a good player and will fit and the price was well within our ability to step out and do something," Lowe said. "We've only lost three games since Feb.1 in regulation."

"I am convinced our guys will keep playing that way."

In 65 games for New York this season, the 32-year-old Nedved has 14 goals and 31 points. Nedved had 149 goals and 351 points in 478 career games with the Rangers.

The native of Liberec, Czech Republic will earn $4.75 million US this season and the Oilers have a club option for $5 million for next season.

Markkanen, a former Oiler who was drafted by the club in 2001, posted an 8-12-1 record with a 2.56 goals against average in 26 games for the Rangers.

The 20-year-old Helminen has 13 goals and 23 points in 32 games this season for the University of Michigan. He was Edmonton's eighth-round pick, 244th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

"Although we traded a prospect and a draft pick, we felt our organization was deep enough to orchestrate a deal of this nature," added Lowe.

Valiquette posted a 14-14-5 record and 2.59 goals against average in 35 games for the Toronto Roadrunners of the American Hockey League this season. The Los Angeles Kings originally drafted the 26-year-old netminder in 1996.

with files from CP Online