Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
It was on December 28, 2009, when the Washington Capitals traded right winger and then-captain Chris Clark and defenseman, Milan Jurcina to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for left winger Jason Chimera.
I can still remember the events during that time frame. I had attended the Caps’ morning practice on December 27, which was the day after the Capitals had beaten the New Jersey Devils at home. The Caps were riding a three-game winning streak. After practice, I had gotten Clark’s autograph – on a Capitals yearbook – either from that year or the season before. At the time, Clark was one of my favorite players, ranking just after Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. The Caps originally acquired Clark from the Calgary Flames before the 2005-2006 season. He had two good years for the Caps, scoring 20 goals in 2005-2006, and 30 goals in 2006-2007. However, a series of injuries, including a groin injury and hand injuries during the following two years robbed him of his scoring abilities.
I also attended the morning skate on December 28. The forward lines were as expected. On defense, Karl Alzner, who was no longer technically a rookie but had still not firmly established himself in the NHL, was skating after practice and was expected to be a healthy scratch. Topics being discussed in the contemporaneous media at the time included: 1) the goalie drama as Semyon Varlamov had recently been sent back to Hershey now that he was nearly recovered from a groin injury and Jose Theodore would start that night against the Carolina Hurricanes; 2) the scoring slumps by Capitals’ forwards not named Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom, especially Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble; 3) the fact that the Caps had an overage of NHL-caliber defensemen, with eight on their roster; 4) Caps players selected to their nations’ Olympic teams and the fact that Mike Green was not selected for Team Canada.
The trade unfolded that afternoon after the morning skate but before we had to leave the house to get to the game. That day, fans commenting on the day’s stories on Capitals Insider of the Washington Post were discussing the rumors that Columbus and Washington were making a trade, speculated about potential players involved, and eventually posted the details of the actual trade made. Just before 4:00 p.m., the news was official – Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark were going to Columbus in exchange for Jason Chimera.
Contemporaneous Reports on Trade
Washington Post Morning Skate Story on Day of Trade
Washington Post Report on Clark Chimera Trade
Chris Clark Reaction — Per Washington Post
With the trade, the Capitals cleared away Clark’s $4 million salary in exchange for Chimera’s $2 million cap hit. It also relieved the overage of defensemen. The Caps had had too many right wingers, with Knuble and Semin in the “Top 6”, as well as Eric Fehr, but not enough left wingers, so Chimera would slot in as left winger. Chimera was also two years younger than Clark. At the time of the trade, Chimera had scored eight goals and had nine assists with Columbus. Meanwhile, Clark had scored scored four goals and had 11 assists with the Caps. It appeared the Caps would get a slight upgrade in productivity and, as a bonus, clear cap space.
Clark himself was blindsided by the trade and admitted it to Caps’ beat writers, Tarik El-Bashir and Corey Masisak. He said to El-Bashir, “I’m shocked. But then you start looking to the team where you’re going. So now I’m trying to put all my energy into who’s on the team, how they’re doing and where I’ll be playing my next game.” Clark was traded from the Caps who were in first place in the Eastern Conference at the time to the Blue Jackets who were fighting to remain in the Western Conference race and had lost their last nine games.
While the trade made sense from a hockey standpoint, I was personally saddened by it. One of my favorite players was being traded for a player I had regarded as a villain. During a game between the Caps and Blue Jackets that took place on November 1, Ovechkin had laid a body check on Chimera. During a stoppage in play, Chimera bumped Ovechkin as they passed each other near the benches. Ovechkin responded with a two-handed shove, igniting a multi-player fracas. Jared Boll, of Columbus, jumped in and grabbed Ovechkin. Chimera, Boll, and Ovechkin were all sent to the penalty box for two minutes apiece. Boll was also assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The Caps did not score on the ensuring power play. When leaving the penalty box, Ovechkin collided with Raffi Torres on open ice and fell on his left arm. He then left the game and ended up being out for two weeks. The Caps eventually lost that game in overtime, 5-4.
I had latched onto Chimera as the main villain for those events, perhaps because his last name was that of the three-headed monster in Greek mythology, with the body and head of a lion, a goat’s head growing from his back, and a snake as a tail, that had ravaged the countryside of Lycia. The hero, Bellerophon, who rode the winged horse, Pegasus, slayed the Chimera. I was also extremely upset with the Blue Jackets’ team as their head coach at the time, Ken Hitchcock, admitted to targeting Ovechkin. He had formerly coached the Philadelphia Flyers and it seemed that he had brought the “Broad Street Bullies” culture over to his new team, which employed some other former Flyers’ players.
That night, the Caps, now minus their captain of the three previous years, lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3. Chimera had not yet joined the team, but he would join them for their road trip to the West Coast. They would play the San Jose Sharks on December 30 and the Los Angeles Kings on January 2. Unfortunately, as was all too typical of when the Caps played either the Sharks or the Kings, they lost both those games. That road trip even featured Head Coach Bruce Boudreau holding a practice instead of letting them have the day off to enjoy Los Angeles because they had played so poorly in their game against the Sharks.
Chimera got off to a slow start with the Caps, recording only 1 point in his first four games with the team as he adjusted to Bruce Boudreau’s system but by mid-January started performing better, having a four-game streak where he had either a goal or an assist. For the 2009-2010 season, he had seven goals and 10 assists for the Caps.
I even ended up meeting Chimera himself when he and several other Capitals players appeared at a sports memorabilia store at the Dulles Town Center. I learned that Chimera is of Ukrainian descent. I later discovered that the Ukrainian word for “chimera” is “khymera” and that Khymera is actually a surname in Ukraine; thus, suspecting that Jason’s paternal ancestors had translated the name when migrating to Canada.
He remained with the Caps for six more seasons until leaving the team after the 2015-2016 season in free agency. For the Caps, he played in 490 games, scored 82 goals, and had 115 assists for 197 points overall. In two of his seasons with the Caps, he scored 20 goals and in one other season, he scored 15 goals.
One of his most memorable games with the Capitals was when they played the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the playoffs on April 20, 2011. The Caps had won the first two games against the Rangers but lost Game 3 on the road. Game 4 started off for the Caps badly as they fell behind 3-0. But the Caps clawed back to tie the game and force it into Overtime. Chimera had the game-winning goal. As a tribute to that moment, the Caps pre-game video was a “Jason” style horror movie, “Nightmare in New York: Jason Takes Manhattan”. The Caps ended up winning that playoff series in five games.
The trade worked out very well for the Caps. As for the other players in the trade, Clark scored three goals and had two assists for Columbus for the remainder of 2009-2010. He played only one more season for Columbus (2010-2011) and had five goals and 10 assists. That was the end of his career in the NHL. He tried out with the Boston Bruins the following season but did not make the team and played briefly with their minor league affiliate in Providence before being released. At that point, he returned to the Blue Jackets’ organization as a scout and team’s development coach.
Jurcina was traded back to the Caps the same season (2009-2010) moments before the trading deadline but was unable to play due to needing surgery for a sports hernia. He signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders for 2010-2011 and remained with that team for two seasons. After that, he played with leagues in Europe, including the Czech Extraliga (ELH) and the KHL.
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