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Double Agents: Penguins/Capitals

We went over the list of Penguins/Flyers a few days ago. Let’s see what the Penguins/Capitals rivalry has produced throughout the years.

Predators v Capitals

A few days ago I wrote an article listing notable players who played both sides of the Penguins/Flyers rivalry throughout their history. The Capitals and Penguins history began much later, but it’s been just as memorable with many players also coming and going between the two fiery rivals. Here they are:

WTF Division

Players not a lot of people were aware of that played for both teams. Sleeper double agents, you could say.

  • RW - Rick Tocchet
    Most fans easily recognize Tocchet for his days in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but Tocchet managed to find himself in DC in 1997 when he was traded to the Capitals out of Boston. He played in 13 games, recording five goals and five assists along with 31 PIM before signing that offseason with Phoenix.
  • C - Orest Kindrachuk
    Make that three straight PensBurgh articles from me featuring good ol’ Orest. He played in 504 NHL games with Philly and Pittsburgh before signing with the Capitals in 1981 and played only four more games in the NHL with Washington, scoring one goal in the four games.
  • RW - Craig Patrick
    Although Craig Patrick never suited up with the Penguins, he was around for many, many years as a manager with Pittsburgh and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 as a builder. Patrick wrapped up his NHL career with the Capitals from 1976-79 and played in 75 games, recording 9 goals and 18 assists before moving into management.
  • LW - Matt Cooke
    That’s right. Matt Cooke was a Capital before he played for the Penguins. The Capitals traded for Cooke in 2008 for their postseason run and Cooke played 17 regular season games, scoring three goals, four assists and 27 PIM. He also played in all seven games in their first round loss to the Flyers that season. Cooke signed with the Penguins and much to the delight of hockey fans across the globe, got his name engraved in Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2009.

No Hard Feelings Division

Players who played for their hearts out for both teams, and are still regarded highly in both cities.

  • RW - Matt Bradley
    Although Bradley may not have been a household name, he had a pretty solid NHL career and played 675 games in the NHL. He played in 427 with the Capitals before appearing in all 82 games for Pittsburgh in 2003-04, his only season in Pittsburgh. He spent the next six years in DC and spent his last year in the NHL in the 2012 season as a member of the Florida Panthers. He finished his professional career in Europe.
  • C - Kris Beech
    Beech was best known in Pittsburgh as being the biggest piece sent to Pittsburgh in return for Jaromir Jagr in the 2001 trade to Washington. He ended up playing 95 games with Pittsburgh over three seasons, recording 10 goals and 17 assists. Not a great return for Jagr, yet still not the worst trade in Penguins history. Beech was traded back to the Capitals in March, 2006 from Nashville along with the Predators’ 1st round pick for Brendan Witt. That 1st round pick turned into Semyon Varlamov for the Capitals. Beech was claimed three separate times on waivers in January, 2008, with the Penguins lastly claiming him from Washington. Beech would finish his NHL with Pittsburgh after five games in 2008 before finishing his career overseas.
  • LW - Carl Hagelin
    Carl Hagelin will always have a home in Pittsburgh. He was lights out from the second he stepped foot in Pittsburgh and was a key part of the Cup winning team in 2016. His numbers steadily declined with the Pens, but he did score the final goal into an empty net in the 2017 Cup-clinching game in Nashville, which was only his second goal in 15 games that spring. The Capitals picked him up in a trade in February, 2019 from Los Angeles. He had a career resurgence with the Capitals the last year and a half and is still somehow admired by most Penguin fans, me included, while currently playing with the Capitals.
  • C - Kip Miller
    Miller was one of those players that just seemed to always be around. He was a pretty well rounded player and spent 12 seasons in the NHL, scoring 74 goals and 165 assists (239 points) in 449 games. He played 154 games (72 points) with the Penguins and 138 games (81 points) with the Capitals, Miller spent his last two years in the NHL with Washington from 2002-04 and spent his final three years in professional hockey tearing up the AHL.
  • G - Tomas Vokoun
    Vokoun was one of the better goalies of his time, but hardly got the recognition he deserved. He played (exactly) 700 games over 15 seaasons in the NHL, won (exactly) 300 of them and has a .917 sv% and 2.56 GAA with 51 shutouts. He spent his final two seasons with the Capitals and Penguins in 2011-13. He won 25 games in 48 games played with the Capitals and went 13-4 after being traded to Pittsburgh the next season, the lockout shortened 2013 season. He also took over the starter’s role for the Penguins in the playoffs after Marc-Andre Fleury had a total meltdown and Vokoun filled in admirably. He started 11 games that spring and went 6-5 with a .933 sv% and 2.01 GAA. Unfortunately the Penguins forgot how to score goals or else Vokoun could have possibly won another Cup for the Penguins franchise. Unfortunately, his career ended before the 2013-14 after discovering a blood clot and nearly dying. Fortunately he survived, but he announced his retirement from the NHL in December, 2014.

Legends Division

No words necessary. Legendary players for both clubs.

  • RW - Jean Pronovost
    Pronovost is one of the greatest Penguins players of all time and was one of the first star players to come through Pittsburgh. He spent his first 10 years in the NHL with Pittsburgh from 1968-78 and left as the franchise leader in most categories. He still ranks fifth in Penguins history with 316 goals. He was traded to Atlanta in September, 1978 and spent two seasons in Atlanta before being traded to Washington in July, 1980, soon after Atlanta relocated to Calgary. He played in 90 games with the Capitals and registered 23 goals and 38 assists, but came up two games shy of 1,000 for his career as he ended 998 career games played.
  • C - Robert Lang
    Robert Lang was one of the most memorable players of my childhood. I couldn’t tell you where he came from as a kid, all I remember is him getting better and better each year in Pittsburgh. He was signed as a free agent in September, 1997 and was in a waiver-wire war between Pittsburgh and Boston (Lang played three games in Boston before being reclaimed by Pittsburgh) before Lang had made a name for himself. He catapulted from a 20 point per year player to a point per game player in his five years with Pittsburgh. The Penguins could no longer afford him after the 2002 season and he teamed up with his old Czech buddy, Jaromir, in DC and the two continued right where they left off in Pittsburgh as Lang put up 51 goals and 92 assists (143 points) in 145 games with the Capitals before being shipped off to Detroit in February, 2004 for Detroit’s 1st round pick that the Capitals used to draft defenseman Mike Green.
  • RHD - Larry Murphy
    I’m just a little too young to remember Murphy’s entire time in Pittsburgh, but some of my first memories involve him as a kid. Murphy was a force with the Capitals before he wore the skating Penguin sweater, however. He played six years in Washington from 1983-89, playing 453 games and scoring 86 goals and totaling 345 points, before being traded to Minnesota. His time in Minnesota was short lived as he was sent to Pittsburgh in December, 1990 and went on to win back-to-back Cups with Pittsburgh and put up some monster seasons with the Penguins. Murphy scored 15 goals and 72 points in 74 playoff games with Pittsburgh. He spent five years with Pittsburgh, playing 336 games and scoring 78 goals and 301 points, before being traded to Toronto in 1995. Murphy wound up on the highly loaded Detroit Red Wings in the late 90s and won back-to-back (for the second time) Cups with the Wings in 97 and and 98 before retiring with Detroit in 2001. He’s one of the greatest offensive defenseman in the NHL and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2004. His 288 career goals are sixth overall by defenseman in the history of the NHL.
  • LHD - Sergei Gonchar
    The Penguins legend was a Capitals legend long before his days in Pittsburgh. He was taken 14th overall by the Capitals in the 1992 NHL Draft and is now in the discussion for the Hall of Fame. He played 654 games in Washington and scored 144 goals and 416 points, twice eclipsing the 20 goal plateau. His 220 career goals rank 17th overall by defenseman in the history of the NHL. He was traded to Boston pre-lockout and signed a five year deal with Pittsburgh once the league resumed in 2005. In those five years, Gonchar scored 54 goals and recorded 259 points with Pittsburgh. It all culminated in 2009 when the Penguins won the Cup, as Gonchar played an instrumental role with Pittsburgh and put up 28 points in 42 games in 08 and 09. He went on to play three more years in the league before retiring and is currently a coach with the Penguins.
  • RHD - Kevin Hatcher
    Kevin Hatcher was one of those defenseman that made the NHL entertaining. The Capitals took him 17th overall in the 1984 NHL Draft. He went on to put up some ridiculous numbers in 10 years with the Capitals, scoring 149 goals and 426 points in 685 games. He also finished with 999 penalty minutes and his 685 points rank fifth all time in Capitals history by defenseman. The Capitals traded him to Dallas in January, 1995 and the Stars traded him after the next season in June, 1996, to Pittsburgh for Sergei Zubov. Hatcher spent three memorable years with the Penguins and scored 45 goals and 140 points in 220 games with the Penguins before being traded to the Rangers in September, 1999.
  • G - Brent Jonhson
    Johnson spent more time and played more games with the Capitals, but he left a lasting impression in his three seasons with Pittsburgh. He was everything you’d want from a backup goalie and is most well known for his TKO of Rick DiPietro. He’s also the son of former Penguins goalie Bob Johnson and the grandson of Sid Abel. He’s currently part of the broadcast team with the Capitals.

Stabbed in the Back Division

Adored and idolized in one city before moving to another and leaving a wake of destruction in their path.

  • RW - Jaromir Jagr
    July 11th, 2001. That was the date of the trade that brought impending doom to the Penguins franchise. Mario Lemieux’s return in 2000 certainly injected life into the Penguins, but Jagr’s departure also saw the end of the playoff streak for the Penguins that took many years to recover from. It wasn’t Jagr’s fault for leaving, and he certainly carried the Penguins on his back for years, but it was tough to watch him bring his talents to DC while the Penguins burned to the ground with the very real possibility of going extinct. The return for Jagr made the trade even worse for Pens fans as nothing much materialized for one of the most legendary players of his time. Jagr’s path obviously took a much longer route than many could have seen and he has played for nine teams in the NHL since arriving in 1990. It’s hard to have any ill feelings towards Jagr anymore.
  • LHD - Brooks Orpik
    Jagr’s departure in 2001 also put the Penguins on a salary dump and full rebuild. Brooks Orpik just happened to be drafted 18th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft and went on to be one of the most legendary hitters during hit time in the NHL. He was an absolute monster come playoff time and won the Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. After 703 games with Pittsburgh, and 92 more playoff games, he cashed in and signed with the Capitals in the summer of 2014. He would go on to play 332 games with Washington (1,035 in his career) and 64 more playoff games with the Capitals, bringing his career playoff games total to 156. Of course, he played a big part in the Capitals 2018 run, winning the first Cup for the Capitals. He retired from the NHL in 2019.
  • RHD - Matt Niskanen
    Matt Niskanen also bolted to DC the same day as Orpik on July 1, 2014. Niskanen was coming off a career high in goals and points with Pittsburgh in 2013-14 and cashed in big time that free agency. He played in 390 games with the Capitals and scored 29 goals and 156 points. He also won the Cup with Washington in 2018, but first he became a villain in Pittsburgh for his crosscheck to the head of Sidney Crosby in 2017 that got Niskanen tossed from the game (it wasn’t the first time they’ve met) after Alex Ovechkin and Niskanen both got some good shots on Crosby. And just to make things more interesting, the Capitals traded Niskanen in June, 2019 to the Flyers (of all teams!) for Radko Gudas (of all players!).
  • RW - Eric Fehr
    He’s the Penguins answer for Orpik and Niskanen on this list. Fehr may not leave very great memories with only 25 points in 107 games with Pittsburgh, but he was a fan favorite with the Capitals after 87 goals and 87 assists in 419 games with the Capitals to begin his career. After 9 years with the Capitals, he signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh in July, 2015. His first season with the Penguins ended with the Stanley Cup. He was traded the following season and unfortunately wasn’t around for the back-to-back Cups after being traded to Toronto in March, 2017. He went on to play for three more years and retired from the NHL after last season.

Trifecta Division

Played for the Penguins, Capitals and Flyers in their career.

  • LW - Dave Tippett
  • RW - Rick Tocchet
  • C - Orest Kindrachuk
  • RW - Jaromir Jagr
  • RHD - Matt Niskanen