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Flyers Trade Niinimaa to Edmonton

March 24, 1998 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ In two deals to boost their defense, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Edmonton’s Dan McGillis and Vancouver’s David Babych on Tuesday, sending Janne Niinimaa to the Oilers.

As part of the trades, the Flyers obtained the Oilers’ second-round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft and gave its own third-round spot to the Canucks’ for a sixth-round selection.

``We gave up a talented player in Niinimaa but McGillis is only 25, he’s a lot bigger and more physical, and a lot better defensively,″ said Bob Clarke, the Flyers’ president and general manager.

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``We felt that in the division we’re in _ we’re going to compete against the big teams like the (New Jersey) Devils _ we felt we were going to have to be bigger on our blue line.″

The 6-foot-2 225-pound McGillis had 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points in 67 games with the Oilers this year. But he is known more for his body-checking.

``In Niinimaa, we give up the passing and the power-play stuff, but McGillis can score,″ Clarke said.

McGillis joined the Oilers last year, where he finished fifth among NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with six goals and 22 points. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, he had five assists in 12 games.

``I was a little shocked but I’m really looking forward to getting into the lineup in Philadelphia,″ McGillis said in a conference call from Edmonton. He will report to the Flyers in time for Thursday night’s game at Boston.

``Physical play is a big part of my game,″ McGillis said. ``Maybe (Edmonton GM Glen) Sather believes he (Niinimaa) will help the Oilers more than I will with my style of play.″

The offensive-minded Niinimaa, 22, recorded three goals and 31 assists for 34 points in 66 games this season, leading Flyers defensemen in assists and points. In 143 career games with the Flyers over the past two seasons, Niinimaa had seven goals and 71 assists.

``I was surprised,″ he said. ``I really didn’t expect it. But when we come into this business, everybody knows the rules, that this can happen. Edmonton looks like they’re building a winning team and they play an offensive game there.″

Babych, 36, has no goals and nine assists with 37 penalty minutes in 47 games this season. Lifetime, he has 140 goals, 575 assists for 715 points. He has 936 career penalty minutes.

His 1,148 games played rank fourth among active defensemen, behind only Larry Murphy, Ray Bourque and the Flyers’ Paul Coffey.