I am revisiting my FanPost from last month on defensemen the Capitals might be interested in trading for. I’ll add a couple and subtract a couple, and I’ll dangle new trade bait out there and subtract other bait. I’ll take a fresh look at the standings and see where teams are. We’re still nearly two months from the March 3 trade deadline, so it’s a bit early still to speculate with any hope for accuracy, but I’ll take a stab anyway. I’ll include a couple of rumors I’ve heard, too.
I don’t see the Capitals adding netminders unless the situation suddenly and rapidly deteriorated in either performance or injury. If anything, Jose Theodore may be trade bait. He’s a UFA at the end of the year with a $4.5 mil cap hit, plus he’s a veteran with a very good playoff track record, the Caps could move him to gain room for a big addition. In order for GM George McPhee to move Theo, however, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth must be healthy and performing consistently, and Braden Holtby must be, as well. There is little risk in keeping Theodore, but it is a high risk to trade him and McPhee won’t do it unless he has to and he thinks it’s safe. I’ve heard the rumors surrounding Neuvirth getting traded, but I think they’re bupkus. Neuvirth is a sure thing in McPhee’s mind, and he won’t trade a sure thing unless he’s got another sure thing in return. If anything, he’d trade Holtby, but I don’t see that, either, not unless he gets something really good, and Chris Pronger wasn’t good enough for that last year.
The same reasoning applies to forwards. The Caps don’t have any glaring needs at forward. That said, McPhee is always on the lookout for forwards at the deadline. They’re usually much less expensive than defensemen or goaltenders and good bargains can often be found. I’ve heard the Caps may be interested in Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk, and I’d personally be interested in Carolina’s Ray Whitney, if they were available. I’d expect Don Waddell to do everything he can to sign Kovy, and he’d be a fool not to. If Kovy gets traded, the big issue for Waddell will be return and secondarily, location. I’m sure Waddell would rather trade Kovy out West, and I’m sure Chicago would give a greater return as a way of clearing salary for next season off the books. We’ll wait and see what happens with that.
Eric Fehr is potential trade bait. He’s a young forward with lots of potential, but he often finds himself in Boudreau’s doghouse. He’s got a big frame and a nose for the net and decent hands, but he goes hot and cold. He scores his goals by getting dirty in front of the net, but will go long stretches without crashing the net and as a result doesn’t score. We’ll see if he gets moved, but he’s an RFA this summer and he’ll probably be due a raise from his $771,750, and that may be hard to stomach. There are plenty of teams that might be interested in him.
Another player who is potential trade bait is Michael Nylander. I know what you’re thinking, he’s practically unmovable with his No-Movement Clause, but really, he will go anywhere to play. He’s not the final say in waiving the clause, it’s his wife, and for good reason, as she’ll be alone with the 6 kids. Chicago, New York, Boston, and maybe a few other cities on the east coast are possibilities, and if he continues to produce in the AHL (1-15-16 in 18 games), his experience and skill may get him a trade to another team that could use a boost. Boston and New York come to mind. Remember that Nylander can be waived after this season and his salary drops to $3 million, even if his cap hit stays at $4.875 million.
The only other player on the roster I see as true trade bait is Shaone Morrisonn. His ice time has dropped to 16:46 a game. He’s more or less at his potential after 384 NHL games and he’s unrestricted at the end of the season and will likely command a raise, one the Caps are unlikely to give him. He’s basically a rental until the end of the year, a serviceable defenseman who will be replaced by younger and cheaper defenders next year. McPhee will only trade him if it means an upgrade on defense, and those defensemen that are better and available are few and far between.
Other trade bait comes from the AHL Hershey Bears and maybe some of our junior prospects. Available and desirable prospects include Francois Bouchard, Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, Josh Godfrey, Dmitry Kugryshev, and a few others. Also up for grabs are draft picks, but again, I don’t see McPhee trading away a first round pick for anything but a sure thing.
The real move to keep an eye out for is for a defenseman, particularly veteran defenseman who will be unrestricted at the end of the season and who represent an upgrade over the current defenders. I outlined several defensemen in my last post, and several of them will remain possibilities if their teams do not move into contention or if they fall out of contention. I still think Scott Niedermayer could be available if Anaheim does not recover, but the likely trade destination will be New Jersey, as his brother is already there and Lou Lamiorello knows what he’ll be getting, so he won’t skimp on the return. Dan Hamhuis might be available from Nashville whether they’re in contention or not, and he’d be an upgrade over Morrisonn, so I think he’d be a possibility, but he’ll garner a lot in return and he unrestricted and 27 after the season, so I’d expect him to go to a team willing to give a higher return. Kim Johnsson in Minnesota has picked up his offense a bit in the last month, but Minnesota is still on the outside looking in and probably would be willing to part with him, and I think he’d be a good fit in DC. Marek Zidlicky is another possibility in a trade, but I think Minnesota is more likely to extend his contract if they can as part of their plan to go more offensive. That, and the Caps could really use a defensive defenseman as they already have three puck-rushing defensemen in Tom Poti, Brian Pothier, and Mike Green. I think we can rule out Willie Mitchell from Vancouver at this point as the Canucks are back in the playoff hunt. Paul Mara’s availability will depend on Montreal’s standing at the trade deadline, and he might be an upgrade over Morrisonn, but the return for him will likely be too high to justify the trade.
Another possibility in a trade is Steve Staios from Edmonton ($2.7 mil thru next season). I’ve also heard Andrew Ference’s name as return for Nylander if we were to deal him to Boston. Anton Volchenkov may become available from Ottawa if they keep tumbling, but if I were the Senators I’d want to re-sign him. He will also demand much in return, but I think the Caps may pay up for the A-train. I don't consider it a serious possibility, but the bottom line is that the Senators could use some prospects if they fall out of the playoffs and Volchenkov makes $2.5 million this season and is a UFA in the summer. He blocks a ton of shots and hits a lot, and he's not bad on offense either. What Ottawa would want in return is a very good question.
I'll get their stats up in a moment, but succinctly, Staois would give us a steady veteran defenseman with a reasonable cap hit for this season and next ($2.7 million per season). It might be a bit much for us, but I think Morrisonn would command that much in salary next season, and I don't think he's worth it, and I think Staios is.
Andrew Ference is injury prone, he's missed scores of games in the past couple of seasons with injuries, and they're spelled out here. When healthy, he's a good defenseman, but he's not expected back from his groin injury until right before the trade deadline. The good news on him is that he's got a $1.4 million cap hit this season and then he's a UFA, so he'd be a safe guy to pick up for playoff depth if he can stay healthy. I'd trade Nylander to get him at the deadline, assuming we don't need extra cap space, it seems like a reasonable deal. (link)