The NHL's trade deadline is now barely more than a day away, and the Capitals posses a rare combination that makes it likely they'll be a major player: prospects and salary cap space. That the team is already a legitimate Cup contender doesn't hurt either.
With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at the Caps' most pressing needs, and who they might look at to address them.
A second/third line center
The Capitals second line center situation doesn't get talked about nearly as much as the team's other perceived needs in part because it's an area the team looked like had addressed when Brendan Morrison came roaring out of the gates, scoring eight goals and adding eleven assists in his first twenty-seven games with the Capitals. But Morrison has slowed down as the season's gone on, and has only one goal and eight assists in twenty-two games since Christmas. Attempts to plug the gap with Tomas Fleischmann yielded mixed results. Although playing the pivot gave Flash a chance to utilize his offensive talents, he has been one of the Caps' worst defensive forwards this season and frequently struggled in the faceoff circle, especially away from the Verizon Center.
Things aren't much better further down the depth chart because, with all the respect that he's due for his faceoff and penalty killing prowess, it's hard to see David Steckel as a third line center in the NHL with the offensive production he offers. The Caps adding a second line center in effect nets them a third line center as well, pushing Morrison and Steckel each down a line. If that's not a viable option, it probably makes sense for George McPhee to start looking down a tier and putting in calls to find out about the availability of third line guys.
Saku Koivu seems to fit the bill here: he has experience, plays solid defense, should help on offense, and is a free agent at the end of the year. Jason Arnott in another candidate, bringing a well-rounded game and size to boot. Unfortunately his $4.5 million cap hit, which runs through next season, should be enough to give the Capitals pause.
|Shawn Horcoff||EDM||56||9||14||23||-29||41||3||8||90||10.0||$5.5||2015||V. Low|
[Ed. note: Players whose contract expiration years are marked with an asterisk will be restricted free agents. The rating column considers how attractive a player would be for the Capitals, taking into consideration ability, age, and contract status. It does not take in to consideration what the Capitals would have to give up to acquire the player.]
A top-four defenseman
The story all season long - especially in the mainstream media - has been the Capitals defense, and although the team's blueliners are better than they often get credit for, it's hard to argue the team's Stanley Cup prospects don't go up if they're able to add quality to their defense corps.
Of course, quality is exactly the issue here. Plenty of NHL defensemen are expected to be available, and quite a few should move in the next twenty-four hours, but how many address Washington's most pressing needs? Is a guy like Aaron Ward or Andy Sutton a big enough upgrade to make a difference? Is there really any value in adding a Tomas Kaberle or Sheldon Souray when they're not likely to see very much powerplay ice time? Probably not. The idea of not just making a trade, but making the right trade is as applicable now as ever.
The ideal targets here are Nashville's Dan Hamhuis and Atlanta's Pavel Kubina, both experienced blue liners who play solid defense and would get top-four minutes on the Caps. If the asking price on those two is too high, Steve Staios or Dennis Seidenberg would provide an opportunity to at least round out Bruce Boudreau's defense, and put the team in a situation where they don't have to rely on Tyler Sloan or John Erskine in the postseason.
|John-Michael Liles||COL||41||4||20||24||-2||20||2||16||58||6.9||$4.2||2012||V. Low|
|Scott Niedermayer||ANA||62||6||31||37||-17||30||4||21||135||4.4||$6.75||2010||V. High|
|Sheldon Souray||EDM||37||4||9||13||-19||65||0||4||113||3.5||$5.4||2012||V. Low|
The Caps goaltending has been a hot topic all season long, as pundits have opined that it's a major obstacle the team will need to overcome to compete for the Cup, and Semyon Varlamov's overall stellar season has been interrupted by injuries. As with defense, the issue here is quality. If McPhee has the opportunity to a guy like Tomas Vokoun, he's putting the Capitals in a better position to win the Cup. If not, it's hard to imagine he solidifies the team's backup plan any more than Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth already do.
|Martin Biron||NYI||19||1074||4||11||58||3.24||577||519||.899||1||$1.4||2010||V. Low|
|Tim Thomas||BOS||35||2023||13||15||85||2.52||999||914||.915||4||$5.0||2013||V. Low|
For more on the NHL trade deadline, be sure to check out SBN's Trade Deadline Hub: