Though they currently sit on the outside-looking in with regards to both the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division playoff races, it's unlikely that the Washington Capitals are going to be big-time sellers prior to Monday's trade deadline (even if they continue to struggle between now, and then and even if it's what many think would be best for the team in the long-run).
But if the Caps were to look to move some of their expiring contracts, what could they expect in return? After the jump, we'll take a look at the team's pending unrestricted free agents and sift through the past couple of years of transactions leading up to the trade deadline to find some similar players and get a ballpark feel for what these assets could fetch in return.
#28 / Left Wing
Mar 03, 1984
Salary/Cap Hit: $6.7m
Kris Versteeg (TOR)
||53||14||21||35||2011||PHI||1st and 3rd round picks|
|Dustin Penner (EDM)||62||21||18||39||2011||LAK||
Colten Teubert, a 1st and a conditional 2nd
|57||21||21||42||2009||CGY with a 3rd||Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a 1st|
|63||21||25||46||2009||NYR||2nd and a conditional pick|
Alex Semin, were he available, would clearly be one of the Caps' more valuable trade assets, even if he'll never bring back equal talent. He's undeniably a top-six player and a guy who can change the course of the game single-handedly. Those kind of players aren't available often, and with deadline prices the Caps could conceivably get 85 cents on the dollar for Semin. Based on the comparable players listed above, it looks like Semin should bring back two first round assets (whether they be first round picks or blue-chip prospects).
Dustin Penner is the only player on that list that could claim anything close to Semin's upside, and that's being generous. His physical skill set and large frame make him a player that seemingly should be able to take over games. It hasn't come together like that since he signed his large offer sheet with Edmonton following the Anaheim Ducks Cup run. His inconsistent reputation makes him a particularly obvious comparison for Semin. Unlike Semin, Penner has never been a guy you could trust to carry a line. He had 63 point season in 2009-10, but hasn't cracked 50 other than that year. Semin has hit 50 points 4 times in the last 5 years (including 70 twice and 80 once). Based on the straight talent comparison, Semin should get significantly more than Penner. The wild card is the contract situation. Penner had another year left on his deal, so the Kings may have thought they were getting more than just rental value. Of course, Penner's contract has been questioned consistently since the ink hit paper. If you consider his contract to be a bad one, then the extra year would be something holding the value down - a team that doesn't want to commit future dollars would prefer an expiring contract, like Semin has. That should expand the pool of suitors and potentially create a bidding war.
Kris Versteeg doesn't have the same baggage as Penner, and he plays a responsible defensive game, but his offensive contribution is simply not in the same class as Semin's. Versteeg may potentially fill more roles (though Semin is an underrated defensive player and penalty killer in his own right), but Semin will fill the nets. If a team needs an offensive difference maker, Semin should bring more value than Versteeg. Of course, both Penner and Versteeg have Cup rings, and that factor is routinely highly valued at the deadline.
Olli Jokinen is another highly talented, and highly questioned, top-six player. He's the only player on this list with an offensive resume that can match up with Semin's (and a center), but at the time of the trade he had never even dressed for a playoff game. Even with his discounted value, Jokinen brought in roughly two first round assets (though your mileage may vary on what Lombardi and Prust are worth).
Finally Nik Antropov is on this list because he's another top-six forward who has an obscene amount of talent, and has never quite lived up to it. His "2nd and a conditional pick" wouldn't inspire too much joy if that were the return for Semin. There's no reason Semin should bring this little back, and we doubt George McPhee would ever consider that return, but if you want a worst case scenario, there it is.
Jul 04, 1972
Salary/Cap Hit: $2.0m
(NYI)||61||16||20||36||2009||PIT||Conditional pick that became a 3rd
The recent saga of Mike Knuble and the Healthy Scratches has been thoroughly covered. Without re-hashing the gory details, it's safe to say that Knuble could be available if the Caps decided to stockpile assets and reload for next season. He's not playing at the same level Bill Guerin was when he was traded to the Penguins, but his (Cup-winning!) experience and ability to battle would be worth something to a team looking to add some secondary scoring depth for the stretch run. A 5th round pick or maybe a little higher doesn't seem like an unreasonable return.
May 03, 1976
Salary/Cap Hit: $825k
Teddy Purcell and a 3rd
While the box scores may not show it, Jeff Halpern has quietly been having a solid season for the Caps. He's not going to provide much offense, but defensively responsible players who can take key faceoffs have an important role on any team that wants to contend for the Cup. Halpern may not be quite as stout as Chris Kelly is defensively, but he's no slouch (and who doesn't look better in Boston's system?). Considering two years ago Halpern brought back more than 2nd round value, he should still be in that ballpark. In this market, it's fair to expect 2nd round value (or close to it) in return.
Mar 20, 1983
Salary/Cap Hit: $4.5m/$3.975m
Joe Colborne, a 1st and a 2nd
Defensemen that can create offense are an incredibly valuable asset these days, and Dennis Wideman is in the midst of an All Star, and potentially career, season. Tomas Kaberle is the only guy on the list who can have the same offensive impact as Wideman, though Wideman is clearly the better goal scorer. Wideman also has the more impressive (though more limited) playoff success. Even if Wideman wouldn't bring back quite as much as Kaberle, he'd still bring back two first round assets.
Grebeshkov has never scored 10 goals. In any professional league. He has one 30 point season in the NHL, Wideman has five-straight. It's generous to Grebeshkov to even include him in this list.
Leopold's a bit better, with three-straight 20-point seasons, but he's also not a guy who is going to set the market for Wideman.
Jul 02, 1976
Salary/Cap Hit: $1.5m
Great goalies don't move very often at the deadline, so it's impossible to find a true comparison for Vokoun. Cristobal Huet was the last starting goalie to move at the deadline, and he had been splitting time with (and was ultimately forced out of town by) Carey Price. Huet didn't have nearly the same pedigree as Vokoun has, and his stats weren't eye popping (or as good as Vokoun's currently are) so there's no reason to think his value was inflated. While Huet made the George McPhee look good for scooping him up, playing himself into an all expenses paid trip to Switzerland, it's hard to find a strong connection between what Huet brought back and what Vokoun would bring. Without a robust market for goaltenders, we'll look at the list above and conclude that truly impact players are worth two first round assets. Vokoun most assuredly is still an impact player.
It's worth noting that Mike Green, John Carlson, Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle will all be restricted free agents this summer (barring contract extensions prior to their free agency), and there are a host of minor league RFAs and UFAs that the Caps could also put in play. But for the sake of this exercise, the focus is on the players most likely to be dealt if the Caps decide to sell. Of course, if they decide to buy... hardly anyone's off limits.