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Japers’ Rink Mailbag: Trade Deadline Questions

A few more questions about Mac’s upcoming big day

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, I think we need to pump the brakes on Joe Snively just a little bit - skaters (especially North American forwards) who make their NHL debuts at 25 years old are rarely The Answer. That said, that doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t be useful. You don’t even have to leave the Caps’ locker room to see examples of guys who made their NHL debuts at 25 or older and have become regulars in the League: Nic Dowd (25 and 300 days), Michael Kempny (26-34) and Nick Jensen (26-90) all debuted around the same age as Snively (25-352), and all have played more than 250 games in the League, no small feat.

Snively’s early results are undeniable, though - he’s provided a spark at a time when the team has definitely needed it, and doesn’t look out of place at either end of the ice. Is he better than, say, Connor McMichael or Daniel Sprong (both of whom, incidentally, are younger than Snively)? I’m not ready to say that quite yet. Snively needs to show that he has NHL staying power, and he’s earned the chance to do that... but if I had to bet on where he ends up, it’s as a classic “AAAA” ‘tweener - a guy who seems too good for the AHL, but not quite good enough for the NHL (think Keith Aucoin). If the Caps weren’t comfortable with their forward depth before Snively’s arrival, they shouldn’t be much more comfortable with it today.

As for your second inquiry, I have a lot of questions. Number one: how dare you? But I’ll answer the first part and say that they don’t appear to feel confident enough in Connor McMichael to let him dog-sit Biscuit much less center the third line (if you think he’s getting sidelined as a wing, just imagine what his minutes would look like as a center).

Luke wrote up a great piece about forwards the Caps could be looking at come deadline time, and the first two names on his list were Tomas Hertl and J.T. Miller, as they’re probably the two biggest targets up front. Both have game-changing talent, versatility and both carry pretty reasonable cap hits (in the case of Miller, that includes another season after this one at $5.25 million, making him particularly intriguing).

What the Caps have to ask themselves in any trade scenario is “how good does landing Player X make us?” Does getting, say, Joe Pavelski make the Caps a better team? Yes. Does getting Joe Pavelski move the Caps from a ~30% chance to win a first-round series to something much closer to 50/50? No? Then don’t spend the kind of assets it will take to acquire Joe Pavelski on pushing a five-game series to six games. An honest assessment is critically important here. To me, perhaps more than any other season in the Ovi Era, this is a “go big or go home” trade deadline. Marginal upgrades around the edges don’t make much sense in an Eastern Conference that would likely require the Caps to go through three of the best teams in hockey to reach the Final.

That said, I wouldn’t be shy about moving prospects or picks in a deal - especially for a guy who isn’t just a one-run rental - because I believe both to be overvalued, really. If we consider McMichael and Martin Fehervary to have graduated from prospect status, there isn’t a single pick or prospect in the organization that I wouldn’t be willing to move in a Miller deal. Shoot your shot and pay the piper when he comes calling.

Blaine Forsythe for whoever runs the power play in Toronto.