Very Good Day for the Caps
It was a very good day for the Washington Capitals today as GM George McPhee sent a message to the players and fans alike that this team’s goal is to get in the playoffs this season and management will do what it takes to try and get there. In addition, the Caps had a great night on the ice tonight defeating a good Minnesota Wild team, 4-1, at the Verizon Center.
The three NHL level trades made by McPhee today were all good ones, in my opinion, even though the three players the Caps received are all unrestricted free agents after this season. Getting another goalie was necessary given the team’s inconsistency in net and on defense. Cristobal Huet is an active goalie in the net as he is not one to just sit back and let the puck hit him. He has played well for Montreal but with Carey Price having such a great future Canadiens GM Bob Gainey figured they had to move Huet or get nothing for him this summer. It is a big risk that Gainey took and if all goes bad for the Canadiens the fans and media will let him have it. Getting Huet for just a second round pick was definitely worth it for Washington and there will be major competition in net with Olie Kolzig, Brent Johnson, and Huet. The Sergei Fedorov trade is a big one because Federov is a legitimate top six forward, something the Caps desperately needed. Giving up a college player (defensemen Theo Ruth, 46th pick in 2007 NHL entry draft) to Columbus was all it took because Federov can go wherever he wants after this season. The least known of the players the Caps traded for today is Matt Cooke from Vancouver and I have seen him play numerous times and really like him. I think that McPhee got a steal getting him for Pettinger. Of course, Cooke can go anywhere he wants after the season as well. Cooke is a tough and gritty third line forward who can chip in the occasional goal. He is an upgrade over the current third liners Washington has been using. All in all I give McPhee a solid B+ grade on the moves today. He would have received an A from me had he acquired a defensemen or two but the market was tough and it was clear that Adam Foote wanted to go back to Colorado to play with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Foote cost Colorado a first round draft pick.
On the ice tonight the Caps played extremely well and goalie Olie Kolzig had a very good game stopping 34 shots. The only Wild goal was another one in which a Washington defensemen let an opposing forward go to the net unobstructed, a scene we have witnessed too many times this season. Brooks Laich had a career game at a key time pumping in two goals and adding two assists. Eric Fehr also netted his first goal of the season, which is very encouraging. The Caps got defensemen Jeff Schultz back in the lineup tonight from injury and he played 18 minutes. John Erskine was the odd man out on defense as Steve Eminger was the sixth defensemen logging 15 plus minutes. Alexander Ovechkin was held pointless and is now without a goal in six straight games. Anytime the Caps win without the Great #8 scoring is a very good thing. It will be interesting to see how Coach Bruce Boudreau puts his lines together now that Federov is aboard. Federov is a very solid two way center so putting him with Alexander Semin seems to make sense since Semin struggles defensively. Federov will also help on the power play and I think the team’s patience with Viktor Kozlov has to be wearing thin (he did not play tonight due to the flu).
The real bad news of the day was that the Carolina Hurricanes knocked off the New Jersey Devils tonight in overtime, 2-1, to maintain a five point lead over Washington. The Caps do have two games in hand. With Tampa Bay unloading Brad Richards to Dallas today (they also sent Vaclav Prospal to Philadelphia last night) and Atlanta sending Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh it appears that the Lightning and Thrashers are realizing that they aren’t going to win the division this year. With Florida falling off the pace it looks like the race is now between the Caps and the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division title and third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps, if they play well, could still end up sneaking in as the eight seed in the Eastern Conference if they are unable to catch a red hot Carolina team. They are only three points behind the eighth place Flyers, who just broke a 10 game losing streak on Monday night in Buffalo, while the two other teams ahead of them are the Buffalo Sabres (three points up on Washington) and New York Islanders (one point ahead of the Caps). The Sabres sent unrestricted free agent Brian Campbell to San Jose today for forward Steve Bernier and a first round draft pick. This move really hurts the Sabres this year and if I am a Buffalo Sabres player I have to wonder what type of commitment the organization has to winning after they let Chris Drury and Danny Briere go last summer for nothing and now failed to sign a very good defensemen in Campbell.
NHL Trade Analysis
As for the rest of the NHL, here are my thoughts on some of the other deals at the trade deadline:
Pittsburgh Penguins – Getting Marian Hossa is huge for this team. Once Sydney Crosby comes back they will have Crosby, Hossa, and Evgeni Malkin that will create massive havoc for opposing teams. Getting Hal Gill to add size and depth on defense really helps as well.
Dallas Stars – Adding Brad Richards to Mike Modano’s line gives the Stars two legitimate scoring lines.
San Jose Sharks – Brian Campbell will really help this team on the power play and overall.
Detroit Red Wings – Getting defensemen Brad Stuart for two draft picks was okay but you have to think that with Dallas, San Jose, and Colorado all making big moves that GM Ken Holland wanted to try and keep pace and he was not able to land a big name player.
Calgary Flames – Acquired defensemen Jim Vandermeer last week and that was it. Last year the big trade they made with Boston backfired so GM Darryl Sutter held firm and didn’t move anyone despite knowing that he has some big financial decisions ahead this summer (Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius are unrestricted free agents).
Anaheim Ducks – Added some depth with Goalie J.S. Aubin and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Five players (Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, and Tomas Kaberle) refused to waive no trade clauses in their contracts severly handcuffing interim GM Cliff Fletcher’s ability to improve this team – one that appears to be headed nowhere. What a disaster for fans of the Leafs!