For over three years, the Capitals have been looking for a solution to their second line center problem. On Friday night in Pittsburgh at the 2012 NHL draft, Washington Caps General Manager George McPhee may have finally filled that hole by obtaining 32 year old center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Cody Eakin and the Capitals second round pick in the 2012 draft (which was obtained in the Semyon Valramov trade last summer). Ribeiro is a highly skilled playmaker who has a bit of an edge to him. He’s been a player I have always liked because he makes the guys around him better. To top it off, McPhee gave up a player in Eakin that scouts I spoke to projected to be a fourth line player, and perhaps a third liner, at best in the NHL. So giving up a smaller forward and a second round pick for a top six legitimate forward is big for Washington. Of course the down side is Ribeiro’s age and he only has one year left on his current contract ($5M).
Shortly after McPhee announced the big trade, his night got even better as club after club selected defensemen ahead of the Caps, who were set to pick 11th and 16th in the first round. Washington was fortunate as Swedish forward Filip Forsberg, who was ranked third overall on TSN’s board, fell to the 11th slot. The talented winger, who reportedly likes to play a physical game, is signed to play another year in Europe, but that is a good thing, in my book. Rushing players to the NHL is usually not wise and this will allow Forsberg to develop even more physically.
Speaking of physical, that is the route the Capitals went with their next first round choice at 16th overall choosing 6′ 4″ winger Tom Wilson from the Plymouth Whalers. Craig Button praised Wilson earlier in the week on the NHL Network and in this blog post on Wilson, he appears to be a team guy who can play any role asked of him, as evidenced by the fact that when moved up a line in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs this spring, his offensive stats rose dramatically.
McPhee also mentioned that he is done interviewing for the Capitals head coaching position and will attempt to make a decision in the coming days. There is much speculation that Adam Oates could be the choice, but GMGM plays things very close to the vest so I think he may be the only one who knows for sure which direction he is leaning.
Overall, it was a big night of action for the Caps in Pittsburgh and the Capitals have eight more picks to work with on day two of the draft on Saturday. Getting Ribeiro fills a major void and the two forwards selected help re-stock the prospect cupboards to go along with forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Stanislav Galiev. Both Russian players from the 2010 draft appear to be have top six potential and heading into tonight that was Washington’s biggest weakness at the NHL level. They still could use a top six winger or two, especailly with Alex Semin set to depart in free agency, but wingers are easier to find than centers. Free agency begins on July 1st. Caps development camp is set for July 9-14 at Kettler IcePlex so everyone will get a chance to see the new draftees, Forsberg and Wilson, in action in the coming weeks.