Caps Tradeless on Deadline Day
Washington Capitals GM George McPhee was unable to pull off the big trade he had hoped to complete today which means Coach Bruce Boudreau will go forward the rest of the regular season and in the playoffs with the current roster in addition to any re-enforcements from Hershey as well as the possibility that injured defenseman Brian Pothier may be able to return to the Caps after a three to five game conditioning stint with the Bears in the AHL (more on that in a moment).
McPhee told Caps fans on the podcast on WashingtonCaps.com around 340pm that he only tried to make moves that would significantly upgrade the current team without mortgaging the future. The GM, who has only seen one other NHL trade deadline pass in which he hasn’t made a deal (2000) for Washington, mentioned Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger and Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester as players he considered as significant upgrades. Both Pronger and Bouwmeester were not moved to any other team so even though the Caps didn’t get them at least those marque players didn’t go to their competitors in the Eastern Conference.
McPhee told Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post that when he inquired about Pronger Ducks GM Bob Murray wanted talented young players Karl Alzner, Simeon Varlamov, and John Carlson. While getting Pronger could have put the Caps in the driver seat to win the Eastern Conference finals this year and possibly next, it likely would have cost them big time long term so I can’t fault McPhee for not doing this deal.
For those who read my blog on Monday night you know I wanted Pronger but I wasn’t willing to give up all of the guys mentioned above (I was hoping Michal Neuvirth and some others would suffice).
So the team that currently has the third best record in the Eastern Conference is now the one that must improve on last year’s first round playoff defeat. Caps fans hope that this recent lull, the team is 3-4 in its last seven home games, is just a blip on the radar and I’m sure Boudreau is counting on the two recent awful losses to Florida and Carolina being a case of a team more worried about the trade deadline than those games.
McPhee did mention that Caps fans can expect Alzner to be recalled soon and he should help this defense. As for Pothier, the GM said that if he can’t make it through this conditioning stint then his career, which took a turn for the very worse due to a severe concussion last season, is likely over.
As for the goalie situation, McPhee said he expects Varlamov to play this weekend in Hershey. I would expect that if Simeon plays well this weekend and is fully recovered he will be brought up to Washington and Michal Neuvirth will go back down to Hershey. In addition McPhee is confident that Brent Johnson, who had hip surgery but is skating already, will be ready late in the regular season and for the playoffs in case something were to happen to #1 goalie Jose Theodore.
Also, Michael Nylander and his $4.875M salary cap hit was not moved so you can probably expect Boudreau to find a way to use him in some situations down the stretch and in the playoffs. As I’ve said before, Nylander will likely be bought out after this season unless he somehow finds the fountain of youth (highly doubtful).
So Caps fans, this is the hand you are dealt with so it is time for this team to get back to playing at the elite level it was at a few weeks ago and find a way to peak in the playoffs.
For those who read my blog after Tuesday night’s Caps-Carolina debacle I mentioned that I had heard Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough on Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) Radio at 525pm that day and he said that trade talk was way down this year. The Wild GM said he thought it had to do with several teams being up against the salary cap plus the uncertainty surrounding future team salary cap totals, especially in 2010-11 (I heard host Jeff Marek mention on HNIC radio today that it is expected to drop $2M next season and then around $4M to $7M the following year, OUCH!). Well things played out as Risebrough predicted and there weren’t many big time deals. Here are my thoughts on some of the other teams from today:
Biggest Winners: The Calgary Flames for adding forward Olli Jokinen and a third round pick for just underachieving Matthew Lombardi, tough guy Brandon Prust, and a first round pick plus re-acquiring defenseman Jordan Leopold for two prospects and a second round draft pick. Leopold was on the Flames team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. GM Darryl Sutter gets an A+ for his moves today and Calgary now has a chance against the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference.
Winner: The New York Rangers for acquiring defenseman Derrick Morris from Phoenix for forward Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin plus getting forward Nik Antropov from the Leafs for a 2nd round conditional draft pick. These two moves plus the claiming of Sean Avery off of waivers should stop the New York freefall and allow them to make the playoffs pending how Avery and Chris Drury get along in the locker room (apparently the two do not like each other). I am not a big Morris fan but he is an upgrade on a weak defensive team, although the Rangers did give up some talent for him.
Winner: The Pittsburgh Penguins for getting Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi from Anaheim last Thursday for defenseman Ryan Whitney plus getting 38 year old forward Bill Guerin from the Islanders for a conditional draft pick. On HNIC radio today former Avs, Kings, and Canucks Coach now turned broadcaster, Marc Crawford, kept singling the Pens out as a big winner. I do like these additions and think that the Pens will finish either fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference final standings (6th place likely means a first round matchup with the Caps, DOH!) unless Marc Andre-Fleury goes into another goaltending funk.
Winner: The San Jose Sharks for adding physical players Travis Moen and Kent Huskins from Anaheim for two prospects and a draft pick. Apparently former Capital Mike Grier is hurt fairly bad so the Moen signing should more than fill that hole in the lineup. San Jose needed more grit and these two guys definitely add that.
Probable Winner: The Edmonton Oilers for adding Patrick O’Sullivan and Ales Kotalik, both of whom have underachieved to date in their careers, for forward Eric Cole, who goes back to Carolina and didn’t fit in with the Oilers.
Probable Winner: The Boston Bruins for adding forward Marc Recchi (Tampa Bay) and defensemen Steve Montador (Anaheim) for three prospects.
Not sure what they are doing: The Anaheim Ducks. They traded a good forward in Kunitz for Whitney when they already have Pronger under contract for next year and defenseman Scott Niedermayer leaning towards coming back next season as well. Then they trade two key players from their Stanley Cup run, Moen and Samuel Pahlsson, for defenseman James Wisniewski (Chicago), forward Nick Bonino (San Jose), and goalie Timo Pielmeier (San Jose). They also traded Eric O’Dell to Atlanta for Eric Christensen, a player I am not very high on. It seems logical that they could now move Pronger at the draft. Anaheim will have to scratch and claw to just get in the playoffs now and if they don’t then keeping Pronger was the wrong move unless Niedermayer hangs it up in Anaheim after this season.
Stood pat: The Caps, Montreal, Detroit, Vancouver, and Nashville. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. In 2007 the only trade Anaheim GM (at the time) Brian Burke made at the deadline was acquiring fourth liner Brad May and the Ducks went on to win the Stanley Cup. However, last year the Red Wings added defenseman Brad Stuart and forward Todd Bertuzzi en route to their Stanley Cup winning run.
So going forward here is what I think will happen the last month or so of the regular season based on today’s deals and barring any new serious injuries:
Final Eastern Conference Standings:
1. New Jersey (Brodeur is back and the Devils are flying!)
7. New York Rangers
Just missing out: Carolina (not strong enough on defense) and Buffalo (Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek injuries have really hurt them)
Final Western Conference Standings:
1. San Jose
Just missing out: Minnesota (not enough scoring), Dallas (Brad Richards injury too much to overcome), and Anaheim (played more games than others right now and I’m not sure how these trades will fix things).