Washington Capitals Trade Speculation: 5 Caps Players Who Could Be Trade Bait
Annually, the NHL trade deadline is one of the most exciting days, as general managers across the league scramble to improve their teams in anticipation for the long months ahead. League officials and fans alike always have the date circled on the calendars as the most anxiety-and-tension filled day of the hockey season.
This year, the deadline is set for February 27th, and the Washington Capitals are sure to be active. After a 7-0-0 start to the season, the Caps have gone 18-19-3, and currently sit in eighth in the division, one point back from the Southeast Division lead.
George McPhee will be looking to improve his first line and add defensive depth. Here are some players he may have to part with in any trades on deadline day.
5. Roman Hamrlik
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George McPhee signed Roman Hamrlik to a two year, $7 million contract last summer hoping that he would stabilize the Caps d-corps and add a good veteran presence to the locker room.
He has failed to do so.
Hamrlik had a bad start under Bruce Boudreau (one goal and minus-10 through 22 games), but has looked like a new man under Dale Hunter. In 21 games under his new coach, Hamrlik has posted four assists to go along with a plus-eight rating, but perhaps more importantly has helped ease the transition to the NHL for one of the Caps' top prospects in fellow Czech defenseman Tomas Kundratek.
Hamrlik has been one of the team's most important players under Hunter, and if he continues to improve there is no way the Caps trade him. If he relapses, McPhee will deal him in search of the things he wanted when he first signed the 37-year-old on July 1st.
4. Mattias Sjögren
When the Washington Capitals signed Swedish forward Mattias Sjögren last summer, it was with the expectation that he would crack the Caps roster out of training camp and become an important lower-line player for the team this season.
Unfortunately, Sjögren narrowly lost out to Mathieu Perreault in the race for a roster spot, and after a brief spell in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, has since rejoined his Färjestad in the superior Swedish Elitserien.
Sjögren had a clause in his contract that said he was allowed to return to his home country should he feel dissatisfied in North America, and he had every right to exercise it. However, his agent Ritch Winter had some harsh words to say about George McPhee and the Caps, and, while the Caps could still use Sjögren next season and further down the road, it doesn't appear as though he has a future in Washington.
That said, many other teams would love to have his services, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him used to swing a trade in the Caps' favour.
3. Braden Holtby
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Braden Holtby is one of the Caps' top prospects, but if George McPhee is serious about winning a Stanley Cup, he may well have to sacrifice his young goaltender.
In limited duty with the Capitals, Holtby, whom the Caps drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft, has proven his sky-high potential, managing to record a .934 save percentage and 1.79 goals against average in his 14 NHL games.
However, there are doubts over whether Holtby will ever manage to overtake Czech Michal Neuvirth as the team's starting goaltender long term, and the expectation-exceeding play of fellow fourth-rounders Philipp Grubauer (2010) and Steffen Søberg (2011) with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays and Get-Ligaen's Manglerud Star respectively means Holtby may be expendable.
There is no doubt McPhee will be reluctant to deal Braden Holtby, but if the Caps are to acquire one of the bigger names on the market, then Holtby will have to be involved.
2. Jeff Schultz
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When Jeff Schultz sat out against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, it marked the 18th time in the past 20 games he had been a healthy scratch. It doesn't take much to see that he has fallen out of favour with the Capitals.
The defenseman, who was drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has never quite managed to establish himself as an elite blueliner with the Capitals organization, and the emergence of Dmitry Orlov as well as Tomas Kundratek has left him further down the depth chart.
That said, Schultz is only 25, and would still hold high value to a team in need of bottom-four help on the backend. There is little doubt he is an NHL-caliber defenseman, but there is also little doubt that a fresh start would do him a world of good.
Schultz likely wouldn't bring in much on his own, but could be a crucial chip in any trade the Caps try to pull off at the deadline. His career in Washington is drawing to an end, but his NHL career is far from being at that point.
1. Alexander Semin
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The Washington Capitals should not trade Alexander Semin.
The enigmatic Russian winger has seven goals and nine assists in his past 16 games, and is playing some of the best hockey of his career. He has been invigorated under Dale Hunter, and appears to be thriving under the new regime.
Unfortunately, the Caps will be treading a very fine line on deadline day when it comes to Alex Semin. He is without a doubt the biggest trade chip on the Caps roster, and any team willing to trade one of their more significant assets to the Caps will likely ask for Semin in return.
Top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who plays a similar game to Semin, will be in the NHL next season, and there is little doubt that Kuzya will be a top-six forward for the Caps. That, coupled with the fact that the team desperately needs to improve at the deadline, seems to suggest that come February 28, Alexander Semin may no longer be a Washington Capital.
But we will miss him.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95