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Eric Fehr is one of several high profile Caps about to be a free agent
In order to really get primed for the trade deadline, it is important to know which key players for the Caps will soon be entering the ranks of free agency. This could very well dictate which Caps' players might be on the move by April 3.
At capgeek.com, you can find a full list of the Caps restricted free agents (RFA) for 2013, as well as their unrestricted free agents (UFA). Let's take a look at a few of these key players to see who might be on the move prior to their hitting the open market.
Restricted Free Agents
When looking at the list of RFAs for the Caps, several key names jump out.
I do not believe Karl Alzner or Tomas Kundratek will be going anywhere. The Caps are already rather thin on defense to begin with, so parting ways with either Alzner or Kundratek would not make any sense. Beyond that though, Alzner was an excellent match with John Carlson in the playoffs last year and Kundratek has shown a lot of potential for such a young defender.
Alzner is only 24, is second on the team in blocked shots (57), is third among Caps' defensemen as far as ice-time is concerned (21:02 per game) and has a respectable plus-one rating. While I do not believe he has been as effective as he was during the playoffs, I still believe he has too much upside potential for the Caps to trade away.
Kundratek is only 23 and his situation is not so clear cut. He has a goal and six assists in 25 games. He is third among Caps defenseman in points with seven. But his minus-five rating has to be rather concerning for the Caps. Were the Caps a bit healthier on defense, Kundratek might be someone they would consider moving. But that is not the case this season.
Two other names on the list, however, are a bit more intriguing. One of them is Michal Neuvirth. The Caps backup goalie could attract some interest from teams in need of a goalie. Edmonton, Buffalo and Toronto are teams that come to mind. With the Caps having Philipp Grubauer waiting in the wings, Neuvirth has become somewhat expendable. I would not be surprised if Neuvirth gets traded prior to April 3.
The other RFA that is interesting is Marcus Johansson. MoJo got off to a very bad start this season. In between missing roughly a month to an injury, MoJo's efficiency rating was, at one time, a dismal minus-nine.
But ever since he scored the Caps only goal in a loss to the Boston Bruins back on March 16, Johansson has been playing much better. Since that game, MoJo has three goals, five assists and a plus-six rating. Is this recent surge enough to convince George McPhee that Johansson deserves a qualifying offer this offseason?
If not, then the Caps would be wise to try and deal MoJo now. Would a team like the Boston Bruins, who lost out on Jarome Iginla, be interested in MoJo? What about the Chicago Blackhawks who are always looking to build depth. While I do not think the Caps will move Johansson, I think they might very well get some inquiries about MoJo.
Unrestricted Free Agents
As for UFAs, we have already discussed the Mike Ribeiro situation. But there are a few other names from the Caps' upcoming UFA list that might generate some interest if the Caps are going to be active at the trade deadline, either as buyers or sellers.
Matt Hendricks might generate some interest from any team looking for a gritty, third or fourth line center who will add a physical presence to the team. Hendricks has just as many goals this season as Johansson, with fou,r and he plays very hard night in and night out.
For some reason, the surprisingly good Montreal Canadiens would seem to be a really good fit for a player like Hendricks.
Wojtek Wolski is another upcoming UFA who might generate some interest. Wolski has had some good games this season, but he has also been a healthy scratch on more than one occasion. Like Hendricks and Johansson, Wolski has four goals on the season and his defensive play has been a bit more solid, as he has an even efficiency rating on the season.
The New Jersey Devils could sure use some more scoring depth. But would the Caps trade Wolski to an Eastern Conference foe with whom they might be battling for playoff position?
Eric Fehr is another UFA that might generate a few calls. At one point in the season, Fehr was having one heck of a great comeback season for the Caps. He scored one of the Caps' highlight goals of the season in overtime against the Boston Bruins back on March 5.
But Fehr is now riding a 10-game pointless streak and he is a minus-one during that streak. If teams come calling about Eric Fehr, the Caps might want to move him. The Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota Wild both need to score more goals. Perhaps Fehr could be a good fit with one of those teams?
It is also worth mentioning that Jason Chimera becomes a UFA in 2014 and if there is someone on the Caps who should absolutely be on the trading block right now, it is Chimera. After having a career year in 2011-2012, with 20 goals and 19 assists, Chimera has absolutely crashed and burned in 2013. He has just one goal on the season, just eight assists and a dreadful minus-seven rating.
Still, Chimera has excellent speed and a change of scenery might be just what he needs to regain some of his touch. I can see Chimera fitting in quite well with teams like Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, Dallas or Edmonton. If trading Chimera could help the Caps fill another need on the team, it is a move they absolutely should make.