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5 Trades by Rivals That Have Washington Capitals the Most Worried

Robert WoodCorrespondent IApril 3, 2013

5 Trades by Rivals That Have Washington Capitals the Most Worried

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    The hours are ticking away towards the NHL trade deadline. For the Washington Capitals, now is the time to reflect on the trades completed since March 1.

    But the Capitals cannot simply review their own transactions. They must also contemplate the deadline deals made by their rivals.

    After all, these are the teams the Capitals will be chasing down the stretch. Or perhaps Washington will be playing one of its rivals as the regular season draws to a close. And if the Capitals play well enough, they may even be facing one of these teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    So yes, they have good reason to be monitoring the trades made at the deadline.

    Here are the five trades made by the Washington Capitals' rivals that have the team the most worried.

5. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: D Douglas Murray from San Jose Sharks

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    As if the prospect of the Washington Capitals playing the seemingly unbeatable Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was not intimidating enough, the Pens traded with the San Jose Sharks on March 25 to acquire bruising defenseman Douglas Murray.

    The 33-year-old native of Sweden (yes, he's from Sweden) is a beast on the blue line. Murray is currently ranked 40th among NHL defensemen in hits with 63, and most of them leave a mark. In further keeping with the Penguins' quest to get tougher, Murray has two fighting majors this season and 26 in his career, all eight years of which were spent in San Jose.

    But Murray is also a sound defender. He ranks 26th among NHL defenders with 67 blocked shots, and Murray's nine giveaways on the season place him at number 160 of all 272 defenders in the NHL. 

    Plus, his 2:53 of short-handed time on ice per game (SHTOI/G) was the second most on the team while he was with the San Jose Sharks. The Penguins penalty kill could certainly use Murray's help, as Pittsburgh is currently ranked 18th in the NHL with a penalty kill percentage (PK%) of 81.0.

    If the Capitals sneak into the playoffs and earn the eighth seed, they would most likely be stuck playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lining up against Douglas Murray for up to seven games will be tons of fun.

4. BOSTON BRUINS: RW Jaromir Jagr from Dallas Stars

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    There is a slim chance the Washington Capitals would play the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if the Caps qualified for the postseason. The Bruins are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, trailing the Northeast Division-leading Montreal Canadiens by one point and the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins by six.

    If the Bruins end up winning their division, they would play the Capitals if Washington finished as the seventh seed. Or, if Washington won the Southeast Division, these two foes would meet again in the playoffs only if the Bruins succumbed to both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, both six points behind the Bruins.

    More ominous, however, is the specter of the final game of the 2013 NHL schedule. The Capitals host the Bruins on April 27 at Verizon Center. If the Caps are still alive in the playoff chase, then they will need points against the Bruins to either guarantee a spot in the postseason or improve their playoff seeding.

    But now, the Bruins have gotten even stronger, posing a more daunting obstacle to the Capitals' playoff hopes when they meet on April 27. Boston acquired veteran goal scorer and likely Hockey Hall of Fame candidate Jaromir Jagr. The trade was first tweeted by the Boston Bruins on April 2:

    In deal that brings in Jagr, Stars acquire Lane MacDermid, rights to unsigned draft pick Cody Payne & 2013 conditional second round pick^CS

    — Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 2, 2013

     

    Jaromir Jagr instantly improves the Bruins offense and power play at the same time. Boston's offense is ranked 12th in the NHL at 2.74 goals per game (G/G), and its power play is 24th in the league in power play percentage (PP%) at 15.2.

    Both units will get a boost from the addition of Jagr, who has scored 14 goals this season—ranking him 24th in the NHL—and six power play goals, good for 18th in the league. No Boston Bruins player has scored more goals or power play goals than Jaromir Jagr this season.

    Therefore, the final game of the 2013 season will be that much tougher for the Washington Capitals when they see an old nemesis, this time wearing a slightly different yellow-and-black sweater.

3. NEW YORK RANGERS: RW Ryane Clowe from San Jose Sharks

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    The 2013 New York Rangers have decidedly less toughness than the 2011-12 incarnation.

    First, there was the offseason departure of Brandon Prust; the feisty winger signed with the Montreal Canadiens during the summer.

    Then, there was the midseason trade of Mike Rupp to the Minnesota Wild. Big Mike was an intimidating presence for the Rangers, who also provided Stanley Cup experience.

    Without these two players, the Rangers' collective toughness has disappeared. This season, the New York Rangers rank 29th of 30 NHL teams in team fighting majors. In 2011-12, the Rangers ranked first.

    The team as a whole may be suffering as a result. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, the Blueshirts are now clinging desperately to their postseason hopes as they currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference standings with 37 points. The Rangers are only one point ahead of the Washington Capitals.

    Perhaps looking to spark the team by regaining a physical edge that is missing this season, the Rangers acquired veteran Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks. Clowe will definitely bring toughness to Broadway. He has three fighting majors this season, helping him rack up 79 penalty minutes in only 28 games.

    Just like Douglas Murray, Clowe had spent his entire eight-year career in San Jose. In that time, the 30-year-old from Newfoundland has racked up 49 regular season fighting majors.

    But Clowe also brings other assets. In a statement after the trade, New York Rangers GM Glen Sather fully explained why he acquired the power forward (via NHL.com):

    We are extremely pleased to be able to acquire Ryane. He is a unique combination of size, skill and toughness. His strong leadership and character make him a tremendous addition to our organization on and off the ice. 

    The Washington Capitals are hoping that Ryane Clowe does absolutely nothing to inspire his new teammates.

2. CAROLINA HURRICANES: D Marc-Andre Bergeron from Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Howitzer.

    Flame thrower.

    Elephant gun.

    However you choose to describe a devastating slap shot, one thing is for certain: Marc-Andre Bergeron owns one.

    The 32-year-old Quebec native has parlayed his powerful shot into success on the power play throughout his 10-year career. Bergeron has scored 44 of his 82 career goals (54 percent) and 121 of his 231 career points (52 percent) on the power play. Furthermore, he has scored more than five power play goals in a season seven different times.

    So it comes as no surprise that the Carolina Hurricanes acquired Bergeron from the Tampa Bay Lighting on April 2. The Canes' power play unit has been abysmal this season, ranking 26th in the NHL with a power play percentage of 13.8. Bergeron's additional power could help Carolina surge past Washington in the Eastern Conference standings and into the playoffs.

    For the record, I prefer the term cruise missile to describe a slap shot like Bergeron's: Straight, accurate and deadly.

1. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: RW Jarome Iginla from Calgary Flames

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    The Canadian National Team continues to build a strong roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    I mean, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to build a strong roster for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    It's an honest mistake. After acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins can now claim four players (Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Brenden Morrow) who played at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. And at least three other players on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster (Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Kris Letang) could challenge for a spot on the Canadian roster in 2014.

    But I digress. The Pittsburgh Penguins did indeed move one step closer to the 2013 Stanley Cup with the addition of Jarome Iginla. The 35-year-old from Edmonton has 525 goals and 1095 points in his 16-year career. And in his postseason career, Iginla has 28 goals and 49 points in 54 games.

    Iginla led the NHL in playoff scoring with 13 goals as part of his one and only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, during the 2003-04 season.

    The Washington Capitals may never face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the mere thought of the hated Penguins becoming even better equipped to hoist yet another Stanley Cup is enough to make the Capitals and their fans become physically ill.

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