Early Assessment of Washington Capitals' Trade Deadline Decisions
These decisions could be trades the Capitals did make, or perhaps did not make. And not just blockbuster deals, but minor trades as well. Finally, we will look at a couple signings the Capitals made at or near the deadline.
Here is an early assessment of the Washington Capitals' trade deadline decisions, with a grade for each entry on the list.
Note: All statistics courtesy of HockeyDB.com except where noted otherwise.
5. Minor Deals
- March 14: D Chay Genoway from Minnesota for 2014 conditional seventh-round pick
- March 14: F Nicolas Deschamps from Toronto for D Kevin Marshall
- April 2: F Joel Rechlicz from Phoenix for F Matthew Clackson
- April 2: F Dane Byers from Edmonton for D Garrett Stafford
The Washington Capitals completed several minor transactions before the deadline, with four deals completed since March 1.
Here is a quick rundown of the four trades:
Acquired on the same day, but well before the deadline, Genoway and Deschamps were described in a report compiled by NHL.com:
The 5-foot-9, 177-pound Genoway was signed by Minnesota as an undrafted free agent on April 12, 2011. He posted 26 goals and 127 points in 168 career games with the University of North Dakota, helping the team advance to the 2011 Frozen Four...Deschamps, a 2008 second-round pick (No. 35) of the Anaheim Ducks, had seven goals and 16 points in 49 games with the AHL's Toronto Marlies this season.
Meanwhile, Byers and fan favorite Rechlicz helped complete a hat trick of fights during their first games with the Hershey Bears.
Fisticuffs aside, it's difficult to get excited about any of these trades. The four players the Capitals received have played a total of 41 NHL games and at 23 years old, Deschamps is the only one under the age of 25.
4. Collegiate Signings
Washington signed two collegiate players at the deadline. On April 2, the Capitals signed University of Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt. Here is a description of the Golden Gopher from Capitals.com:
In 96 career games at Minnesota, Schmidt tallied 74 points (12 goals, 62 assists) as a two-time All-WCHA defenseman. In his final two seasons with the program, Schmidt and the Gophers won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champions and made two trips to the NCAA tournament including the team’s run to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2011-12.
And on April 5, the Capitals signed Patrick Wey, a defenseman from Boston College. Hockey Prospectus ranked Wey 10th among the Capitals' Top 10 Prospects, and on December 4, 2012, I listed Wey as one of 10 Capitals' prospects with the most upside.
In recent seasons, some collegiate players signed to contracts in early April quickly made an impact on their NHL team. The best example is forward Chris Kreider, who signed with the New York Rangers on April 11, 2012 out of Boston College. Kreider made his NHL debut in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators.
The Capitals then saw him firsthand, as he played in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Washington. Kreider had five goals and seven points, while playing in all 18 postseason games for the Rangers.
Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates could use a young impact player like Kreider, except on his blue line. Oates has had to deal with several injuries this season which have affected his defensive depth chart. But he already has two young defensemen at his disposal, in the forms of Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov.
Both Kundratek and Orlov have NHL experience and have played for the Capitals this season, two claims Schmidt and Wey cannot make. So it is unlikely that Oates would choose either Schmidt or Wey to make the Capitals' playoff roster, assuming the team qualifies for the postseason.
However, exactly a year ago very few people thought that goaltending greenhorn Braden Holtby was the perfect playoff goalie for the Washington Capitals. So, anything is possible.
3. The Deals That Never Were
Leading up to the trade deadline, there were several Washington Capitals rumors and most of them vanished into thin air.
Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun stated that at the deadline, several Capitals were on the trading block, and GM George McPhee was under the gun:
This could be George McPhee’s last act after 14 years of no Cups. Not only is Ribeiro available, the Caps have tried to unload the contracts of forwards Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. The hockey world is mystified why goaltender Braden Holtby got an extension.
Garrioch mentioned Jason Chimera, one player who perhaps should have been traded. After a career-high 20 goals in 2011-12, Chimera signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason, worth $3,500,000. (CapGeek.com) But this season, Chimera has scored only one goal, and has the lowest plus-minus rating on the team. Yet he was not dealt.
More importantly, Garrioch touched on the goaltending situation for the Capitals. The team has two young goaltenders, and they are both under the league's microscope. Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington recently interviewed McPhee about this very situation. Here's the most telling excerpt:
We have two young goaltenders and I’m comfortable having both of them here. I’m in no hurry to make a change there. It’s the most important position in the game and you have to be careful. We felt we could move [Semyon] Varlamov [to Colorado] because we had these two kids coming and we’ve got [Philipp] Grubauer now, but you’d like for [Grubauer] to have a little more experience.
But that statement did not keep the rumor mill from turning with regards to the Capitals' goaltending situation. In fact, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN tried to explain an explosive rumor and debunk it at the same time:
There was a lot of chatter on social media Wednesday before the Caps trade was announced that perhaps they were in on Ryan Miller. Not true. Sources in both organizations told ESPN.com that the Caps and Buffalo Sabres never spoke Wednesday. That’s certainly not to say Miller won’t be moving this summer; that’s a story for another day. But in terms of the Miller-to-Washington chatter Wednesday? Just not true.
Well, you know what they say: A rumor's not a rumor that doesn't die...
2. Not Moving Mike Ribeiro
Ribeiro is currently third on the team in goals with 12, second in assists with 26 and third in points with 38. Trading the 33-year-old Montreal native would have left a huge hole in the Capitals roster, even if "his price tag is much higher than that of [Derek] Roy's." (The Fourth Period)
A fellow center, Derek Roy was traded by the Dallas Stars to the Vancouver Canucks for prospect Kevin Connauton and a second-round draft pick. Connauton was rated fourth among the Canucks' Top 10 Prospects, but did not appear on the list of Top 100 NHL Prospects. (Hockey Prospectus)
But it's not as if Washington wasn't approached about Ribeiro. Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun said "the Caps received plenty of feelers on Ribeiro, but continue to discuss a contract extension with him and may get a four-year deal done in the near future ..."
That time frame was further defined on Tuesday night, when Renaud Lavoie of RDS tweeted the latest on the Ribeiro contract negotiations:
Mike Ribeiro does not expect to sign a contract extension before the end of the season. He expect talks to resume after the playoffs. #RDS— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) April 10, 2013
Signing Ribeiro to a long-term deal would be the final step of a very wise decision for McPhee. His final deadline decision, however, was not very wise.
1. Forsberg-Erat-Latta Trade
Well, well, well. Look what trade I get to talk about again.
I addressed the Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta trade once already, when reassessing the Capitals' season outlook after the trade deadline. To put it mildly, I was not happy with the decision. Neither was fellow Capitals Featured Columnist Dave Ungar, who wrote: "Living in California, I could hear the groans of the Caps' faithful all the way across the country—and for good reason."
Even Pierre LeBrun of ESPN—in an article stating that the deal was good for both the Capitals and Predators—had to admit that "judging by social media, Caps fans were none too pleased with seeing the young Swedish center shipped out for Erat and prospect Michael Latta."
And opponents of the deal received little consolation as the full story came to light, courtesy of Pierre LeBrun:
And yes, perhaps GM George McPhee could have gotten more had he waited until the summer to shop Forsberg fully to the league. You see, I believe the Caps were going to trade Forsberg at some point no matter what, internally souring on the prospect, a player they no longer viewed as a top center in the making. Scouts I’ve spoken with have mixed opinions. Some still view him as a top center in the making, at least a No. 2, but others are concerned by his foot speed. The latter is what concerned Washington. We shall see who has the last word here. Forsberg may make the Caps rue the day they dealt him to Nashville.
Then, Erat was injured. In only his second game with the Capitals, Erat took a dirty hit from behind, delivered by Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, and injured his knee on the play during Saturday night's game. Katie Carrera of The Washington Post tweeted the gory details:
Worst part of Erat hit is his head slammed into the boards AND his left/leg ankle were contorted upon impact as well.— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) April 7, 2013
Erat missed Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, and did not play Tuesday night in Montreal. Each day that Erat is out of the lineup weakens McPhee's justification for dealing Forsberg. If Erat were to miss the postseason entirely, that justification would collapse entirely, at least until next season. And then McPhee would have a long offseason of answering the same question over and over: "WTF???!!!" ("Why trade Forsberg???!!!")
I can think of only one other transaction that haunted a hockey team more than this transaction may haunt the Capitals: when the Mustangs cut Racki in the beginning of Youngblood.
One major difference: Racki is fictional; Filip Forsberg is not.