Report Card for Washington Capitals' 2014 Trade Deadline Decisions
As usual, George McPhee has made a splash at the NHL trade deadline.
Of course, not all of McPhee's decisions in the past have panned out, as he flipped one of the world's best prospects in Filip Forsberg for veteran winger Marty Erat a year ago, only to deal the underachieving Czech Olympian on the eve of the deadline this season.
Nonetheless, McPhee has consistently looked to improve his team at this critical point in the NHL schedule, and it appears he's done so this year.
Following what was among the most entertaining deadlines in recent memory, here's a look at McPhee's grades for each of the trades he made.
Dustin Penner from Anaheim for Fourth-Rounder in 2014
And, as we all know by now, Penner is a proven postseason performer, which is something the Capitals are absolutely in need of.
Though he was solid while playing alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf when the Ducks won it all in 2006-07, Penner was at his very best during L.A.'s Cup victory in 2011-12 and scored the series-winner in overtime against Phoenix to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final.
He's a big winger with good hands in front of the net, and given that Joel Ward is Washington's leading goal scorer not named Alex Ovechkin, the addition of Penner is an important move for the Caps.
Penner's found success playing alongside Perry and Getzlaf this season, so why couldn't he do the same skating with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in D.C.?
Penner's not the same player who scored 63 points for the Oilers a few seasons back, but he remains a quality top-six winger who brings many of the same attributes to the table that Mike Knuble did when he arrived in Washington in 2009. He's a rental of course, but giving up a fourth-rounder for a guy who could be the difference between winning a postseason round and not making the playoffs at all is an easy decision for McPhee.
Erat and Mitchell to Phoenix for Klesla, Brown and 2014 Fourth-Rounder
At the time of this trade, it looked like both teams involved had simply decided to dump high-paid players who were in need of changes of scenery, as Rostislav Klesla and Marty Erat both struggled to get quality ice time with their respective teams.
So, after Erat's persistent trade requests, McPhee swapped the guy he got in return for Filip Forsberg in 2013. According to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, the Caps traded for a package including a former No. 4 overall pick in Klesla, minor leaguer Chris Brown and a fourth-rounder to replace the one he parted ways with in order to get Penner.
On the whole, this return isn't all that bad given that Erat's managed just two goals in 62 games with the Caps, and his $4.5 million cap hit could've been crippling to this team down the road.
Klesla's stay with the Capitals turned out to be a short one, but had he remained with Washington for the remainder of the season, he likely could've earned a top-six spot on the back end.
This isn't a reflection of the present value of this trade as much as it is an indication of how little McPhee ultimately got in return for Forsberg, who seems destined to be a future star in the NHL. Aside from that, Klesla (a solid stay-at-home rearguard) isn't a terrible centerpiece in the return package, especially given how McPhee used him to leverage the team's final trade of 2013-14.
Halak and a 2014 Third-Rounder from Buffalo for Neuvirth and Klesla
Just in case you've forgotten, Jaroslav Halak is the man who backstopped No. 8 Montreal to a stunning upset over the No. 1 Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal in 2010.
And according to ESPN, now he's been dealt to Washington.
In order to get the talented yet somewhat inconsistent netminder, McPhee had to deal Klesla and Michal Neuvirth, but given that the Caps also got a third-rounder as part of the deal, on paper, this is a pretty ideal return.
Halak went to Buffalo in the Ryan Miller blockbuster less than a week ago, but given his status as an unrestricted free agent, it seemed likely the Sabres would part ways with the Slovak Olympian in order to add pieces to aid the rebuilding process.
And in Neuvirth, a solid goaltender with postseason experience and another year on his deal, the Sabres are adding a guy who could either be a serviceable backup or a potential starter, so this deal works for both parties.
The Capitals would've loved to add a defenseman at the deadline, but McPhee still bolstered his club by adding a proven starting goalie for a pretty paltry price. Neuvirth was unhappy as a backup, and with Philipp Grubauer waiting in the wings, Washington has nothing to lose here. If Halak leads the Caps to a postseason berth and a lengthy run, great. But if not, it's not as if the team lost much in return, and McPhee managed to add a relatively high pick in the process.