Deadline Day Looms

Let's Make a DealAh, the Trade Deadline — when NHL General Managers’ thoughts turn to flights of fancy, seeing what’s behind Door #2, and trading their second-round draft pick, if you’re Brian Burke. With so much rumor, innuendo, and plain baloney flying around, let’s take a moment and examine the Caps’ situation and possible moves as Deadline Tuesday approaches us.
The Caps probably aren’t going to make the playoffs, that much I think we can agree on. Washington have a wealth of decent-to-good prospects in the fold; so many, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine the club taking another significant number back as the result of trades. There are glaring needs at center and defense, and filling them with solid veterans would really help the club.
With that criteria in mind, we move on to assessing what assets the Caps could move in the next few days. The following players will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season:

Richard Zednik hasn’t had his best season, and, in many ways, it’s been a mirror of the Jeff Friesen Experience of last year. Caps’ General Manager George McPhee has stated that he wouldn’t mind resigning the speedy winger, but Tarik El-Bashir blogs that it’s not his impression that Zednik is close to re-upping with the team.
Possessing excellent skating, puck control, and a willingness to go into the corners, Zednik also has a history as a twenty goal-scorer. His cap hit would be minimal this late in the season, so any club looking for an offensive winger might be tempted to give Zednik a try. The price doesn’t seem particularly high, so it’s my guess that Zednik will be changing addresses no later than 3 pm on February 27th.
Seeing Jamie Heward‘s name in a recent trade rumor was a surprise, but the February 21st mail bag section of Spector’s Trade Rumors indicated that Vancouver may have interest in the veteran blueliner. Heward could bring defensive depth and a solid point shot to a contender, and at an affordable cost. I’d have a hard time seeing the Caps rebuffing any interest in Heward.
On Thursday Bob McKenzie of TSN mentioned that Bryan Muir might be on the move, which also gave me pause for thought as Muir is still recovering from his ankle injury. Defenseman Steve Eminger (restricted free agent) has been a healthy scratch the past few games, and El-Bashir mused in a recent chat that he wouldn’t be surprised if the youngster was dealt.
Now we get to the big one: Dainius Zubrus. The big Lithuanian, according to El-Bashir’s February 20th, 9:37 am comment in his February 19th blog, is looking for a 4- or 5-year deal worth $3.5 to $4 million dollars annually. Picturing the Capitals forking over that kind of money for that length of term is a difficult proposition for me, and I’m not sure that the two sides can reach an agreement by Deadline Day.
If they can’t, the Caps would be ill-advised not to explore trading Zubrus. He’d be one of the better centers on the market, and he’s in the midst of a career offensive year. His size, speed, and defensive acumen would certainly be attractive to GMs around the league, and he’s gotten a lot of face time as Alex Ovechkin’s center. Unfortunately, that may also be considered a negative, as some will wonder if Zubrus’ numbers are simply a by-product of pivoting the talented winger’s line.
George McPhee waited until the very last second to trade Brendan Witt last year, and the guess here is that he’ll happily wait out his fellow GMs this year. Door #3, anyone?

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