To Deal or Not To Deal?

Cup'pa JoeImagining myself the Capitals’ general manager this morning, with all of my scouts assembled at Kettler for the next couple of days and advising me on personnel for potential trades, I’d place two qualities foremost on my wish-list: size and discipline. The Flyers’ bulky bodies ran roughshod over the Capitals in their own end last week, yet another factor leading to their hefty mental edge over the Eastern conference’s second-best team. And while the first two periods Saturday (one minor penalty) in Boston offered a refreshing reprieve from a season of ill-timed and unnecessary penalties, the third period parade to the box ultimately cost the Capitals a point and effectively ended their long-shot bid to catch the Bs for first in the East.

This morning I’m less concerned about Jose Theodore’s resume and far more about horrible penalty habits practiced by a dozen-plus wearing Caps’ sweaters. It was a penalty in overtime of game 7 last spring that ended the Caps’ season; this season the maddening infractions have accumulated like this morning’s overnight snow, often obliterating individual players’ development in other key areas. The best way to improve penalty killing is to take fewer penalties.  

Sunday’s no-show meltdown against the Panthers made for a disquieting overall assessment of just where this team is in the grand postseason scheme. If it’s true that this Capitals team operates with an on-off switch with respect to effort and intensity, rising commendably to meet the challenge offered by elite foes and mailing it in against the lesser lights, one way to remedy that is to move out one or three inconsistent bodies (Jeff Schultz anyone?) and replace them with battle-tested warriors — even ones with the tank nearing ‘E’ for empty (Bill Guerin anyone?).    

Another more recent troubling trend is the Caps’ collapse on home ice. They are now 3-3 two-thirds of the way through a homestand (interrupted by Saturday’s lone road excursion) that ought to have chipped away at Boston’s conference lead and put an exclamation point on a second consecutive Southeast crown. With just one or two nights’ better results at home of late, Bruce Boudreau could have strategically managed his high-end talents’ minutes for much of this month, leading up to the postseason next month. The Caps will win the Southeast, but if it’s by a single-digit margin, will anyone regard them as a chic pick to come out of the East?  

As make believe GM I’d also clutch tightly a list of organizational assets deemed untouchable: John Carlson, all young pro goalies not named Machesney, Karl Alzner, and Oskar Osala. A member of a foreign media outlet in recent days shared with me a source who informed him of Anaheim’s asking for Karl Alzner as part of a package for Chris Pronger. One name player in such a swap has perhaps just 15 months of quasi-dominant hockey left in his career; the other 15 years of potentially top-2 pairing excellence. More such ludicrousness no doubt will clutter GMGM’s voicemail early this week.   

And what, if anything, will happen with Michael Nylander? Does his five (or is it 10?) healthy scratches this season inform about his standing in Bruce Boudreau’s system? A blogger I really enjoy following said to me months back that whereas Sergei Fedorov slows the game down in a very positive manner, deftly distributing, rarely turning the puck over, Nylander always slows the game down in conspicuously injurious fasion in Gabby’s high-octane hockey.     

In an ideal set of manuevers, George McPhee this week would be able to secure reasonably priced assets that with their mere names carry the ability to alter the mental chess match that so isn’t encouraging against that club in orange and black. Then again, with what Martin Brodeur is up to after months on the shelf, maybe it’s best to hold the cards you got, hope for success in a playoff round or two, and tinker soberly in the summer.  

A positive trend: George McPhee has in recent years emerged as a savvy player in the high stakes of roster tinkering in late February and early March. I watched him move about the Verizon Center press box the past week and I thought of Kurt Russell’s role as Herb Brooks and his exhortation “This is your time.” Seasonally appropriate.

The Caps don’t need a miracle between now and Wednesday. They do need help, though.   

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9 Responses to To Deal or Not To Deal?

  1. Ken Fisher says:

    Certainly agree with the dismissal of Jeff Schultz. While he has played well in the past, this year he seems to have grown progressively lazy. Alzner should be moved up and continue to play his position game and the thought of bringing on Pronger should be dismissed as well…not enough left there for a guy like Alzner and his potential future. I also concur with you assessment of Nylander…I think he is gone next year…let him go now. I would love to see the Caps pick up some muscle though. Erskine tries to fit the Brashear (my favorite player) role, and does well at times, but we need more consistent play. Finally, I would consider moving Jeff Clarke (too little playing time) and make Laich the Captain. Just a thought.

  2. dmg says:

    I love the untouchables, especially since Osala’s name has been thrown about some and I’d hate to see him go.
    I’d also hate to see Schultz go. He’s been one of the team’s better defenders the last couple seasons (the last 10 games or so notwithstanding) and he’s only 22, quite young considering he both his position and his frame. I can see him as a consistent top four guy who’s never going to break the bank for years to come, plus the Capitals are already lacking in NHL caliber defensive depth.

  3. Gustafsson says:

    It will be interesting to see what GMGM does. Last year he had a sit down with the media the day before the deadline. He looked us in the eyes and said that he doesn’t envision any moves and he likes the team as it is. Though, they will always look to improve the team. Then look what he did.
    Too bad deadline day wasn’t today when many of us in DC are home because of the snow.

  4. Patrick says:

    I was watching NHL Network today and they mentioned that Nick Backstrom, goalie for Minnie, is available. Any thoughts?

  5. Murshawursha says:

    As far as goalies go, at this point I think we ride Jose… He’s had proven success in the playoffs and has played rather well of late.
    In all honesty I would take Pronger if the cost wasn’t Alzner. I feel like he’s the kind of physical, shutdown defenseman people have been saying we need. But yeah, not at the cost of King Karl.
    And Schultz… I’d wave goodbye to him in a heartbeat. At some point during the last Pittsburgh game, Evgeni Malkin was carrying the puck into the Capitals’ zone on Schultz’s side. Jeff stayed with him and forced him to the outside, so Malkin dumps the puck down into the corner. As he did that, Jeff had the chance to stand up and just obliterate him into the boards. Instead, he just keeps skating backwards and lets Malkin skate right by him between him and the boards and pick the puck back up.
    Trade Shultz, bring Alzner back up. Or even give Kronwall a shot at this point.
    as far as Nylander goes, I’m not too high on him these days, but at this point, I’m not sure I’d trade him unless Sergei signs an extension. If we trade Nyls and Sergei decides to retire, who’s our second center next season?

  6. Rickey says:

    I would like to see the Caps get rid of Schultz and Nylander. Getting rid of Schultz would allow them to either bring in another tough defenseman or maybe allow a soon to be healthy Pothier back into the lineup. As for Nylander, he has never showed any promise since they resigned him a couple years ago just as he showed no promise when he signed with the Caps before with Jagr before they decided to trade him. He was only brought in because he is a Swede and GMGM thought he would be a good center to help teach Nick Backstrom since they wouldn’t have the language bearier. Dump Nylander no matter if Fedorov decides to resign or not but by the way Fedorov is playing this season and enjoys the team, I see him coming back if the Caps have the cap space. Either way, if both Nylander and Fedorov leave either now or in the offseason, that would free up around $9M in cap space to give the team flexibility to sign another center. Also, get rid of Chris Clark due to him being injury prone. That would free up another $3.5M.

  7. Gustafsson says:

    That could be interesting. Perhaps they bring him in and not sign Johnson for next year. He splits time with JT next year while the kids play more and develop in Hershey. Then when JTs contract is up, Nik II takes the top spot and one of the kids comes up.
    Or, we trade for a goaltender and lose him in free agency…. nah… that would never happen.
    What do we have to give up for him, though?

  8. Grooven says:

    For the right offer, no one is not-tradeable. (Given, it would take a heck of an offer to be worthwhile for some players.)
    As such, in my mind, only a select few players are on that “heck of an offer” list. The Caps have many tradeable players depending on what other teams are looking for.
    But also trusting the system the team has established in drafting and farm-team has to come to fruition at some point, otherwise a team runs into the problem that some have of trying to buy a Stanley Cup instead of building to several, even if it means having to show some patience.
    The trade deadline should be for a final player-piece of what one hopes is a championship team; not a fix on a developing team for a deep playoff push. So which are the Caps?

  9. valleycapsfan says:

    Too bad Havelid just went from the Thrashers to the Devils. That’s one less puck-moving D that could’ve patrolled the blueline later this Spring. Whoever gets Chris Pronger will undoubtedly overpay for him, as is usually the case with proven defensemen at the trade deadline.
    Stick with Jose, as he has been better than solid down the stretch and the kids have looked good in relief. Schultz, though, needs to go. Against the Flyers he put up less resistence than Ghandi. I hate to see a repeat of last April, with the Flyers running through the Caps D at will.

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