Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Chris Pronger Trade, Revisited

Before the 2009 offseason, Chris Pronger, with a year left on his contract, was traded along with Ryan Dingle to Philadelphia for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first round picks, and a conditional third round pick.

In other words:

To Philadelphia: point per game forward in college (WCHA) plus one year and potential to re-sign a top-5 defenseman in the world.

To Anaheim: a top-6 winger, a great young defenseman, two first round picks, and a conditional pick.

At the trade deadline that year, rumor had it Washington had interest in Pronger, but Anaheim wanted something along the lines of Semyon Varlamov, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson for Pronger at the deadline (my memory is a bit hazy--one of the two goalies, one or both of Carlznerson, and possible a first round pick in there too).

In other words:

To Philadelphia: great young goalie prospect, one or two blue-chip defense prospects, maybe a first round pick

To Washington: One year of a top-5 defenseman.

Seems like quite a hefty price to me. Via Capgeek, this is what the Caps lineup might have looked like this season. I added Milan Jurcina and Antti Niemi to round out the roster.

PlayerCap Hit

Ovechkin, A. »$9,538,462
Backstrom, N. »$6,700,000
Semin, Alexander »$6,000,000
Knuble, Mike »$2,800,000
Fleischmann, T. »$2,600,000
Fehr, Eric »$2,200,000
Laich, Brooks »$2,066,667
Chimera, Jason »$1,875,000
Steckel, Dave »$1,100,000
Bradley, Matt »$1,000,000
Gordon, Boyd »$800,000
Hendricks, Matt »$575,000
Beagle, Jay »$512,500
Green, Mike »$5,250,000
Pronger, Chris »$4,921,429
Poti, Tom »$3,500,000
Schultz, Jeff »$2,750,000
Erskine, John »$1,250,000
Jurcina, Milan »$1,000,000
Sloan, Tyler »$700,000
Niemi, Antti »$2,000,000
Neuvirth, Michal »$821,667
SALARY CAP$59,400,000
TEAM CAP NUMBER$59,960,723
CAP SPACE$-560,723

So, the Capitals lose $5 million in cap room, have Jay Beagle instead of Marcus Johansson, downgrade at one goalie spot, and have a third pairing comprising of two of John Erskine, Tyler Sloan, and Milan Jurcina, for an upgrade at 2D. One injury away from icing a marginal NHL D on the second pairing, and also one away from relying on a terrible Cup-winning goalie. No thanks.

Last season's lineup may have looked like this:




I don't see the Corvo trade happening again in this scenario due to a lack of cap room (this roster I think would take some more finagling to get under the cap) but I can see the Belanger acquisition for PK help and Walker to be a depth forward. 




If memory serves, Brent Johnson was injured.

Best case scenario here, Pronger helps the Caps in the 2009 playoff season and again through the 2009-2010 full season. After that, it seems like his salary actually hurts the Caps. I'd take Carlznerson and Varlamov helping the Caps for the next five years (minimum, I'd think) over one season and part of another of Pronger helping the Caps.

The bottom line is that the Flyers had and have more forward and defensive depth than the Capitals. They could better afford to pay that hefty dowry for Pronger. The Capitals' situation wasn't as nice. Good on George McPhee for balking, especially now that we see John Carlson and Karl Alzner making a great second pairing for much less cap hit, and with the potential to get better as well.

At the very least, gotta love his interviews.


  1. just because thats what they wanted, doesnt mean thats what they would have gotten. Lets look at it again, but dont deal Alzner and Carlson and deal 2 #1s instead.

    So we'd be in salary cap hell next year, but maybe we'd have the cup and that would make it feel a lot better.

  2. "maybe we'd have the cup"

    Of course, yeah, that validates everything. But going into a playoffs any given year, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of another team winning instead of your team. As in, the Caps best case scenario are around 25% probability of winning, 3:1 underdogs versus the field.

    If Pronger would have led to a stronger roster for, say, 4-5 years, then go for it, sure. But all indications are the roster because of that non-trade, while not better off in 09-10, will be much better off from this season onward. I'll rather have that.

    Building a contender to contend for a long time > building a one or two-year contender. A team like Chicago last season would have had a weaker roster because of their cap situation, so they were able to try and go all-in (not that that was much--just Barker for Jonsson, who didn't even play). The Caps don't have that issue. If they really wanted, they could probably keep the team as it's currently constructed together indefinitely, more or less (just swap out Steckel and Chimera and Sloan, and voila).

  3. I guess I'm coming from the point of view that having Pronger would have delivered similar results as Philly last year. This is all theoretical, so we can either assume a cup run or not. I'm assuming, based on Pronger's leadership and on ice play in the playoffs last year, that he would have pout the Caps at least in the finals.

    and I'm not convinced we wouldn't have a cup contender after one or two years. Chicago's basically saying, "We'll field two really great forward lines, and four fantastic defensemen each night and play the crap out of those lines." Whether it works year after year or in the playoffs remains to be seen, but its working so far.

    Bottom line, I'm coming from the point of view that one cup win > years of contending but never winning.

    In other words:

    To Philadelphia: great young goalie prospect, one or two blue-chip defense prospects, maybe a first round pick

    To Washington: One year of a top-5 defenseman and Lord Stanley's Cup

    Which would you take now?

    Why do I feel like this is the Scott Stevens debate all over again? :-)

  4. That's fair. I mean, I think too that one Cup > years of contending (though the irrational homer in me thinks Varlamov/Neuvirth and Carlson/Alzner can be central to multiple Cups).

    But Pronger is far from a guarantee. Even with the Caps so good, one player won't magically put them over the top. Getting the breaks will. There's a better chance you get the breaks if you're trying for a long time rather than trying really hard for one or two years and tailing off a bit. I mean, if Carolina won the Cup in 06, then any team can win it, right?

    I think Philly got extremely lucky last season--the Habs did 2/3 of the work for them by taking out DC and PIT, and BOS somehow collapsed--so Pronger putting the Caps in the Finals is far from a guarantee, though he certainly helps.

    Regarding Chicago: they were absolutely loaded. They had Kane and Toews and Hjalmarsson and Versteeg and others on ELCs, plus Keith on a cheap contract. If the pipeline keeps putting in good players on cheap contracts, with Ovechkin-Backstrom (and I'm sure Green will get a long deal) around, this team will be really good.

    I just wouldn't sacrifice the future for one season of now. I think without the trade the team is stronger for several years in the future, which to me outweighs the benefit of Pronger for one or two playoff runs.

    Maybe it seems like I'm delaying indefinitely, but I think with the cap that's what has to happen--you just get to the point where you have some ELC guys contributing at a high level, make some low-key trades to further bolster in the lineup, and hope your luck in the playoffs is good. Short FA deals probably help too. This all goes back to Chicago, who I think had Madden, Kopecky, and a couple of other players as FA signings.

    That just goes back to perennial contender Detroit. They've iced fantastic teams every year since around 1995, and got good luck four times.

  5. I love our team too. I mostly love GMGM and the philosophy he used to put this team together. We are going to contend for years.

    But we're playing around with "ifs". I cant say, "if we had pronger, we would have won the cup". I believe that, but its a hypothetical, not fact. I believe that mostly because I cant imagine a Pronger captained team playing the first 10 minutes of game 5 like the caps did last year.

    But if a top 5 defenseman is available, you get him. Period. I mean, we're not going to get a top 5 defensemen for Semin unless Philly trades us Pronger and that bugs the hell out of me.