Monday, February 21, 2011

GMGM Do's and Do Not's

As we near the trade deadline (only a few days away now!) and hence the "stretch run," George McPhee is focused on what to do and what not to do. What he does (or does not) will likely play a big role in the outcome of the season for the Capitals. Here's my advice to him and the Capitals' coaches.

Do: hear trade offers for Alexander Semin. See which teams might be interested. And see if you can acquire Ales Hemsky and trade Semin, essentially a lateral move in terms of talent but one which adds $2.5 million in cap room next season.

Do: trade for a second-line center. Marcus Johansson is good, but he's not out-dueling his opposition in all zones of the ice. Mathieu Perreault has...I don't even know what to make of him. I think he'll be a winger in the NHL, not a center. At any rate a line centered by Perreault needs sheltered minutes, leaving none for Johansson.

Do: inquire about a "veteran backup." Not because I fear Neuvirth and Varlamov can't handle the pressure, but because if they both get hurt again (they've both been hurt/unwell at the same time twice already this season) then the Caps are toast, in all likelihood. Jose Theodore is on a 1-year, $1.1 million contract, and could be a good third goalie. By all accounts he was a great teammate. Even if Theodore is simply a replacement-level NHL goalie, that's better than Holtby at this point, I'd say.

Do not: put Johansson and Chimera on the same line. This is all you need to see. At the very least, not without Fehr or Laich there too.

Do not: run Varlamov. Make sure he's healthy for the playoffs. He's the Caps' best goalie, but also the most fragile.

Do not: trade Brooks Laich. He's been great.

Do: look into trading John Erskine and David Steckel. Their contracts will hurt from next season onward, even if only in the short term. Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, and cheap FA defensemen can be rostered for less with minimal loss in contribution.

Do not: be afraid to trade a winger. Andrew Gordon is ready for the NHL.

Do: look into acquiring a top-pair, more defensive-minded defenseman. Well, the one such guy, Chris Phillips. With Poti's health far from guaranteed, pushing everyone save Green down a spot on the depth chart (Hannan to extra #1) would provide some extra insurance against injury. Moreover, Phillips looks like an ideal partner for Green, in the mold of a more mature Alzner, with good skating, puck moving, defensive instincts, and physical play. More ideal than Schultz or Hannan, anyways.

Do not: bench Nicklas Backstrom. Unless he's actually injured. Don't want to ruin his rhythm or his ironman streak.

Do: try and poach someone from the Devils. Not that they have lots of good players that could be had for less than a huge ransom, I guess.

Do not: trade Eric Fehr. Unless the return is really good. He's a legitimate possession forward who gets nowhere near as much credit or attention as he deserves...which means he's a good bet to sign for less than he's worth and outperform his contract(s) in the coming years.

Do not: trade for Brad Richards, unless the deal is highway robbery. Richards only produces like a 1C in Dallas because he gets the easiest minutes. He's not the player he was in Tampa Bay (decent 1C production despite tough matchups). And now he's having concussion issues. I'll pass.

Do not: trade Evgeny Kuznetsov. He's the only top-notch forward in the system at the moment.


  1. Good blog. Just a couple thoughts of disagreement but mostly you are dead on.

    I dont want to see Theo again. I dont want Steckel traded away as he is invaluable in face
    offs. And I think MP85 is taking way too
    much abuse. The Caps would be with tremendous depth if players were put in the correct position. Imagine a veteran 2nd line center, Johannsen as 3rd, and Perreault as 4th line--either as a center or winger.

    I still would rather trade Semin straight up for Richards for this season and then have the additional 6.7 in cap space this offseason. I know that will look like a waste of value, but
    we will need the space moving forward.

  2. I see our center situation like this:

    Backstrom is most effective in easy minutes.

    Perreault is most effective in easy minutes.

    Johansson gets killed in somewhat tough minutes, and probably needs easy ones to be successful at this point (as do most rookies).

    Richards at this point gets easy minutes. He may or may not still be tough-minutes-capable.

    There aren't that many easy minutes to go around. Our 4th line already takes tough assignments and tough zone starts.

    For cap room, I'm not so concerned about 2011-2012. 2012-2013, right before which Green and others will be RFA, is the one that really concerns me.

  3. Agree with most of it except getting rid of Steckel and Erskine. Their contracts are fine. The one contract that will hurt bad going forward is Jeff Schultz. Paying him $2.5-3 million a year for four more years is terrible. He is a pylon and soooo overpaid. HOrrible move to sign him to that contract. It will come back to hurt the Caps. Need to move him now.

  4. I don't understand how trading Semin AND seeking a strong 2nd line center are complimentary.

    Isn't the whole point of needing a strong 2nd line center based around the need to find a good compliment to the obviously talented Semin?

    Trading Semin - to me - simply isnt a smart move considering the offensive threat he adds combined with his special teams role.

    And besides, why trade when: 1) cap space really isnt a problem (yet) and 2) he's signed for a 1 year deal leaving the option of letting him opt for free agency on his own.

    A lateral trade for Semin simply isn't going to work in terms of meshing with the system - at least not this late in the season. Say what you will about him, he has a synergy with the current 1st and 2nd lines - and if anything, is only weakened by not having a Backstrom-lite to feed him passes on the 2nd line.

  5. Anonymous: centers are inherently more valuable than wingers. As for a lateral move, Hemsky is more patient with the puck, I think. He won't be firing long shots with no traffic, he'd rather hold onto the puck.

    Cap room will be a huge consideration next year, since Green and Carlson will go RFA. I'm just looking ahead. Plus, it can't hurt if the Caps get a bit extra cap room and sign an FA to a Hossa-Detroit-type deal, right?