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Should the Capitals trade Ovechkin?

Alex Ovechkin has three goals and a minus-5 rating through 11 games. (Getty Images)

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Alex Ovechkin has three goals and a minus-5 rating through 11 games. (Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals are off to their worst start in years, languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with a league-worst 2-8-1 record.

Their once-lethal offense is sputtering, averaging 2.27 goals-per-game, tied for 23rd overall with the Philadelphia Flyers.

That's partially due to the low production from captain Alex Ovechkin, who has only seven points in 11 games.

Since 2009-10 (the last season Ovechin scored more than 50 goals and 100 points), his numbers have been significantly dropping. He netted 85 points in 2010-11 and 65 last season. At his current pace, Ovechkin will only reach 30 points if he plays the full 48-game schedule.

Washington’s struggles spurred Washington Post sports assignment editor Lindsay Applebaum to ask her paper's readers if Ovechkin should be traded.

Post columnist Neil Greenberg doesn't think so, citing the difficulty of moving the remainder of Ovechkin's 13-year, $124 million contract at a time when his offense is in decline.

Greenberg also rejected the notion of a buyout, as the average annual cap hit of $3.8 million would be on the Capitals’ books until 2029.

Despite Ovechkin's on-ice struggles, Greenberg believes the 27-year-old winger remains a significant money-maker for the Capitals. For good or ill, he's the face of the franchise.

Trading Ovechkin isn't an option, but if the Capitals continue to struggle, there will be changes.

Goaltending has been an issue, with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby having a tough time between the pipes.  

The presence of Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis at Sunday's Penguins-Capitals game fuelled talk of the Canucks shipping goalie Roberto Luongo to Washington.  

Capitals GM George McPhee claimed he'd never had a single conversation with Gillis and couldn't afford to take on Luongo's lengthy contract.

That didn't prevent Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail and Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post from putting the Capitals on their lists of potential destinations for Luongo.

It's believed McPhee will stick with Neuvirth and Holtby for now, but if they don’t improve soon, the “Luongo-to-Washington” conjecture will persist.

OILERS DRILLED DOWN THE MIDDLE

Injuries have taken an early toll on the Edmonton Oilers centers.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) is day-to-day, while Eric Belanger (broken toes), Shawn Horcoff (broken knuckle) and Anton Lander (foot) are on the injured reserve, leaving Sam Gagner as their only healthy center.

The Oilers hope to have Nugent-Hopkins and Belanger back in the lineup by this weekend, but the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson called upon Oilers GM Steve Tambellini to shop for an affordable depth centerman.

Matheson suggested Toronto's Dave Steckel, Dallas’ Tom Wandell or former Oiler and current NY Islander Marty Reasoner as stop-gap trade measures. Based on trades by other clubs earlier this week, he believes it would cost Tambellini a fifth round draft pick. He also suggested Brenden Morrison and former Oiler Jason Arnott as free agent options.

It remains to be seen what moves Tambellini has in store. He may have already been in contact with the Arnott camp.

Sportsnet's Mark Spector reported Wade Arnott (Jason's brother and agent) said his client had undergone a knee scope and was cleared to play.

Arnott had agreed to a one-year contract with the New York Rangers, but it was nullified when he failed the team medical. His brother claims they now have “a few things ongoing with NHL clubs,” but didn't indicate if the Rangers or Oilers were among them.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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