"He's not out of the picture. We think he's still got some hockey left in him, but it has to be a deal that makes sense for both sides. We're talking."
- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland on veteran Kirk Maltby.
"He's not out of the picture. We think he's still got some hockey left in him, but it has to be a deal that makes sense for both sides. We're talking."
- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland on veteran Kirk Maltby.
Gabriel Landeskog (right) and Matt Duchene
The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, though there's already been lots of activity. Here's a look at the latest rumors surrounding some of the notable players still believed available in the trade market.
Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche reportedly seek a good, young NHL-ready defenseman or goaltender, a first-round pick and a top prospect as part of the return for either forward. TSN's Darren Dreger notes Duchene's been linked to the New York Islanders. He wonders if defenseman Travis Hamonic as part of the return might tempt the Avs.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Avs told interested clubs they have no intention of lowering that asking price at the deadline. That could ensure the pair remain in Colorado for the remainder of this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins. Jonathan Bombulie reports Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said last Friday he hadn't received a trade offer for Fleury, who lost the role of starting goaltender to Matt Murray. Still, Rutherford didn't rule out the possibility of moving the veteran netminder.
The combinations of Fleury's $5.75-million cap hit through 2018-19, his modified no-trade clause, and a soft market for goalies could make him difficult to move. Rutherford has also said he'd be content with keeping his tandem intact for the remainder of the season.
Tomas Vanek, Detroit Red Wings. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports there hasn't been much interest in the 33-year-old. However, he expects that will pick up as the deadline draws near. With 38 points in 47 games, Vanek could be attractive to the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks. He also carries an affordable $2.6-million cap hit on an expiring contract.
Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports the 40-year-old Coyotes captain was unhappy about seeing long-time teammate Martin Hanzal dealt to the Minnesota Wild. That's increased speculation Doan could waive his no-movement clause, but GM John Chayka said the veteran winger hasn't requested a trade. Should Doan become available, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes the San Jose Sharks could come calling.
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes. The Edmonton Sun's Jim Matheson cites scouts claiming the Hurricanes defenseman is in play. He believes their depth in young rearguards no longer makes Faulk their blueline mainstay. The Hurricanes need scoring depth, especially at center, and Faulk could land them a quality return.
Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings. Friedman reports the Kings are looking into moving Gaborik. The 34-year-old winger's best years are behind him. His contract (four years remaining at $4.8-million annually) makes him almost impossible to move at the deadline.
Patrick Sharp, Dallas Stars. Having already shipped out one pending UFA winger in Patrick Eaves last week, the Stars could attempt to do the same with the 35-year-old Sharp. The Matheson speculates the Oilers could be watching the veteran winger
Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks. Hansen recently submitted his list of preferred trade destinations as requested by Canucks management. LeBrun believes the winger is garnering lots of interest. The asking price could be a young player or top prospect.
Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames. The recent additions of Michael Stone and Matt Bartkowski made Wideman the odd man out on the Flames' blueline. Wideman told the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson he was open to waiving his no-movement clause. So far, he hasn't been asked to do so.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
MORE FROM THE HOCKEY NEWS:
Welcome to NHL trade deadline central 2017. Stay tuned to THN.com for up-to-minute analysis of every trade, as it happens.
Our team of experts will break down every trade, as they happen. As has become the case the last few years, several NHL teams got an early start on the trade front. All the notable trades from the last few days are here. You can also check out a list of every trade made over the last year and beyond season in the Trade Log on our transactions page.
TO CALGARY: C Curtis Lazar; D Mike Kostka
TO OTTAWA: D Jyrki Jokipakka, 2017 second-round pick
THN's Take: The smile will be returning to Curtis Lazar’s face. The famously happy prospect never latched on properly with the Senators and now he gets a second chance, heading to Calgary in a mid-tier deal that sees defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka go the other way. Lazar is a versatile player who can line up at any forward position and play smart, two-way hockey. If he can find his offensive groove with the Flames, he will be the player we thought he was in junior. Heading to Calgary with him is minor-league defenseman Mike Kostka. In Jokipakka, Ottawa receives a big, defensive blueliner who can challenge for a role on the Sens’ third pairing and give them depth overall. The second-round pick helps them replenish, as Ottawa has traded a fair amount of 2017 selections away already. -- RYAN KENNEDY
TO NASHVILLE: RW P.A. Parenteau
TO NEW JERSEY: 2017 sixth-round pick
THN's TAKE: The Predators solidify three scoring lines for the stretch run with this acquisition. The white-hot top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson won't change, but Parenteau could bump Kevin Fiala out of the middle six forward group with Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal. Parenteau can score a little bit and regularly rates as an above-average possession player, with a Corsi relative rating higher than his team average every season of his career – including a career high 5.5 this season. He's a good driver of shot attempts and can let Nashville take some responsibility off young Fiala's shoulders. The cost was minimal at a sixth-round pick. Parenteau is dealing with a minor injury but is days away from being ready to play. – MATT LARKIN
TO TAMPA BAY: D Mark Streit
TO PHILADELPHIA: C Valtteri Filppula; 2017 fourth-round pick; 2017 conditional seventh-round pick
THN's Take: Ever wonder why the hockey world regards Steve Yzerman as one of the smartest men in hockey and one of the best GMs in the game? If you’re still wondering, look no further than the deal he made at the deadline to send Filppula to the Flyers for Streit. Getting Streit will help the Lightning in their almost insurmountable challenge to make the playoffs, but more importantly, losing Filppula’s $5 million cap hit for next season instantly put Yzerman in a better position to re-sign Ondrej Palat and/or Tyler Johnson. The Lightning will also be faced with a cap crunch with entry-level bonuses to Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy putting them over the cap. Dropping Filppula, who has been spectacularly unproductive this season, will provide major relief. -- KEN CAMPBELL
TO MONREAL: RW Andreas Martinsen
TO COLORADO: RW Sven Andrighetto
THN's Take: Remember when the biggest criticism of the Montreal Canadiens was that they were too small and prone to getting pushed around? Well, it appears GM Marc Bergevin has taken that criticism personally. In getting Martinsen from the Avalanche for Sven Andrighetto, the Canadiens instantly became five inches taller and 33 pounds heavier. Hmmm, 33 pounds. That’s about how much the Stanley Cup weighs. The Canadiens seemed willing to swap depth for depth at the deadline – at least with about 40 minutes remaining – but you get the sense the depth he wants is a lot bigger and heavier than what he’s willing to give away. In Andrighetto, the Avalanche get a player with some definite offensive upside, even though he hasn’t shown it with any sense of consistency in Montreal. But with a chance to have a regular role and a good spot on the depth chart, Andrighetto should be able to showcase his talents. -- KEN CAMPBELL
TO COLUMBUS: D Kyle Quincey
TO NEW JERSEY: D Dalton Prout
THN's Take: It was a foregone conclusion the Devils, who sit seven points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, would move a rental asset like Quincey, who hits unrestricted free agency this summer. There isn't much to this deal. Quincey is a baseline NHL-caliber defender, best suited to the bottom pair on a high-end team like the Blue Jackets. He has decent mobility and size at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds. He's a left shot, and Zach Werenski, Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray man that side in Columbus, so Quincey looks like mere injury insurance as a seventh D-man. As for stay-at-home blueliner Prout, headed to the Devils: he's 26 and has a year left on his deal at a $1.58-million cap hit. He had no spot in the Jackets' lineup. The Devils can try him out and, hey, if they aren't in contention next year, he's another UFA they can flip at the deadline. – MATT LARKIN
TO LOS ANGELES: RW Jarome Iginla
TO COLORADO: 2018 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: If I told you the Kings acquired an eight-goal scorer for a conditional fourth in next year’s draft, you wouldn’t bat an eye. But when it’s revealed that future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla is that eight goal-scorer, it sounds odd, doesn’t it? Los Angeles has been offensively weak this season and historically, Iginla has produced more goals in the post-season than in the first 82 games of the schedule. But the 39-year-old is definitely at the end of his career and it’s tough to see him moving the needle much for L.A. Is he a great motivator for the Kings, who could net him that long-pursued Stanley Cup? Sure: everybody loves Iggy. But the Kings have to make the playoffs first and that’s no guarantee. --RYAN KENNEDY
TO MONTREAL: LW Dwight King
TO LOS ANGELES: 2018 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: So how about facing a fourth line of Michael McCarron between Steve Ott and Dwight King? Doesn’t sound so pleasant, does it? A little more than two hours before the deadline, the Canadiens had not made a huge splash at the deadline, so it’s pretty clear that GM Marc Bergevin thinks this team has the chops in terms of talent to put together a long playoff run. The fact that Max Pacioretty has more than twice as many goals as the next highest scorer may cause some to beg to differ, but if the Canadiens’ scorers score, Carey Price is Carey Price and the bottom six players make life miserable for the opponent, they might be onto something. As for the Kings, this looks like a move to clear the decks for something bigger, such as, maybe, perhaps, a Jarome Iginla. -- KEN CAMPBELL
TO FLORIDA: LW Thomas Vanek
TO DETROIT: D Dylan McIrath; 2017 third-round pick
THN's Take: Vanek was a polarizing trade commodity. On one hand, he's been the Red Wings' best offensive player this season, with 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games. On the other hand, he was a massive disappointment the last time he was a trade deadline rental in 2014 when the Montreal Canadiens acquired him. He had contract motivation that time, too, as he was a pending unrestricted free agent just like he is now. Still, the Panthers didn't have to pay much to get him: a third-round pick and defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who wasn't even taking a regular shift in their lineup. Vanek will add some offensive touch and power play ability and can play on any of the top three lines, though it's unlikely to be the No. 1 unit with Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr entrenched. Vanek will fit somewhere into a middle six that includes Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Nick Bjugstad, probably bumping Denis Malgin down. This team has one deep forward corps. As for the Wings, McIlrath is a warm body who gives them size and snarl should they want to give him a crack in the NHL. He's only 24. The reality is that he's a UFA, though, and the Panthers likely just needed to move some salary. He may not have a future as a Wing. Detroit's return is all about the third-rounder, which was a bit underwhelming considering some less talented players have fetched more than that over the past couple days. – MATT LARKIN
TO MONTREAL: C Steve Ott
TO DETROIT: 2018 sixth-round pick
THN's Take: A puzzling trade, even if it didn’t cost Montreal all that much to make the acquisition.
TO SAN JOSE: RW Jannik Hansen
TO VANCOUVER: LW Nikolay Goldobin; 2017 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: San Jose adds some speed as it chases that elusiva Stanley Cup, while Vancouver adds another good prospect. More here.
TO EDMONTON: C David Desharnais
TO MONTREAL: D Brandon Davidson
THN's Take: It’s curious to see a team once desperate for defensemen trade one for a forward that doesn’t offer much in return, but the Oilers made this deal. There has been speculation that Davidson would have been exposed to Vegas in the expansion draft and likely taken, since he’s a youngish blueliner with a decent dollop of promise. In that sense, Edmonton got something for him in Desharnais, an undersized center who has been a frequent healthy scratch since Claude Julien took over the bench in Montreal. Quick and crafty, Desharnais gives Edmonton another option down the middle, but don’t look for a big impact. -- RYAN KENNEDY
TO CHICAGO: D Johnny Oduya
TO DALLAS: RW Mark McNeill; 2018 conditional fourth-round pick
THN's Take: My colleague Ryan Kennedy said it best: "The Blackhawks are getting the band back together." And why not? Reacquiring Oduya cost very little: prospect Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018. The Stars also eat half of Oduya's $3.75-million salary to get him under their cap. This is an easy win-win trade for both teams. The Stars have thrown in the towel on 2016-17 and are selling off Oduya, a pending unrestricted free agent who will be 36 when next season starts. Dallas wants to give its stable of young D-men, including Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak, more minutes down the stretch. It makes sense for Dallas to see what it has. In McNeill, it gets a 2011 first-round pick who was a pretty effective AHL center with good size but who just couldn't find a home on the Hawks' depth chart. Chicago wanted to give McNeill a fresh start. Oduya, obviously, can slide seamlessly back into coach Joel Quenneville's system in Chicago and helps provide depth with Niklas Hjalmarsson hitting the IR. It's not a guarantee Oduya reunites with old partner Hjalmarsson once he's back healthy, as the Hawks solidified a new top four by signing Brian Campbell in the summer. Oduya has shown signs of decline since signing with Dallas for last season and wasn't an effective possession player there. But he'd be a fine, experienced option to play on the bottom pair. That or Quenneville opts to recapture the Hjalmarsson/Oduya chemistry, which would give Chicago three solid pairings: Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson/Oduya and Campbell/Trevor van Riemsdyk. Regardless of how the Hawks use Oduya, he didn't cost much. Solid deal. – MATT LARKIN
TO OTTAWA: LW Viktor Stalberg
TO CAROLINA: 2017 third-round pick
THN's Take: The Ottawa Senators bolstered their forward corps by acquiring the veteran Stalberg, who brings great speed and a big frame to the organization. A pending UFA, the left winger may very well be a rental, but in the wide-open Atlantic Division, the Sens can use him in the bottom six. Ottawa has a couple of injuries up front right now, including Bobby Ryan, so the more help the better. Stalberg may not contribute much offensively, but he can help out on the penalty-kill and has two shorthanded goals this season. For Carolina, the third-round selection goes into GM Ron Francis’ already-stocked coffers. The man is doing his rebuild the right way and now has seven selections in the first three rounds of the 2017 draft. -- RYAN KENNEDY
TO NEW YORK RANGERS: D Brendan Smith
TO DETROIT: 2017 third-round pick; 2018 second-round pick
THN's Take: The Rangers again dealt their future in an effort to make one last run for a Cup with its current core. More here.
TO WASHINGTON: D Kevin Shattenkirk; G Pheonix Copley
TO ST. LOUIS: 2017 first-round pick; 2019 conditional second-round pick; LW Zach Sanford; LW Brad Malone
THN's Take: The Capitals are going all in for a Stanley Cup with this move, as we wrote here.
TO OTTAWA: LW Alexandre Burrows
To VANCOUVER: C Jonathan Dahlen
THN's Take: Well, we can at least give the Senators points for guts. The Burrows trade likely won't go over too well with the diehard, educated fan base – and it shouldn't. It's not like Burrows was a rental, acquired for a pick, as was the case with Brian Boyle and the Leafs. The Senators doubled down by extending Burrows for two more seasons at a $2.5-million cap hit. He turns 36 April 11. He'll be 38 when the deal ends. I get that the Senators have major injury woes to overcome on their wings, and that the Atlantic Division playoff race is wide open, but…yikes. Worse yet, the Sens surrendered left winger Jonathan Dahlen to Vancouver as the return. Dahlen, 19, rates as Ottawa's fifth-best prospect in our soon-to-be-releaseed Future Watch 2017. Dahlen was highly regarded enough to go 42nd overall in what was, keep in mind, a stellar 2016 draft class. It seems odd now that owner Eugene Melnyk balked at the Colorado Avalanche's asking price for Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog – only to mortgage an A-minus prospect for an agitator in Burrows. – MATT LARKIN
TO MONTREAL: D Jordie Benn
TO DALLAS: D Greg Pateryn; 2017 fourth-round pick
THN's Take: We knew a defenseman acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens was likely, but Jordie Benn seems underwhelming. He has decent size and grades out as average defensively in the possession game. He's a legit NHL defenseman. But that's about it. He's just a tiny bit better than Greg Pateryn, not to mention smaller and older than Pateryn. Benn is also a left shot, and the Habs already have Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu as left shots, but Benn had played on the right side in Dallas with Dan Hamhuis on the left lately. Benn can do it and will likely play on Beaulieu's right, but it's not like the right side is Benn's natural fit, so it's a bit of a curious add. From the Stars' perspective, fans should hope Pateryn doesn't take a regular shift with the sinking squad – and that top prospect Julius Honka finds his away into the lineup instead. He showed some amazing possession numbers earlier this season when given 10 games at the NHL level. – MATT LARKIN
TO TORONTO: C Brian Boyle
TO TAMPA BAY: C Byron Froese; 2017 second-round pick
THN's Take: We wrote about the Leafs going for it here.
TO MINNESOTA: C Martin Hanzal; RW Ryan White; 2017 fourth-round pick
TO ARIZONA: 2017 first-round pick; 2018 second-round pick; 2019 conditional pick; C Grayson Downing
THN's Take: We wrote about Hanzal makes the Wild that much deeper here.
TO LOS ANGELES: G Ben Bishop; 2017 fifth-round pick
TO TAMPA BAY: G Peter Budaj; D Erik Cernak; 2017 seventh-round pick; 2017 conditional pick
TO CHICAGO: LW Tomas Jurco
TO DETROIT: 2017 third-round pick
TO ANAHEIM: RW Patrick Eaves
TO DALLAS: 2017 conditional second-round pick
THN's Take: This deal could be a win for both teams. More here.
Johnny Oduya. Image by: Getty Images
The Blackhawks are No. 1 in our power rankings for the second week in a row, and went out and added a familiar face for some depth on defense.
It’s safe to say the last time the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline, things worked out pretty well. But this time around, the Blackhawks will not have the luxury of time they had when they traded for Oduya in 2012.
The Blackhawks did not win the Stanley Cup that year, but Oduya stuck around to help the Blackhawks to Cups in 2013 and 2015, logging valuable minutes in 2015. But at the age of 35 and at the end of his contract, Oduya is not seen as a long-term fix for the Blackhawks.
This time around, Oduya is an insurance policy and not a workhorse. You can never have enough NHL defenseman for a long playoff run, which is exactly what the Blackhawks are expecting again this spring. And with a second straight week atop THN.com’s weekly Power Rankings, they’re rounding into form at the right time. )Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Chicago Blackhawks (1)
2. Minnesota Wild (7)
3. Washington Capitals (3)
4. Nashville Predators (23)
5. Montreal Canadiens (15)
6. Boston Bruins (6)
7. Calgary Flames (19)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (12)
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
10. San Jose Sharks (10)
The Blackhawks quietly signed Michal Rozsival and Jordin Tootoo to one-year extensions, likely to expose them in the expansion draft…These are not your father’s Wild. With 209, Minnesota is second in the NHL in goals scored…Kevin Shattenkirk logged 17:18 in ice time and had four shots on goal in his first game with the Capitals, a 4-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night…Anyone who thinks it will be “just another game” when P.K. Subban returns to Montreal for the first time Thursday night is kidding himself…After losing five of six starts, Carey Price has gone 3-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his past four…The Bruins have gone 7-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 33-17 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy…Since playing perhaps their worst game of the season in a 5-0 loss to Arizona, the Flames have gone 6-0-1 with three of those wins coming in overtime…Lip readers did not like what they saw from John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets lost 1-0 in overtime in Montreal on a power-play goal…The Penguins’ 3-2 loss to Dallas Tuesday night marked the first time in 66 games the Penguins had lost a game when leading after two periods…The Sharks’ 3-1 win over Toronto Tuesday night was the 300th of coach Peter DeBoer’s NHL career.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Edmonton Oilers (16)
12. New York Rangers (3)
13. New York Islanders (8)
14. Florida Panthers (2)
15. Anaheim Ducks (17)
16. Ottawa Senators (13)
17. Toronto Maple Leafs (10)
18. Philadelphia Flyers (20)
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (11)
20. Los Angeles Kings (18)
Take a wild guess at which player has the most game-winning goals for the Oilers this season. If you guessed Mark Letestu, who has six, go to the head of the class and collect your gold star…It did not make much sense for the Rangers to pay a king’s ransom for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline when there’s a good chance they’re going to get him for nothing this summer as an unrestricted free agent…Here’s a red flag. The Islanders gave up seven goals twice in an 11-day span…Jaromir Jagr, after the Panthers registered a rather uninspiring 3-2 shootout win over Carolina Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak: “If we play like this, we’re not going to win in Philly (Thursday night). I can guarantee you that. We have to be a lot better than this.”…Patrick Eaves had five shots and drew two penalties in just over 16 minutes of ice time in his first game with the Ducks, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon…The Senators gave up a really good prospect for Alex Burrows, then signed him to a two-year contract extension. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a head-scratcher…Rookie Auston Matthews leads the league with 12 first goals of the game…The Flyers’ 4-0 win over Colorado Tuesday night marked the first time this season they’ve won a game by more than three goals…The Lightning have won three of four, but it’s pretty clear with their moves that they know their season is over…The Kings had posted eight overtime victories against no losses (shootouts not included), then went out and lost two straight in OT to Minnesota and Calgary.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. St. Louis Blues (14)
22. Dallas Stars (24)
23. New Jersey Devils (26)
24. Detroit Red Wings (27)
25. Arizona Coyotes (25)
26. Buffalo Sabres (22)
27. Winnipeg Jets (21)
28. Vancouver Canucks (28)
29. Colorado Avalanche (29)
30. Carolina Hurricanes (30)
After winning six in a row, the Blues have not scored more than two goals in their past four games, all losses…A good reason why Jason Spezza, who has just nine goals for the Stars this season, will undoubtedly finish this season with his lowest goal total since becoming a full-time NHLer: His shooting percentage is just 8.4 percent…The Devils are 13-12-6 at home and 12-13-6 on the road. How’s that for mediocrity?...Ken Holland, trade deadline seller. Man, that sounds weird, doesn’t it?...Alexander Burmistrov was released from hospital Tuesday night after being carried off on a stretcher in Arizona’s 4-1 loss to Boston Tuesday night…The Sabres are leaky. They gave up five goals in three of four straight losses…After missing five games with a lower-body injury that required surgery, Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom returned for Winnipeg’s 5-4 overtime loss to Minnesota Tuesday night…The Canucks will get San Jose’s first-round pick if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, which would make it the 31st overall choice, as part of the Jannik Hansen trade…The Avs have won just five games in the past two months…Jeff Skinner was scratched with what was called an upper-body injury for Carolina’s 3-2 shootout loss to Florida Tuesday night and has already been ruled out of the game against Tampa Bay Wednesday.
MORE FROM THE HOCKEY NEWS:
T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Image by: Getty Images
With 10 pending free agents and the salary cap not expected to increase the Capitals will have a hard time keeping the band together. So it's now or never for their Cup hopes.
When the Washington Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004, the foundation for a championship team was set firmly in place. They progressively built a Murderers’ Row of talent that, at one time, looked as though it had the makings of a dynasty.
Which brings us to their acquisition of the crown jewel of the NHL trade deadline, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Monday night. It’s a game-changer for the already-stacked Capitals to be sure, one that gives them another talented right-handed defenseman who can move the puck, play the power play and is good in his own end. In making the deal, the Capitals have unequivocally stated that their time to win is now.
And they’re right because that’s exactly what it is. If you think previous Capital teams were under pressure to win a championship, that was nothing compared to the expectation the 2016-17 squad faces. This team was a Stanley Cup favorite before acquiring Shattenkirk, but after their bold move at the deadline, anything short of a Stanley Cup parade will be considered a complete failure.
But compounding this is a whole other layer of pressure that hasn’t been discussed much to this point. And that is, if this Capitals team manages to win the Stanley Cup this spring, it would not be a stretch to suggest the franchise that once held out hopes for a dynasty could very well become a one-and-done in the same vein the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks have been in the salary cap era.
And that’s a shame because it puts even more pressure on this group to win now. The failures of past teams in the playoffs are going to be carried by this group, a team that will face the challenge of erasing those bad memories in one playoff year. The Capitals’ inability not only to seriously contend for the Stanley Cup, but to even get out of the second round of the playoffs all those years, is going to be a demon this particular group of players must exorcise.
That window to win that was once so wide is closing quickly and dramatically, to the point that if the Capitals don’t win the Cup this spring, you have to wonder when they ever will again.
Now it’s not unheard of for a team to face the prospect of having 10 pending unrestricted and restricted free agents on their roster. It happens quite a bit actually. But it is unique for a team to have as many impact players facing free agency and as little cap space to either re-sign or replace them as the Caps have. Not including Nate Schmidt, who has almost certainly been knocked out of Washington’s top six defensemen with the addition of Shattenkirk, the Capitals face the prospect of having half their top 12 forwards, top six defensemen and two goaltenders on expiring contracts.
Consider first that with Shattenkirk now on their roster, the Capitals now stand to have three of the most coveted unrestricted free agents of the summer in Shattenkirk, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner and winger T.J. Oshie. Whether Alzner and Oshie are underpaid or not is probably a matter of preference, but both will undoubtedly be looking for raises.
Alzner, who has made just $2.8 million per year the past four seasons, will almost be certainly looking to cash in on a long-term deal at the age of 28. Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik are the only other UFAs the Capitals have, but they also have Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer to re-sign as RFAs.
And assuming the salary cap stays the same, they have only about $21 million to do it. If it goes down, as some have suggested it might, the Capitals are in even more trouble. When you look at it from that perspective, the band is breaking up. There is no doubt about that.
It would be different if the Capitals were flush with NHL-ready prospects who could come in and fill those roles, the way the young players in Chicago have made it possible for the Blackhawks to negotiate the salary cap like a tightrope, paying their veteran core players huge money and leaving the scraps to their young players who are not yet in a position to command big money. But the Capitals prospects are just good, not great. In THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the Capitals group of prospects ranked 20th overall, a group that was diminished by one when useful NHL prospect Zach Sanford was included in the Shattenkirk deal. Their best prospect is Ilya Samsonov and that would be great if Samsonov were not a goaltender. Jakub Vrana is a future NHLer to be sure, but it drops off after that. And the Capitals have clearly and deliberately mortgaged their future, dealing away their first three picks from this draft.
Any team with talent that includes the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby will contend, but how seriously depends upon the supporting cast around them and that supporting cast will be diminished after this season. Both Ovechkin and Backstrom will be on the other side of 30 very soon, as is Matt Niskanen, while 36-year-old Brooks Orpik is on a contract that is not at all team-friendly for two more years. That one is going to sting whether the Capitals stick with him through to the end of the deal or buy him out this summer.
If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, that first-rounder to St. Louis will be the 31st pick overall, which until the summer of 2017, was considered a second-round pick. And that’s where the Capitals are banking that pick will be. And if that happens it will have all worthwhile been worthwhile because they’ll have finally skated off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup. That would be great, because it might be the only one they win for a long, long time.
MORE FROM THE HOCKEY NEWS: