The Washington Capitals are sitting at the top of the NHL today and they are miles ahead of the rest of the field. The Caps have assembled their best club in franchise history, and they have set new records along the way.
But the Capitals are aware of their past. They are aware of what is ahead of them, and they are aware of the playoff obstacles that they have to overcome. This Capitals club will be defined on how well they perform in the playoffs. They are poised to do great things, but they have not been a perfect team.
With the NHL Trade Deadline looming, the Capitals will explore all options to improve their club. The Capitals will be buyers on the market, and they will probably be looking to add at least one forward and one defenseman.
One player that could be available at the upcoming Deadline is Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler. Let’s take a look and see if the Capitals should add Hudler to their roster:
WHY THE CAPITALS SHOULD TRADE FOR JIRI HUDLER
The 32-year old Czech Republic native is a 2002 2nd round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings. He has spent the last four seasons in Calgary and has been a pretty productive player.
In 2014-15, Hudler had his best season as a pro. Hudler recorded 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games for the Flames a year ago. In addition to his offensive production, Hudler also won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2014-15, which is awarded to the NHL’s most sportsmanlike player.
Hudler won the Stanley Cup with Detroit back in 2008. He has participated internationally for the Czech Republic at the World Championships and World Junior Championships.
While Hudler is having a down year with production in 2015-16, he is still ranked third among Flames forwards in icetime per game. Hudler does not kill penalties, but he is utilized on the Flames powerplay unit.
In Hudler’s 600+ game NHL career, he has hit 20+ goals three times, and has hit the 50+ point mark four times. The reliable Flames forward is on an expiring 4-year contract that carries a cap hit of $4 million.
With Hudler, the Capitals would be getting another veteran presence in the lineup. Hudler is a guy that can put up in goals and points in the right situation. The former Cup winner has plenty of experience under his belt, and he would give the Capitals another weapon on their powerplay.
WHY THE CAPITALS SHOULD NOT TRADE FOR JIRI HUDLER
With a limited market for pure goal scorers, Hudler should draw interest from a lot of teams. Hudler will probably even draw interest from teams that are not in playoff contention.
With a lot of demand for pure goal scorers, Calgary will probably set the market price high for Hudler. Hudler is a guy that will probably get a modest raise on his next contract, wherever he ends up. With Hudler’s next contract in mind, he would probably be a pure rental for the Capitals stretch run. It is doubtful that the Capitals would re-sign Hudler to a long-term extension if they traded for him.
Is Hudler’s proven track record of scoring worth giving up a high draft pick or prospect? Is it worth giving up a solid asset for only a return that will last a few months at most?
SHOULD THE CAPITALS PULL THE TRIGGER?
The Capitals are already in a logjam at forward, and it will become an even bigger logjam once Jay Beagle returns to mix.
Where would Jiri Hudler realistically fit in the Capitals rotation? Could he play in the Capitals top 6? Is Hudler better off playing in the bottom 6? The Capitals top six forward group has had great chemistry for most of the season, so it is doubtful that Barry Trotz will want to mess up anything that is working well.
The most logical fit for Hudler is on the Capitals third line, at either wing position. Hudler could slot in nicely next to Marcus Johansson, and could bump Jason Chimera or Tom Wilson down to the 4th line.
In order for the Capitals to pull off a Hudler trade, they will have to shed some salary somewhere. Could a goaltender like Philipp Grubauer draw some looks from the Flames? The Flames have been in the market for a young goaltender for a while now. Would the Flames dare to take on Brooks Laich’s horrible contract?
If the price is right, the Capitals should go after Hudler. He will give them added lineup flexibility and a little bit of a scoring boost. But if the Flames are seeking a 1st round pick plus another top prospect, the Capitals should stay away. Hudler would be a nice rental for the Capitals, but the Capitals should not sacrifice top assets in order to get him. Hudler is not a player that is worth sacrificing the entire prospect pool for.
By George Foussekis