With less than a week away until the NHL Trade Deadline, the Washington Capitals are preparing to make a couple of tweaks to their best team in franchise history. With a 44-10-4 record good for 92 points in 58 games, the Capitals have set new NHL records.
The Capitals are in a bit of a jam right now with cap space. They only have around $1 million to play with for the Deadline, so making moves will take some creativity. Caps GM Brian MacLellan will have to work his magic in order for the Capitals to get what they need for their postseason run.
There is a weak market this year at the deadline, so rentals should carry higher price tags. With that in mind, the Capitals could end up doing nothing if the prices are too high.
If the Capitals can find the right deal that will not hurt the team chemistry, they will most likely pull the trigger. A player that could be available at the Deadline is Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell. Let’s take a look and see if the Capitals should add Russell to their lineup.
WHY THE CAPITALS SHOULD TRADE FOR KRIS RUSSELL
The 28-year old Alberta native is a left-shot defenseman that is a decent skater. He was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 3rd round back at the 2005 NHL Draft. He has spent the last 3 seasons in Calgary.
Russell is a shot blocking machine. He is among the NHL’s leaders among defenseman in blocked shots. He only trails Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin in blocked shots in 2015-16.
With the Flames, Russell is third among defenseman in time on ice per game. He averages just under 23 minutes per game. Russell also gets a fair share of penalty killing time with the Flames.
Russell is on an expiring contract 2-year contract with the Flames. He has a friendly cap hit of $2.6 million. This expiring contract will make it very easy for the Flames to move, if they choose not to re-sign him.
WHY THE CAPITALS SHOULD NOT TRADE FOR KRIS RUSSELL
Russell is a solid skater, but he is not a very big defenseman. He is only listed at 5’10” tall and only weighs 173 lbs. While he does block a lot of shots, he is not the most physical defenseman. He only has 31 hits through 51 games this season.
Russell has not pumped out the best offensive production in his career. In 2014-15, he set a career high in points with 34. But his offensive numbers have been consistently in the 20 range. He is not often used on the Flames powerplay, even with his healthy amount of icetime.
So where would Russell fit with the Capitals? Does he replace someone on the Capitals third defensive pairing? Would he replace Dmitry Orlov or Brooks Orpik? Would he jump ahead of Taylor Chorney on the depth chart? The Capitals blueline is pretty crowded right now, so it would be interesting to see where the club would put him.
With Russell as a member of the Capitals, he would most likely be a pure rental for the club. It is doubtful that he would be in the Capitals long term plans. Is it worth sacrificing a mid-round pick for a player that will only be a member of the team for only a few months?
SHOULD THE CAPITALS PULL THE TRIGGER?
Russell is a serviceable defenseman that would give the Capitals added depth for the playoffs. While he is not the biggest or fastest defenseman at his position, he can penalty kill and block shots well.
The Capitals should highly consider adding Russell if the price is right. If the price is a mid round pick or a low ranked prospect, the Capitals should look to add Russell. Russell would probably slide ahead of Taylor Chorney on the depth chart, and he would possibly fight for a spot on the Capitals bottom pairing.
Russell would not have to play as many minutes as he does in Calgary if he came to Washington. That will benefit him and will keep him fresher during a long postseason run. With the addition of Russell, the Capitals would have 7 NHL defenseman that can play hard minutes every game.
The Capitals have fought through some injuries on their blueline this year, so having extra depth at the position is very important. Defensive depth is always tested in the playoffs, and injuries do happen. It is better if the Capitals are prepared for the worst case scenario, and they should always have a Plan B.
By George Foussekis