While the entire hockey world is disappointed to find out that the first trade of the offseason features a 5th Round Draft pick being traded for a former 7th Round Draft pick, the Capitals acquiring Tyler Graovac for a 2018 5th Round Draft pick says a lot to me. This in a lot of ways sets up what Caps fans can expect out of at least the next week of the off-season and it has little to do with Tyler Graovac and his future with the Washington Capitals.
In terms of the trade itself, the Capitals traded a future 5th Round Pick for a player who is essentially what most 7th Round Picks end up being, a very good AHLer and fringe NHLer. Say what you want about asset management, but in terms of value in and value out, all they did is fast forward the development process of that future 5th Rounder by about seven years and gained a player that Hershey will utilize and can be relied on to contribute on the 4th Line when injuries occur. In addition, what this trade allows for the Capitals to gain right now is a player that is under contract for the 2017-18 season, allowing for them to not need to expose one of their currently rostered players due to expansion draft rules that stipulate a certain amount of players under contract be exposed for Vegas to potentially take. This means Lars Eller will more than likely be protected, in addition to Tom Wilson, and Jay Beagle will be one of the forwards exposed to Vegas.
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
So that’s the reason why the Capitals had to make this trade, but I don’t believe it is the full story on why this trade was made. With all of the “back room” deals teams are making with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure certain players are not selected, or ensure certain players are selected, it makes me wonder why Brian MacLellan felt the need to ensure he should protect both Eller and Wilson. He would only need to protect both of these players if he didn’t already have a deal with George McPhee in place to select a certain player, thus leading to uncertainty with who McPhee will take.
In my eyes this means that MacLellan has not and will not come to an agreement with George McPhee before the expansion draft. What this means moving forward, at least for the next week, is that Vegas plans on selecting a player from the Capitals, and Brian MacLellan does not know who it will be and cannot control who it will be.
That means Vegas will not be selecting Brooks Orpik if the Capitals trade them a 2nd Round Pick or other compensation. And there will not be a trade put in place to set in stone that one of Nate Schmidt or Philipp Grubauer is taken, essentially protecting the one who isn’t taken. I would also go as far to say that the Capitals pending UFAs, Kevin Shattenkirk, TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, and Karl Alzner will not be signing a contract with Vegas during their 3 day exclusive pending free agent negotiating period. If one of those players signed with Vegas, it would count as a player drafted from the Capitals. It does not rule out Vegas signing pending RFAs Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer during this period, but the same “uncertain” circumstances still stand as MacLellan cannot control if they sign or not.
To wrap it all up, the generally assumed 11 players who will be protected will stay protected, no exposed forwards will be traded before the expansion draft, and one of Chorney or Orpik can still be traded elsewhere as both meet the minimum requirements and only one defenseman needs to be exposed (as opposed to two forwards, which are now Beagle and Graovac). Chorney met them only barely so by having played in 73 games over the past two seasons. Caps fans who hope for Orpik to be traded, there still is a chance, but he very likely, almost certainly the way I read the tea leaves, is not going to Vegas. He could be traded there after the expansion draft, but I wouldn’t count on that given the inability to do it now and the sizable contracts already rumored to be going to Vegas in one way or another.
If you’re going to take anything away from what I just wrote, it’s that this trade is less about who the Capitals acquired, and more about not being able to convince George McPhee through a trade to take a certain exposed player, be it Nate Schmidt, Philipp Grubauer, Brooks Orpik, Taylor Chorney, or Jay Beagle. So they had to do what they could to both meet the requirements of players left exposed while protecting the players they ultimately want to protect. The Capitals are set for the Expansion Draft and all that’s left is to find out who McPhee selects from them.
By Tyler Anderson