With the trade deadline now just two weeks away, the Washington Capitals general approach is beginning to take shape. It’s appearing more and more unlikely that the Capitals will go “all in” at the trade deadline, as has been the case in recent years. With extremely limited salary cap space and a somewhat depleted prospect pool, it’s believed that the Capitals will be extremely cautious and measured with their trade deadline dealings. Here is our first look at the Capitals preliminary plan for the upcoming trade deadline.
On Saturday, Mike Vogel met with Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan for about 10 minutes at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Vogel asked MacLellan about his general approach to the upcoming trade deadline on Monday, February 26th.
Vogel also asked MacLellan about his approach to this seasons trade deadline with regards to the use of draft picks. MacLellan acknowledged the need to keep draft picks, but using them in a deal was not out of the question.
NEEDS FOR THE HOMESTRETCH
The Capitals team needs heading into this season’s playoff run are not numerous, and pretty well-defined.
Zone Breakouts – Capitals head coach Barry Trotz and General Manager Brian MacLellan have both publicly stated that the team needs to address the level of play in their own end. That’s no secret for anyone who has watched Caps games on a regular basis this season. Zone exits have been arguably the Capitals Achilles heel so far this season. A youthful, inexperienced defensive corp is a majority of the reason, but MacLellan made it clear that the forwards are just as much to blame.
Penalty Kill – It’s also no secret that the Capitals penalty kill has struggled this season, likely a direct result of key offseason departures. The Capitals finished the 2016-2017 season with the League’s 7th best penalty kill at 83.8% and 4th best power play at 23.1% for the regular season. So far this season the Capitals have the league’s 19th ranked penalty kill at 79.3% and the league’s 13th best power play at 20.8%.
Barry Trotz has publicly stated that he sees a need for adding a left-handed defenseman, that can help out on the penalty kill. That seems to be the consensus amongst Capitals management. Look for some kind of acquisition, minor in nature, at or around the trade deadline. (Our initial look at who might be available to plug this hole can be found here.) A list of the 46 left-handed defensemen who are Unrestricted Free Agents this summer can be found here.
As we previously noted, don’t anticipate any big moves, nor any further dealing of draft picks. However, should the opportunity present itself, there could be a multi-player move to address defensive needs as well as fortify the Capitals forward position.
OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER
Philipp Grubauer, considered at one point to be a certain trade waiting to happen, has one year remaining as a restricted free agent. It’s conceivable that the Capitals could lock down Grubauer for that one final year before he gets to test the free agency market (or the Caps trade him mid-season next year). However, Grubauer may be MacLellan’s best trade piece for this upcoming trade deadline. Don’t be shocked if Grubauer is part of a deal in the end.
Additionally, look for Pheonix Copley to be part of a deal should the Capitals plan to hang on to Philipp Grubauer one more season. With the top two spots locked down in DC, and Ilya Samsonov potentially reporting to Hershey this fall, the Bears would have three high-caliber golalies in camp. Goalie Adam Carlson, who was reassigned to the Indy Fuel last month, could potentially be facing similar circumstances. Carlson is a UFA this summer.
More to come as the deadline approaches.
By Jon Sorensen