Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
It has been no secret since the 2019-20 season began that the Washington Capitals are rolling. For the next two months, all 31 General Managers will be evaluating their respective clubs to determine what is needed as their teams load up for a push to win the Stanley Cup. And while it’s early to reach any firm conclusions, barring a drastic change in play, no change may be needed in Washington.
For starters, even if the Capitals would like to make a move, they will be limited on how big a fish they can reel in sue to restricted salary cap space. If they were willing to move out a big contract to make additional room, they’d risk losing a key piece from the existing roster or likely have to add a prospect to the mix to unload salary.
Since the Capitals will likely finish with a draft pick below 25th overall in the first round, that could be in play if the right target is available, but given how well the team is playing, giving up a first-rounder for a player who is likely to be a short-term rental seems expensive.
The Capitals are in good shape for a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they should not deal a high draft pick to go “all-in.” Teams are still able to find gems beyond the top-10 picks in the NHL Draft yearly and if you don’t need to add, why give up a premium pick?
The Capitals will likely not need much anyway. They are currently third in the league in goals-per-game (3.55), 11th in defense (2.82), and are 19th in save percentage (.9167). Even though they are in the bottom half in the league in save percentage, it is important to note that Braden Holtby started the season with an .846 save percentage in his first five games of the season, which continues to drag down the team save percentage. Since October 18, Holtby has a .923 save percentage.
Another reason it’s the Capitals’ best interest to stand pat is that recent history is not on their side. The Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in, acquiring center Matt Duchene and forward Ryan Dzingel at the deadline last season, and that just resulted in a six-game series loss to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and losing four big-name unrestricted free agents for nothing in July. The Capitals experienced the same disappointment themselves three seasons ago when they acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues and fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
In fact, the Blues did not make any moves at the trade deadline last season and won the Stanley Cup.
While General Manager Brian MacLellan has not been afraid to pull the trigger on a big move in February in the past, there is no need to do so if the Capitals keep rolling. With the chemistry, skill, and the determination of the team the way it is right now, the Capitals check all the boxes. If we come back to this again next month or 45 days from now, it could very well change due to performance and/or injuries, but after reviewing the past results of trade deadline acquisitions, how much they cost, and seeing the fact that this time is rolling right now, this team is in very good shape without any significant moves.
By Harrison Brown