A Look at Potential Trade Deadline Acquisitions For The Washington Capitals

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

As the Capitals start to make their way down the stretch of the 2019-20 regular season, there are opportunities to improve the roster as it stands, and likely opportunities to improve the roster’s depth at forward and defense. Due to rather limited NHL-ready prospects in the Caps’ pipeline, it’s been reported that General Manager Brian MacLellan could look to add some depth pieces via trades prior to the trade deadline on Monday, February 24th.

Some assumptions to be made:

  • The Caps are rather tight on cap space as it stands today. A trade acquisition would need to have a relatively low cap hit, or a roster player would have to go the other way.
  • MacLellan has seen more positive impact on trades that included depth pieces that ended up playing substantial roles on the team. This would include additions like Michal Kempny and Carl Hagelin.
  • The Capitals seem pretty comfortable with their top six forward group. The fourth line has been really effective, but the third line would be an area for improvement offensively. There’s a trade-off here, because if you don’t move out a third liner, you’re likely relegating Carl Hagelin to fourth line and penalty killing duties.

With all that being said, let’s take a look at some intriguing options that could be available on the trade market to help bolster the Capitals’ lineup.

Blake Coleman, Center, New Jersey Devils

Coleman is, in my opinion, a really intriguing option for the Caps. The Devils have cleaned shop, firing GM Ray Shero and Head Coach John Hynes, and are likely looking to add more prospects and picks to their arsenal.

One of the biggest benefits of acquiring Coleman would be that he’s not a rental. He has one more year left on his contract at a $1.8 million cap hit, which is an underpayment for a player who had 22 goals last season, and already has 19 goals so far this season.

Additionally, Coleman is an extremely effective to borderline elite penalty killer, who has punished the Capitals with a few shorthanded goals this season. The Caps could certainly do a lot worse than having Coleman on the third line, and would provide the depth goal scoring that the Caps are missing from Brett Connolly, who departed this past off-season.

Here’s some statistics for Coleman so far this season, thanks to Hockey Reference:

  • Games Played: 48
  • Goals: 19
  • Assists: 8
  • Points: 27
  • Shooting Percentage: 12.9%
  • Average Time on Ice: 16:39
  • Corsi For Percentage: 47.7%
  • Fenwick For Percentage: 49.1%

The possession numbers are not necessarily concerning. He’s performing better, regarding possession, in relation to the team, while he’s off the ice, so it’s probably more an indicator of the quality of the team he’s on, rather than the quality of the player.

The biggest bright spot for Coleman is the goals figure. Additionally, 15 of his 19 goals are during 5 on 5 play. His other four goals include three goals shorthanded, and one empty net goal.

The fit on the third line would be interesting. He wouldn’t supplant Eller as the third line center, but he could fit on either wing next to Eller. If the Caps were to keep Richard Panik, a third line of Coleman – Eller – Panik could be pretty formidable. That would likely mean that the fourth line would include Hagelin – Dowd – Hathaway.

In terms of cap, the Capitals would be able to fit Coleman in under the cap if they were to acquire him at the trade deadline, according to CapFriendly’s Trade Machine, if they were to shed some minimal salary. This could include shipping out defenseman Christian Djoos, who has a minimal cap hit affecting the major league club while he’s in the AHL.

Potential trade package: Christian Djoos, 1st/2nd round pick for Blake Coleman

The higher draft pick is likely the cost, since Coleman isn’t a rental. He has a year of term remaining after this season, then will hit unrestricted free agency.

Craig Smith, Right Wing, Nashville Predators

Smith is another intriguing option here. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season, so he’d be a pure rental addition at the deadline. The biggest caveat here is that Nashville would have to conclude that they are willing to sell assets after under-performing preseason projections. Nashville is currently 6 points out of a wild card position in a tight Western Conference. A decision to sell assets would likely come closer to the trade deadline rather than sooner.

Additionally, Smith’s cap hit is currently $4.25M. If the Caps were to acquire Smith, a player from the NHL roster would likely have to go the other way, as well as a draft pick or prospect. The cost for acquiring Smith would likely not be as expensive, but would likely require Nashville to retain some salary on the expiring deal to go through.

Let’s take a look at his stats, also according to Hockey Reference:

  • Games Played: 47
  • Goals: 11
  • Assists: 10
  • Points: 21
  • Shooting Percentage: 8.8%
  • Average Time on Ice: 13:13
  • Corsi For Percentage: 56.8%
  • Fenwick For Percentage: 58%

If Smith were to join the Capitals today, he’d be tied for seventh with Lars Eller for goals scored. In points, he’d be tenth. The biggest benefit of adding Smith is that he has scored twenty goals in a season five times in his 9 year career so far, and could still crack that mark this season.

His possession metrics are also really strong, meaning the Predators are likely controlling play while he’s on the ice. He’s outperforming the Predators’ team possession metrics relative to his performance, at a rate of 5.8 in Corsi For Relative, and 6.6 in Fenwick For Relative.

The biggest question would be the amount of ice time that Smith would get on the Caps. He’s at 13:13 in average time on ice on the Caps, but he’d likely get similar ice time as Panik at 11:27, since he likely won’t get much time on the power play or penalty kill. That would definitely affect offensive output, and that’s something to keep in mind when looking for more offensive depth from your bottom six.

Potential Trade Package: Christian Djoos, Travis Boyd, 3rd-5th round pick for Craig Smith with salary retained

Djoos would be able to contribute at the NHL level for the Predators in the future, as well as this season, potentially. He’d likely be replacing Dan Hamhuis on the left side of Nashville’s third pairing. Boyd would have to go for additional cap space to acquire Smith.

Matt Roy, Defenseman, Los Angeles Kings

Matt Roy would be an interesting asset for the Capitals to acquire leading up to the trade deadline. He’s performing well on a rebuilding Kings squad, and has a low cap hit. The other added benefit is that Roy is right-handed, and could fill a need on the right side of the Caps’ defensive corps. Conceivably, that’s where the Caps could really upgrade with a depth acquisition, and MacLellan seems to always acquire defensemen at the trade deadline (Mike Weber, Kevin Shattenkirk, Michal Kempny, Jakub Jerebek, and Nick Jensen).

Let’s take a look at his stats this season, thanks to Hockey Reference:

  • Games Played: 50
  • Goals: 4
  • Assists: 10
  • Points: 14
  • Shooting Percentage: 4.8%
  • Average Time on Ice: 17:31
  • Corsi For Percentage: 55.9%
  • Fenwick For Percentage: 56.5%

Roy certainly isn’t going to be a tremendous offensive threat for the Capitals from the back-end, but he does add a fair bit. He’d be tied for fourth in points with Radko Gudas for the Caps defensemen, and has 11 more points than Nick Jensen has currently.

One thing to keep in mind here is that while Roy’s possession metrics look stellar, he does end up starting in the offensive zone 51.5% of the time, so he’s not necessarily getting the more challenging zone deployments. That being said, Roy’s possession metrics are better in relation to the rest of the Kings, with a Corsi For Relative of 3.1% and a Fenwick For Relative of 3.8%.

The other benefit of acquiring Roy is that his salary is affordable. He has a cap hit of $700,000, which would mean that the Caps wouldn’t necessarily have to move a roster player. The bigger question that comes up is whether or not the Kings would want to part with Roy. He’s only 24, so he could be a part of the Kings’ plans going forward as they continue to rebuild, especially since he’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Potential Trade Package: 3rd round pick or a mid-tier prospect for Matt Roy

Tim Heed, Defenseman, San Jose Sharks

Acquiring Heed would be a pretty interesting gamble by MacLellan. Heed isn’t leaned-on in any real intensive fashion by the Sharks. That being said, he’s a right handed defenseman that’s stuck in the lineup between world class offensive defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. He could be an interesting depth pickup, especially since his cap hit is only $960,000 on an expiring contract.

Let’s take a look at his stats, via Hockey Reference:

  • Games Played: 50
  • Goals: 4
  • Assists: 10
  • Points: 14
  • Shooting Percentage: 4.8%
  • Average Time on Ice: 11:27
  • Corsi For Percentage: 55.9%
  • Fenwick For Percentage: 56.5%

The upside in potentially acquiring Heed would be that he’d cost little to acquire. Kevin Kurz of The Athletic posited that Heed would likely cost a mid-to-late round pick. That’s likely a fair price for a defenseman that doesn’t necessarily leaned upon for significant ice-time. This would be purely a depth move, since Heed wouldn’t likely supplant any of the Caps’ current regulars on defense. That being said, it’s arguable that Christian Djoos could be the depth player on defense, and his familiarity with the Caps players and the system would likely give him a step ahead of Heed.

Potential Trade Package: 4th Round Pick for Tim Heed

Brenden Dillon, Defenseman, San Jose Sharks

This might be the most unlikely of scenarios for the Caps. Dillon is touted as a strong, shutdown defenseman, and will likely be highly sought after by a myriad of teams at the deadline. That competition will likely drive the cost of acquiring Dillon up, and might be more than MacLellan is willing to part with.

That being said, Dillon is a strong left-handed defenseman that should make an impact on any team he joins. Let’s take a look at his stats:

  • Games Played: 50
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 10
  • Points: 11
  • Shooting Percentage: 2.3%
  • Average Time on Ice: 19:04
  • Corsi For Percentage: 51.7%
  • Fenwick For Percentage: 50.9%

As mentioned, Dillon is more of a defensively focused defenseman, so he’s not relied upon to generate offense. Dillon does have stronger possession metrics related to the Sharks’ overall possession performance, which indicates he does have a positive effect on shot suppression.

Potential Package: 2nd Round Pick and Christian Djoos for Brenden Dillon (with salary retention)

Recap

At the end of the day, the Caps aren’t likely to look into any of the real “big names” at the deadline. There’s a balance to be made when acquiring rental players, where you try to fit them into the lineup without disturbing the chemistry that the team has established thus far into the season. It looks like MacLellan learned from the Shattenkirk acquisition a few years ago, especially when compared to the acquisition of players like Kempny who aren’t household names, and end up having a better impact on the team rather than as a true rental.

Since the Caps are one of the NHL’s best teams this season, MacLellan will likely continue to tread lightly on the trade market. Look for trades that would affect the third or fourth lines, as well as the second or third defensive pairings. Additionally, it would never hurt to add more affordable depth to have available down the stretch in the case that injuries would occur. The Caps don’t have a lot of depth up front ready to come up and contribute in the playoffs, and MacLellan and the Caps don’t want to be in a position where a key role player gets injured, and Cup aspirations go out the window.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
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10 Responses to A Look at Potential Trade Deadline Acquisitions For The Washington Capitals

  1. Anonymous says:

    Upgrading the defense is critical

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Would definitely agree, it’s the biggest priority, but wouldnt be surprised if caps try to potentially shed cap space and enhance third line/forward depth. One d and one f might the result. GMBM has stated publicly he’s aiming for depth (whether that’s true or not)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I dont see the need to add a depth F but who does the RHD replace? If NJ then trade NJ now

    • I think it depends on the defenseman you acquire. You could move Jensen out if you really wanted to, but the Caps could use more depth on the right side for the stretch run and the playoffs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    With Sami and Vitek flashing world-class stuff – what are the chances GMBM shocks the world by trading Holtby (and his BIG salary) and adds somebody really good?

  4. James Lewis says:

    With Sami and Vitek flashing world-class stuff, what are the chances that GMBM shocks the hockey world and trades Holtby, frees up lots of cap space, and adds someone who can really make a difference,

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Do you feel that may be a little too much youth, James? I’m on the fence. That’s year of experience on the team. I could see a journeyman tender possibly added this summer just to hold the fort.

  5. RedLitYogi says:

    wow, Coleman would be nice but he’s on pace for 30 goals. Djoos ans a 1 or a 2 are not enough to bring him here. Hell, I don’t think Holtby in a one for one would bring him here. I’m sure he’ll look at an RHD. Please don’t trade premium draft choices! Could part with one of our LHD prospects since we’re overloaded on that side

    • James Lewis says:

      we’re not going to resign Holts. Can’t afford him. Trade deadline to a team that can resign him maximizes his worth to the Caps. Let alone the cap space it frees up. GMBM is the kind of guy who makes this trade IMO.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Jensen and Djoos (that sound a bit like gin and juice to anyone else?) and some picks or lesser prospects as needed for a solid third string RHD.

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