Quantity vs. Quality: Finding Trade Value In The Washington Capitals Prospect Pool Without Damaging The Long-Term Viability of The Organization

Much has been made about the Washington Capitals rather shallow prospect pool. Simply put, there is a lot of truth in those statements. The Capitals farm system has been significantly depleted after years of trading away picks and the use of high-round draft selections on prospects that haven’t panned out. As a result, one might think the Capitals can no longer be trading away prospects. There is also some truth in that, to an extent. 

There is no question the Capitals need to begin rebuilding their prospect pool. However, the organization is also faced with a rapidly closing window to the Ovechkin-Backstrom era. The Capitals are in need of making several immediate improvements in order to improve the team’s chances in the coming seasons, but lack an abundance of viable trade pieces. 

This post proposes the use of several middle-tier forward prospects as immediate trade pieces, as the Capitals have a wealth of middle-tier forward prospects.

A Closer Look

Digging a little deeper into the stats and player evaluations, one sees that the Capitals have an abundance of middle-tier forward prospects. After the first 3-4 prospects, the talent pool evens out with regards to potential upside, and falls off significantly after the first 5-6 forward prospects.

It’s basically a matter of middle-tier surplus. Pragmatically there is no room on the Capitals roster for all of them, now or in the near future. More is not better for the Capitals, in this case.

Is There Move Value To Others

So the critical question – is there trade value in the Capitals prospect pool, particularly in the middle-their forwards group? Trade value that wouldn’t greatly affect the long term success of the franchise?

Consider the following forward prospect pool: 

Connor McMichael
Brian Pinho
Aliaksei Protas
Beck Malenstyn
Daniel Sprong
Garrett Pilon
Damien Riat
Joe Snively
Brett Leason
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
Shane Gersich
Riley Sutter
Kody Clark

We can debate the order of things, but the fact of the matter is that there are a half-dozen or so forward prospects near the bottom of the list with similar upside, and not all of these players will be able to ever make the Capitals lineup. There simply isn’t room for them all.

5-Year Prospect Projections

The following graphic first appeared in our recent post on Capitals prospect projections. The graphic best illustrates the organizational needs for top tier prospects, but also  illustrates the abundance of middle-tier prospects, identified by the yellow, blue and orange color codes.

The Capitals vanguard should be assessing the middle tier forward prospects, and identifying trade value in order to upgrade the organization.

Careful Steps Required

The Capitals are lacking viable trade pieces, but packaging middle-tier prospects and later-round draft picks (after the third round) will generate some additional trade value, without significantly diminishing an already beleaguered talent pool. Teams will be looking for economical “filler‘ for their bottom six due the flat salary cap.

In addition, the Capitals could also look to include in potential deals former first round pick defenseman Lucas Johansen, who hasn’t panned out with the Capitals. A change of atmosphere would be good for both organizations.

With the league facing a flat salary cap for the foreseeable future, teams will be looking to bolster their lineup with inexpensive, but viable solutions, particularly in the bottom-six forwards.

The hour is growing late for the Capitals with regards to the Ovechkin-Backstrom era, with the time for “re-loading“ eventually being replaced by “rebuilding” in the next 3-5 seasons. Unfortunately the Capitals have several glaring immediate needs and must find ways to address them before the start of next season.

By Jon Sorensen


About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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4 Responses to Quantity vs. Quality: Finding Trade Value In The Washington Capitals Prospect Pool Without Damaging The Long-Term Viability of The Organization

  1. Definitely need to shore up the prospect pool in order to make the transition out of the Ovechkin-Backstrom era as smooth as possible

  2. Mark says:

    If you listen to GMBM yesterday, he said (about player moves specifically) that he will see if something can be done at the draft. It’s obvious that he will look into free agency too. He has identified Defense as an issue, and I agree. The pairings were all messed up. I am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with in relation to the style of his new coach.

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