The Washington Capitals are in a pretty good position right now, despite last night’s 4-0 loss to the Penguins. With 25 points, they are currently tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference, and are just three points behind the division leading Penguins. However, they do have some holes that they need to fill:
- Their second line has been underwhelming, to say the least. I think the Capitals have a solution- Evgeny Kuznetsov. If he comes over in the spring (and all signs point to him doing so), he could change the dynamics of the second line as a center or as a left wing. Regardless of where he’d play, he’d be a huge difference maker.
- The Capitals desperately need another experienced left-handed top four defenseman. Nate Schmidt and Alex Urbom are clearly not the answer for now. John Erskine obviously isn’t either. Dmitri Orlov could be the solution, but the Capitals don’t seem to be very confident in him right now.
Here’s the catch 22: The Capitals only have $716,689 of cap space according to Capgeek. That makes it almost impossible to make a trade without clearing some cap space first. If they want Kuznetsov over in the spring, they’ll have to have cap space anyway, so a trade would make a lot of sense for the Capitals. Here’s a look at some of their potential trade chips:
- John Erskine. While Erskine is very expendable at this point, in order for a trade to work, both teams have to agree to it. I don’t see any teams being willing to trade for him and the Capitals getting anything back. He might provide salary relief though.
- Michal Neuvirth. I could definitely see the Capitals moving Neuvirth. First of all, he’s getting paid $2.5 million to be a backup. That’s a very poor use of resources to say the least. The Capitals could call up Philipp Grubauer (whose salary is just $578,889) and have him be the backup if the backup goalie is going to play at most twice a month. They missed a golden opportunity to trade with the Oilers, but I’m sure there are other teams that would be willing to take a shot on Neuvirth. Some suitors could include the Panthers, Jets, Senators, and Sabres.
- Marcus Johansson. He might be the Capitals most valuable trading chip. His cap hit is only $2M a season until he is an RFA after the 2014-2015 season. If the Capitals made him available, the Capitals shouldn’t suffer from a lack of suitors for him.
- Eric Fehr. His contract is very reasonable (only has a $1.5M cap hit) and he’s under control for another season after this one. The Capitals probably wouldn’t get too much for him, but I could definitely see a number of teams looking to upgrade their third or fourth line being interested in him.
- Martin Erat. The Capitals could hope that a playoff contender wants him and that Erat is willing to be traded. He has been very vocal about how upset he is about his role with the Capitals. If he is willing to be traded, the Capitals might be able to get something in return for him.
- Brooks Laich. He’s a strong candidate to be amnestied at the end of this year. Looks like the Capitals guessed poorly as to when his production would start to decline. If the Capitals could get anything for him (and Laich is willing to be traded), I’m sure the Capitals would consider that to be a victory.
If the Capitals can fix the second line and grab a left handed top 4 defenseman, I think that will solve the Capitals’ biggest flaws.
Well, after last night, it won’t be Neuvirth!
He’s making $2,500,000 to be a backup goalie. Philipp Grubauer could do the same job and do about as well as Neuvirth for $2M less. If the Capitals can find someone to take Erat’s salary, that will definitely help Neuvirth’s case for staying. But as of right now, it’s hard to justify giving a backup goalie $2.5 million when you are in desperate need of cap space.
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