Should Capitals Take Page Out Of Islanders’ Book After Blockbuster Trade?
The New York Islanders shook up the NHL with a major blockbuster trade on Monday. What does it mean for the Washington Capitals?
On Monday, the Washington Capitals and the rest of the NHL watched in shock as the New York Islanders pulled off a blockbuster trade, acquiring Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat in exchange for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a first-round pick. It was a major deal that gives the Islanders a major boost on offense and adds a lot to the team as it continues to push for a playoff spot in a very tight Eastern Conference.
As the Capitals continue their own push and look to hang onto the Wild Card spot amid struggles, what can they take away from this big-time trade from a Metro Division rival with the postseason race coming down to the wire down the stretch? And would Brian MacLellan consider taking a page out of Lou Lamoriello's book?
First off, let's assess the state of the Capitals. After a stellar December, Washington is 5-7-1 in the month of January, and the team hasn't been able to put together any winning streaks or really find consistency. While the team did get a boost with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson returning, the lines have seen some constant reworking and continue to work to get on the same page, and Wilson ended up sustaining another lower-body injury in his ninth game back. In addition to Wilson, the Capitals are still operating without the services of John Carlson, and they also lost Nic Dowd to a lower-body injury while Connor Brown and Carl Hagelin remain out of the mix.
With Aliaksei Protas up from Hershey as the extra, there are 13 healthy forwards going into the break, though MacLellan did hint they were "little things going on" with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, who has been dealing with a lingering back injury. But still, considering Wilson was barefoot without a boot — but did have a hitch in his step — on Saturday at the rink, it doesn't appear to be a broken bone, so there could be 14 forwards back in the mix after the break if Wilson recovers in that time, as Ovechkin and Oshie have remained in the mix and have time to rest during the break.
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In that case, going for a big name forward wouldn't necessarily be the best move when there's already a number of cooks in the kitchen and little space to work with, unless of course a name like Anthony Mantha or Lars Eller would go the other way.
The only issue there is that the trade value for both isn't high with both struggling to produce and Mantha having been scratched four times in January. Plus, they are both expensive pieces, with Mantha carrying a $5.75M AAV) and Eller costing $3.5M through the rest of the year. And, with Dowd out, Eller can kill penalties and win draws, so taking him out of the picture may not be the best move at the moment. Plus, they may be good assets in a trade for another key area: defense.
At the end of the day, the biggest need appears to be a solid, big defenseman who can shut things down. While Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk have done a solid job helping fill in for No. 74, with Gustafsson providing that offensive flair and TVR taking over on the top pairing, adding another option would provide a big boost, especially with Martin Fehervary currently playing on his off side with Matt Irwin and Alex Alexeyev interchanging. And, in the D-zone, the coverage has not been consistent, and there have been several turnovers and missed assignments.
Not to mention, every blueliner on the team except for Carlson will be a free agent in the summer. So adding another name on the backend may provide some stability and security, along with a veteran presence, that will remain on board and could be a mentor when some vacancies next year are potentially filled by the young d-men already in the system.
That being said, there have been reports that Eller, who is currently centering the fourth line with Dowd out "for a bit," has come up in discussions with other teams. Washington is supposedly willing to listen to offers on No. 20 in exchange for help on the blue line, and taking that into account, it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch that Washington would want to pursue insurance on defense.
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Ultimately, though, MacLellan said that a lot of the trade deadline decisions for the Capitals on March 3 will revolve around health, meaning that decisions may not come until the day of as GMBM assesses where the team is at that point in time. And considering the issues he pointed out, it's possible that there could be a need to fill multiple roles.
“I think we have to play it out here a little bit," GMBM said on Caps This Morning, adding, "We're an LTI team now; we have to prepare to bring guys back if we choose to do that. We'll make decisions at the last possible moment."
From the looks of it right now, it doesn't appear to be the time for a blockbuster move in D.C., and GMBM can't really afford to make a "Lou' type of move right now. However, some kind of a deadline deal to give the team a spark and consistency down the stretch wouldn't be a bad idea as the Capitals push to remain in playoff position.
Utlimately, Washington doesn't need a big name like Patrick Kane, nor is the club likely to pursue any big-name trade targets like that. Instead, they need a solid presence on the backend and someone who can lead, like a 6-5 Joel Edmundson or 6-1 Matt Roy. So, when it comes to the blockbuster, it shouldn't change Washington's perspective. But, there should still be action taken at some point.