Connect with us

Capitals Takes

State of the Capitals: What’s The Trade Deadline Plan Amid Skid?

Amid the Washington Capitals’ struggles, several questions linger surrounding the team’s trade deadline plans. And if the downward trend continues, general manager Brain MacLellan’s approach may be becoming clearer.



RALEIGH, N.C. — Playing under the bright lights with clear skies and perfect conditions for outdoor hockey, the Washington Capitals looked deflated and somewhat disinterested as they were blown away by the Carolina Hurricanes at Carter-Finley Stadium. Not only did the loss speak volumes about the state of the team, but it also indicated what general manager Brian MacLellan might be thinking ahead of the 2023 Trade Deadline less than two weeks from now.

Washington is in the midst of a four-game losing skid and since Jan. 8, have scored two goals or less in regulation in 11 of the last 16 games, including four of the last five. In addition, the defensive coverage hasn't been great of late, and teams are starting to figure out that point shots through traffic and capitalizing on turnovers are more likely to lead to goals against the Capitals.

"It's not working," Nicklas Backstrom said bluntly of the team's struggles, adding that there's room for improvement across the board at both ends of the ice.

Washington also lost its grip on the playoffs and sit one point out of Wild Card position, which is currently its best hope for a ninth consecutive playoff berth with the New York Rangers comfortably sitting third in the Metropolitan Division with a 12-point cushion.

To make matters worse, several key players remain out of the mix amid the postseason push. Alex Ovechkin is away from Washington indefinitely following the death of his father. John Carlson's return is still "off in the distance" as he continues his recovery after taking a slapshot to the face on Dec. 23. Nic Dowd also remains on the injured reserve, and of course, Connor Brown and Carl Hagelin.

READ MORE ON WHN: Why Hendrix Lapierre Has Been Back-To-Back Healthy Scratch With Hershey Bears

Throughout the dressing room, the mentality isn't panic but moreso a sense of urgency, though their words haven't exactly translated to the ice as the team continues to all into the same habits.

"We're running out of room here," T.J. Oshie said, adding, "We need to play playoff-style hockey," T.J. Oshie said. "We're missing the big man, we're missing John, we need to play playoff-style hockey with the lineup we got to just start winning games."

Taking that into account, MacLellan has two choices as the push continues: to be buyers and add at the deadline in an attempt to make the playoffs, or to be a seller. And right now, if this trend continues, the latter may be the route to go.

The Capitals have 12 pending free agents on the roster, with seven of those being defensemen (Carlson is the only NHL blueliner signed past this offseason) and five being forwards. Given the situation at hand, it may be time to consider selling and starting to plan ahead rather than trying to add rentals if the playoffs are out of reach. Still, there could be the desire to add some defensemen with term, too, and Lars Eller's name has come up as a potential return for help on the blue line.

FREE AGENT RUMBLINGS: Washington Capitals, Dmitry Orlov Extension Not Expected Any Time Soon Amid One Issue

Of course, MacLellan's decisions will depend on whether or not Washington continues to experience a nosedive. He had mentioned earlier that a lot of his decisions could come "last minute" depending on where the team is not just from where the team is standings-wise, but health-wise as well.

Plus, the team is still very much in the playoff race, and a couple of wins over this next span against key Metro rivals could turn the tide and lead to the team making a couple of adds. That being said, though, with a lot of business to be done in the summer, the stakes high and the postseason remaining a possibility, don't expect a major blockbuster name to come in or the team to completely "tear it all down."

Anything could happen at this point, but these next two weeks will determine the direction of the Capitals for not just the present, but the future as they look to get younger. 

Get WHN in Your Inbox

Enter your email address and receive notifications of new posts by email.

All the Capitals news that's fit to print

Sign up and get all of our stories sent directly to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.