Now that the All-Star Game has come and gone, the next major date in the calendar is Feb. 26. That day at 3 p.m. is the NHL trade deadline.
It may be hard to believe, but the NHL season is now in full playoff mode. Either you are in a push for the postseason or you are gearing up to sell your assets to the highest bidder.
So what should the Caps do? Should the Caps make a move at this year’s deadline or should they sit this one out?
We will look at both sides of the argument on Tuesday starting with the case for making a move.
The window is still open…for now
No one was sure what to expect from the Caps this season. Through 49 games, they sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division. They are not the dominant team of the past few seasons, but clearly they are still a playoff team…for now. But just how long that window will remain open is a fair question to ask.
Alex Ovechkin is 32 and is already defying Father Time with 30 goals in 49 games. Nicklas Backstrom is 30 while T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen are both 31. John Carlson is having a career year and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, as is Lars Eller and Jay Beagle.
If you think the Caps are overachieving this season, what are the odds they do it again next year with an aging core?
The fact is, Ovechkin is still a special player, but we do not know how much longer that will be true. Braden Holtby is in his prime and is one of the best netminders in the league. There is still enough talent on this team for a run. The Ovechkin era window may well be over by the end of this season. If this is the last shot this team has in that era, shouldn’t they go all in? After all, you never know how long it will take to get back to this level.
From a more practical standpoint, this is a team with an obvious need that it can address via trade: defensive depth. Washington has not one, but two rookies playing on the defense right now. While both Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have played admirably to this point, they are both rookies and the playoffs are a whole different animal from the regular season.
Barry Trotz has done a good job sheltering his rookie defensemen this season, but give an opposing coach a chance to game plan for a best of seven series, he will find a way to get his top playmakers on the ice against the Caps’ young blue liners, especially if you have two in the lineup.
Even if you are okay with having Djoos and Bowey in the top six, what happens if there is an injury? Taylor Chorney is capable of stepping in for a game or two if needed, but Washington is one injury away from having him in the top six for the postseason. That is not ideal. There also is no one down in Hershey you can feel confident in stepping up as a No. 6 or 7 right now in the NHL.
Teams may actually make significant moves this year
The trade deadlines of the past few years have lacked any blockbuster deals, but this year there are several teams, including teams within the Caps’ division, who have a lengthy list of needs. The Pittsburgh Penguins are never shy about jumping into the trade market and they desperately need center depth. The Toronto Maple Leafs need defensemen. Both Columbus and New Jersey are in need of new blood to knock their respective teams out of their recent malaise. Philadelphia is making a real playoff push and could load up. The New York Islanders need goaltending help.
There could be a lot more movement this year with the wild card spots up for grabs. Do the Caps really want to be the only team to sit out while everyone around them gets better?
That’s why the Caps should make a move at the trade deadline. Here's a counter argument.