For weeks, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has been looking for a top-line right wing without overpaying. On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Penguins went out and did it, trading picks and prospects to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the high-scoring right wing Phil Kessel.
But did the Penguins overpay for Kessel, who could challenge Alex Ovechkin for next season’s goal-scoring title while teaming up with Sidney Crosby or Evgeny Malkin?
The Penguins gave up forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington and picks in the first and third rounds. In addition to Kessel, the Penguins get defenseman Tim Erixon and forward Tyler Biggs, along with a second-round pick.
But the Penguins also get $1.25 million in cap relief on Kessel, who has eight years and $64 million remaining on his contract. With the Leafs taking on 15 percent of Kessel’s contract, his cap hit in Pittsburgh will be $6.75 million – more than the Caps were prepared to spend.
The jury is still out on what the Caps’ roster will look like, but as of right now, the Penguins are a lot better today than they were yesterday.
Meanwhile, two hours into free agency, Caps UFAs Mike Green, Joel Ward and Eric Fehr were still unsigned, leaving open the possibility of one of the Caps circling back on either Ward or Fehr.
MORE CAPITALS: Caps make first moves of free agency, pluck the Penguins
Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.
Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers
Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.
Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.
2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals
After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.
It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.
3-Braden Holtby, Capitals
Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.
The Caps looked like they had the win in hand as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers
Here's how the Caps lost.
An emotional start for Robert Luongo
Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus to actually play in the game. But he did. He started off very well, making several strong saves in the first period. Washington scored late in the opening period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
Another shaky start for Braden Holtby
This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.
Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson
With a 2-1 lead late in the third, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking, Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.
A late penalty to Lars Eller
With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but a point as well.