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Capitals potential trade deadline target: The case for and against Alex Pietrangelo

Capitals potential trade deadline target: The case for and against Alex Pietrangelo

The Washington Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and are all-in on going for the repeat. Does that mean we could see a trade before the trade deadline?

With the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching on Feb. 25, there are a number of players believed to be available. But who makes sense for the Caps?

This week, we will be exploring a possible trade deadline target from Monday through Friday and look into why they do and do not make sense for Washington to pursue.

Today’s target: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, 29, St. Louis Blues

Why it makes sense

You may not have heard Pietrangelo’s name recently among all the trade chatter, but he is worth discussing because he was among the big-name players reportedly the Blues were looking to move earlier in the season. Now that St. Louis is hot and currently sits in a wild card spot in the West, perhaps those plans have changed. General manager Doug Armstrong, however, has never been shy about selling at the deadline even when his team is in a playoff position. When Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to Washington, St. Louis sat in the second wild card spot and was very much in the playoff mix. Because of that, the fact that the Blues are a wildcard team now does not necessarily mean that Pietrangelo is off the market.

Armstrong and Caps’ general manager Brian MacLellan have managed big deals before and have made three trades together in the past, including the Shattenkirk deal and the trade that netted Washington T.J. Oshie.

Pietrangelo plays on the top pair in St. Louis as well as on both the power play and the penalty kill. As a right-shot defenseman, he also fits an obvious need for the Caps.

Let’s face it, the second pair has not been good this season and Matt Niskanen in particular seems to really be struggling. As a right-shot defenseman, however, he’s hard to replace. Bringing in Pietrangelo would shore up the second pair and allow NIskanen to move down to the third. That’s a massive upgrade for a Washington defense that has been shaky for much of the season.

Why it doesn’t make sense

In terms of fit, there’s no argument here. You never know about chemistry, but at least on paper this looks like a tremendous fit. In terms of everything else, it’s hard to fathom how the Caps could make this work.

First, Pietrangelo’s cap hit is $6.5 million. Assuming that Andre Burakovsky would be part of the trade package, you would still have to trade at least one other roster player just to get the money to work.

Pietrangelo is a top-pair defenseman, a right shot, captain of the team and his contract goes through the 2019-20 season. Now go back and reread that sentence, but imagine a cash register sound after each point. To say this would not be a cheap trade would be putting it mildly.

The biggest difficulty of all is the fact that I don’t actually believe the Blues are interested in moving Pietrangelo anymore, regardless of what you want to offer for him. They may have been shopping him earlier in the season, but that was when the Blue thought they were headed for a high lottery pick. That’s changed. Since Jan. 1, St. Louis has the best record in the NHL.

Oh, and Pietrangelo also has a full no-trade clause.

If you’re the captain of the hottest team in the league and playing on the top pair, why would you accept a trade to Washington to play on the second pair behind John Carlson?

If you’re the GM of the hottest team in the league, why would you risk derailing your team by trading away your captain and top-pair right defenseman who is not even on the final year of his contract?

Verdict

You can go ahead and file this one under a fantasy land scenario. Getting a right-shot, top-four defenseman would be great for Washington, just like it would be great if I won the lottery, but it’s not going to happen.

There is no way St. Louis is trading Pietrangelo to Washington or to anyone at this point. The Blues got off to a horrible start and that’s why he was originally available. That equation has changed and whatever package the Caps could put together for him is irrelevant. I cannot imagine Armstrong trading away the team captain and top right defenseman when they are just now starting to live up to expectations.

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Braden Holtby is back, Carl Hagelin heats up and 700 is coming

Braden Holtby is back, Carl Hagelin heats up and 700 is coming

The Capitals may have lost to the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday, but if Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin kept playing like they did, that will lead to a lot more wins down the line.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

Holtby looks like Holtby again

It's a loss, but there are some positives to take away from this game and the biggest is the play of Holtby. Antti Raanta was the star of this game, but Holtby was just as good for Washington with 28 saves on 30 shots. In the third period with the Caps trailing by 1, Arizona tried to close the game, but could not because of Holtby. He absolutely robbed Derek Stepan who stole the puck away from Dmitry Orlov and was in on net. Holtby poked the puck away, but it was still loose in front. Stepan wheeled around to get the shot, but Holtby somehow managed to deny him.

Holtby was Washington's best player. This game may have been a loss, but if Holtby is back to his normal form that will translate to a lot of wins down the stretch of the season.

Raanta was great, but the Caps' offense still wasn't good enough

I think the Caps deserved a better outcome in this game than the one they got, but even with 36 shots on goal and a great performance by Antti Raanta, Washington could have made things tougher on the Coyotes' netminder.

Despite the high volume of shots, there weren't enough high-danger chances and not nearly enough sustained offensive pressure. The offense looked the most dangerous in the first period, but Washington was not able to really push that in the final 40 minutes.

You can't always rely on Ovechkin, you have to be able to generate offense from the rest of the lineup. Not having Evgeny Kuznetsov hurts, but injuries happen and the Caps have very good center depth. They have to play better offensively regardless.

Watch those wings

An issue I have noticed since the team returned from the all-star break is the defense's tendency to lose wings when they go wide. Several teams have taken advantage of this with forwards going wide down the wings, then cutting in behind the defense and Christian Dvorak's goal was an example of that. In this case, Dvorak turns as he goes down the wing as if he was setting up to shoot so I wonder if Jonas Siegenthaler did not expect him to cut inside, but that's exactly what he did and Siegenthaler was slow to react.

This is an issue more on odd-man breaks with the defense stepping into the middle to defend the puck and losing track of what the wings are doing so perhaps Saturday's goal was not indicative of the pattern, but still something to keep an eye on.

700 is coming

With no goals in four straight games, this is now the longest goalless drought of the season for Ovechkin, but don't worry, it's coming.

Ovechkin had 17 total shot attempts in this game with eight shots on goal. He also hit one off the post. I think initially No. 700 was in his head and neither he nor the team was playing well as a result. Now he looks as dangerous as ever and he is going to torch someone for those last two goals sooner rather than later.

Turning point

With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Phil Kessel gave Arizona the lead with a power play deflection to beat Holtby high to the glove side.

The play was really set up by Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes went low to high, passing out to Chychrun at the blue line. Chychrun wound up for the shot, seemed to hesitate for just a moment, then delivered a slap pass right to the stick of Kessel for the deflection. Chychrun knew exactly what he was doing on that play and delivered the great pass.

Play of the game

Holtby was Washington's best player on Saturday and it was because of saves like this. Watch this highway robbery of Stepan.

Stat of the game

Offense has been a bit tough to come by for the third line and Carl Hagelin in particular, but both are really starting to heat up.

Quote of the game

Ovechkin had 17 shot attempts and eight shots. He did everything but score and he was encouraged by that rather than frustrated.

"I would be pissed if I don't have any chances, but it's OK. It's going to come."

Fan predictions

He definitely tried and credit to you for going bold.

I've been seeing a lot of calls for a Holtby goal lately. He's a great stickhandler so I could definitely see it happening. He didn't get the chance on Saturday though.

You got the Holtby part right. He finished with a .931. The other two...well, you were about as hot as Washington's offense.

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Capitals can't solve Antti Raanta, fall to Coyotes in the desert

Capitals can't solve Antti Raanta, fall to Coyotes in the desert

Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta stifled a strong Capitals' attack all night long as he handed Washington a 3-1 loss on Saturday. The Caps deserved points for their performance in Arizona, but that's what happens when you run into a hot goalie.

Here is why Washington lost.

Antti Raanta 

It takes goals to win, but there's no question why the Coyotes walked away with two points and that was between the pipes. Raanta was brilliant for Arizona with 35 saves.

Washington had plenty of opportunities to take control of this game offensively early on. and poured 14 shots on goal in the opening frame. Raanta really frustrated a Caps' team that seemed to be largely in control at the start in all areas but the scoreboard.

Raanta was particularly strong against Alex Ovechkin who looked more dangerous than he has in any of the four straight games in which he has now been held without a goal. Ovechkin had 17 shot attempts total and managed to get eight of those shots on net. Raanta turned aside all eight to keep Ovechkin at 698 career goals.

With no goals in four games, this is now the longest goalless streak for Ovechkin this season.

Troubling trends

Overall, this was a good defensive game for Washington. But when Arizona finally got on the board in the second period, it was the result of some familiar issues.

Lars Eller managed to get the puck away from Arizona in the defensive zone and tried to launch the breakout. His deke on Christian Dvorak was too strong and he ended up turning the puck over in the neutral zone. As Arizona was just leaving the offensive zone, they were in good position to immediately break the puck back in. Dvorak dropped the puck off to Connor Garland then went wide on the wing. Jonas Siegenthaler was slow to react and when Garland returned the puck to Dvorak, he was behind the defense and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of Braden Holtby.

Turnovers have been an issue in Washington's recent slump. While Eller's turnover was not all that egregious, it still caught the Caps in a position in which they had to scramble defensively to cover a quick rush. The second issue has been a noticeable issue for Washington since the return from the all-star break and that is wings going wide and cutting in behind the defense. Siegenthaler knew he was there and looked like he was in good position, but he was just too slow to react to Dvorak who may have caught him off guard because he turned his body and was basically skating backward when he got to Siegenthaler. Siegenthaler may have thought Dvorak was looking for a one-timer or a pass and wasn't trying to cut behind him. Either way, that's exactly what he did and was alone in front of Holtby.

A Kessel deflection

With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Phil Kessel gave Arizona the lead with a power play deflection to beat Braden Holtby high to the glove side.

The play was really set up by Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes went low to high, passing out to Chychrun at the blue line. Chychrun wound up for the shot, seemed to hesitate for just a moment, then delivered a slap pass right to the stick of Kessel for the deflection. Chychrun knew exactly what he was doing on that play and delivered the great pass.

An empty-net goal with less than a minute remaining for Lawson Crouse would seal the deal.

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