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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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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

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USA Today Sports Images

Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

Radko Gudas was surprised, but also relieved. A different year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed to go wrong for the Flyers, is behind him now. He plays for the Capitals now. 

 

“I was a little bit shocked to be honest,” Gudas said in a conference call on Tuesday. “But when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play.”

 

It capped a whirlwind few days for the 29-year-old, a polarizing figure in the sport along the lines of Washington forward Tom Wilson. Gudas has been suspended four times by the NHL Department of Player Safety. To say he plays the game on the edge is an understatement.

 

“Staying on right line of suspensions: It's always tough lately in the hockey these last few years,” Gudas said. “I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for my team. It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job.”

 

In the midst of a rough year for Philadelphia that saw a coach firing and a late playoff surge fall short, Gudas took advantage of increased ice time – and cut his penalty minutes to 63 from a high of 116 when he joined the Flyers four years earlier. He will never be a big offensive threat, but he’s figured out how to suppress shots and play a reliable defensive game.

 

At a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic on Friday when he got the news, Gudas received messages from his new teammates and wasn’t even sure who, exactly, of the Capitals coaches he spoke with. There was a lot going on. But he’s excited to play “for a well oiled machine” like Washington, which has its 2018 Stanley Cup and has won the Metropolitan Division four years in a row. 

 

Gudas knows fellow Washington defenseman Michal Kempny, 29, well. The two men were born just three months apart in 1990 and were teammates on the World Juniors under-18 Czech Republic team in 2008. They reconnected in 2017 for the Czech Republics’ entry in the IIHF World Championships. Jakub Vrana, 23, is a third Czech on one of the NHL’s most diverse rosters and played with Gudas at the 2019 World Championships. Kempny was still recovering from a torn hamstring sustained during the regular season. 

 

That familiarity is nice, but Gudas has been traded before when Tampa Bay sent him to Philadelphia in 2015. You just adjust to the role given with your new team. He’s ready for a fresh start with the Capitals. 

 

“They’re the winners from last year, they were the contenders this year,” Gudas said. “They always have a good team. They in the playoffs every year all these years. Play my simple game, the guys to know what to expect for me and know I’ll be there for them.”

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Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

With the NHL Draft just a few days away in Vancouver and after countless mock drafts, NBC Sports Washington will have you covered as the Capitals decide who to take with the 25th overall pick.

As part of NBC Sports Washington's coverage of the NHL Draft, the Capitals Talk Podcast will host 'Capitals On the Clock: Draft Night' on linear television and as a live stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app.

Capitals Talk will sit down with Rob Carlin, Grant Paulsen, Al Koken, Michael Jenkins, J.J. Regan and Brian McNally to discuss the Capitals the 2019 Draft. They'll be joined by Zack Fisch, Manager of Media Relations & Broadcasting with the Hershey Bears, who will shed light on who's ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

The live stream will also include an NHL and Capitals Draft trivia segment which fans will be able to play along with.

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Capitals Talk Podcast "Capitals on the Clock" Special

When: 8 p.m. Friday June 21

Where: NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports MyTeams App

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