The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching on Feb. 24. Will the Capitals make any moves?
Washington currently sits in first place in the NHL. All the other teams are chasing them, but that does not mean we won't see any late additions, especially considering general manager Brian MacLellan's trade deadline history.
MacLellan has made trades prior to every deadline in his tenure as general manager. Here's a look at the moves he has made and how they panned out:
NOTE: These are trades at or near the deadline only.
- Acquired forward Curtis Glencross from the Calgary Flames for a second and third-round draft pick
- Acquired defenseman Tim Gleason from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Jack Hillen and a fourth-round draft pick
- Glencross: 18 games, 4 goals, 3 assists. Playoffs: 10 games, 1 goal, 0 assists
- Gleason: 17 games, 0 goals, 2 assists. Playoffs: 14 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
Glencross was struggling in Calgary, but looked good in his regular-season appearances for the Caps. He looked like he could be a key offensive addition, but he struggled really badly in the playoffs. He was ultimately scratched four times, including in Game 7 against the New York Rangers in the second round. Glencross was bad enough that he did not play hockey professionally again after that season. Maybe the Caps did not realize he had fallen that far, but the team should have known that a guy who was that close to not just being out of the league but being out of the sport entirely would not be able to help them much in the postseason.
The Gleason move, meanwhile, made sense at the time. Left defenseman on the third pair was a need with Jack Hillen and Nate Schmidt splitting games at that position so it made sense to acquire a veteran defenseman to play third pair minutes. While he was an upgrade, he was not enough of one to make a huge difference in what was a second-round exit for Washington.
- Acquired defenseman Mike Weber from the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round draft pick
- Acquired forward Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round draft pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Brooks Laich, defenseman Connor Carrick and a second-round draft pick
- Weber: 10 games, no points. Playoffs: 2 games, no points.
- Winnik: 20 games, 2 goals, 3 assists. Playoffs: 12 games, no points.
The acquisition of Winnik had more to do with getting Laich's contract off the books than anything else. Winnik was a decent fourth-line player who played the next season with Washington as well. In terms of the playoffs, he did not contribute much, but that trade accomplished exactly what it needed to so it's hard to be critical of it. I had no idea how MacLellan was going to get Laich off the books, but he found a way and even got a serviceable player in return and, in the grand scheme of things, he really did not have to give up all that much to do so.
When MacLellan acquired Weber I'm not sure he actually anticipated having to use him in the playoffs. But injuries and inconsistent play on the blue line led to Weber playing in two playoff games and, unfortunately, the lasting impact he had on the team was accidentally sweeping the puck right to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist in overtime in Game 4 for the game-winner.
- Acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley for forward Zach Sanford, forward Brad Malone, a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick
- Shattenkirk: 19 games, 2 goals, 12 assists. Playoffs: 13 games, 1 goal, 5 assists.
After twice trying to add depth and not fiddle too much with a winning team, MacLellan decided not to go conservative in 2017. He instead decided to go all-in and acquired the biggest trade target at the deadline in Shattenkirk.
I'm biased on this one because I am of the opinion that you never trade a first-round draft pick for a rental. I get that this was not a straight swap with Copley in the deal, but I don't think the Caps get Shattenkirk without that first-round pick and they probably could have found another way to pry Copley off their hands.
Just on principle alone, this deal was a mistake.
This is the trade that debunks the theory that players are more valuable than draft picks because players are "sure things." Well, Shattenkirk was supposed to be that sure thing, but of course things did not work out that way.
Adding Shattenkirk made the team reshuffle the defense and player roles. Suddenly Shattenkirk was the top power play defenseman over Carlson. It didn't work. The cost was too high and Shattenkirk never looked entirely comfortable with his new team.
- Acquired defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round draft pick
- Acquired defenseman Jakub Jerabek from the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round draft pick
- Kempny: 22 games, 2 goals, 1 assist. Playoffs: 24 games, 2 goals, 3 assists
- Jerabek: 11 games, 1 goal, 3 assists. Playoffs: 2 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
The Caps do not win the Stanley Cup without Kempny. Period. There's no argument and all it took was a third-round pick.
I have always felt bad for Jerabek and how his time in Washington is remembered. I guess you can't call that trade a good one considering he was quickly replaced, but let's not forget, he beat out Christian Djoos for a spot on the third pair going into the playoffs. Djoos replaced Jerabek in Game 3 with the Caps down 0-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the series and Jerabek never played for the Caps again. He was not a bad player for Washington, but the team found chemistry with the six defensemen it had and Jerabek could not get back into the lineup.
- Acquired forward Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings for a third and a conditional sixth-round draft pick
- Acquired defenseman Nick Jensen and a fifth-round draft pick from the Detroit Red Wings for defenseman Madison Bowey and a second-round draft pick
- Hagelin: 20 games, 3 goals, 8 assists. Playoffs: 7 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
- Jensen: 20 games, 0 goals, 5 assists. Playoffs: 7 games, no points
The penalty kill was a major weakness for the Caps, but that improved dramatically under Hagelin who the team was able to re-sign in the offseason.
Jensen was a bizarre case from the get-go as MacLellan gave him a four-year extension before he ever played a game for Washington. I guess he wanted to make sure he was getting term and not just a rental when he acquired him, which is understandable but still a tad bizarre that MacLellan would give him four years, sight unseen. Jensen struggled with the change in system from Detroit to Washington and that remains a work in progress nearly a year later. When Kempny was injured before the playoffs, Jensen was suddenly spending time on the top pair with Carlson playing on the left side. That was not a good fit at all and looked like too much, too soon for Jensen.
The only caveat is that I am not sure the team would have fared much better last season had they kept Bowey over Jensen.
What does this tell us?
Looking over MacLellan's history, it seems safe to assume the team will be in the market for a defenseman. He has acquired a defenseman every year as general manager and defense is a definite weakness for this team. MacLellan clearly is not afraid to add depth pieces to a strong roster, but defense in particular is a spot MacLellan likes to bolster.
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