The Caps have put the target squarely on their back as they continue rolling. With the trade deadline just over one month away, teams will begin to add pieces in order to push for the playoffs or challenge for the Stanley Cup.
So what should the Caps do? Nothing.
The playoffs have a tendency to expose a team’s weaknesses so let’s look at the Caps’ weaknesses.
Obviously, they are set in net with both an excellent starter and backup. On offense, the Caps boast a top six as good as any in the NHL and the third and fourth line have been extremely impressive of late.
And let’s not forget about Hershey. Jakub Vrana and Zach Sanford both have seen extended time in the NHL this season and would be good additions to the lineup if needed.
Defensively, the Caps are the top team in the NHL. Considering how Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, Taylor Chorney and Mike Weber cycled in the lineup in the playoffs last season, perhaps there is a concern there. Plus, the injury to Madison Bowey in Hershey means he was not able to get any NHL playing time this season. The only player you would really feel comfortable bringing up for the playoffs at this point is Aaron Ness.
But adding defensive depth would not come without its costs.
Given the chemistry in the locker room, adding a player who could potentially bump out Schmidt or Chorney would not sit well in the locker room. The chemistry also limits what general manager Brian MacLellan would be willing to give up. Do you trade a player like Daniel Winnik and reshuffle the fourth line even though it has played so well? Probably not. That would mean trading more draft picks and this team just doesn’t have that many more to give.
Injuries can quickly change this equation, but Washington has been the healthiest team in the NHL this season. John Carlson is the only player currently injured and he is considered day-to-day and expected to return to the lineup this week.
With Brooks Orpik now on the third pair and Dmitry Orlov playing well in the top four, at this point the best move looks like it would be for the Caps to stand pat. Trades are going to start happening soon and the Caps will see teams around them add weapons to the lineup, but that doesn't mean they have to respond. It would be hard to improve on the way this team has played lately anyway.