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NHL Trade Deadline: Possible needs and targets for the Capitals

NHL Trade Deadline: Possible needs and targets for the Capitals

The NHL trade deadline is on Wednesday which means if general manager Brian MacLellan wants to bolster the roster, he needs to do it now.

But what do the Caps need? Let’s take a position by position look.

Goalie

Possible need: Third goalie

The Caps arguably have the best goalie tandem in the NHL with defending Vezina winner Braden Holtby and future NHL starter Philipp Grubauer. Both have registered phenomenal numbers over the season. There’s nothing to add in terms of the team’s top two. After them, however, the team is a bit thin. Joe Cannata was signed in the offseason to be the team’s third option if needed, but he has struggled in the AHL this season with a 3.22 GAA and putrid .876 save percentage. Prospect Vitek Vanecek has cooled considerably after a hot start with a 2.69 GAA and .905 save percentage. Both goalies have struggled considerably of late and neither instills much confidence. Granted, this is not a huge concern considering the chances of needing to play your third goalie in the playoffs are remote, but it’s not unheard of. Jeff Zatkoff had to start for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last season with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray both out.

Now let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here. This doesn't mean the Caps will be looking to make a deal for Ryan Miller or Marc-Andre Fleury. The team needs a goalie who doesn’t mind playing in the AHL because they are unlikely to use him and who the team would still be confident in serving as a backup in the playoffs just in case of injury to one of the top two guys.

Possible targets: Linus Ullmark (Buffalo Sabres), Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey Devils), Jeff Zatkoff (Los Angeles Kings), Andrew Hammond (Ottawa Senators), Jhonas Enroth (Anaheim Ducks)

RELATED: Capitals welcome back trio of injured players

Defense

Possible need: Right-shooting defenseman

The most glaring need for the Capitals team comes on the blue line where they have only two-right shooting defensemen in Matt Niskanen and John Carlson. Washington leads the NHL in goals against per game, so it hasn’t hurt them yet, but there are two reasons why MacLellan would consider an upgrade for the defense. First is depth. If either Niskanen or Carlson goes down, the Caps are in trouble. Second, a playoff series allows for opposing coaches to exploit a third pair with two left-shot defensemen in a way the regular season does not. When a coach has to focus on one team for a best of seven series, he can find and exploit those weaknesses more effectively than in the regular season when teams face only once then move on to the next opponent. If the third pair is a weakness for the Caps, we’ll see it in the playoffs. MacLellan has already brought in Tom Gilbert as a depth move, but they can bring balance to the defensive pairings with another right-shot defenseman they can plug into the lineup.

The problem is that a top-six defenseman comes with a price tag both in terms of salary cap and the cost to get him. Do the Caps have enough cap space to add another defenseman and is MacLellan willing to trade assets to acquire a player like that? If you’re worried about chemistry, this is a bad move because it would change the team’s D-pairing and probably cost them a player in a trade package.

Possible targets: Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues), Luke Schenn (Arizona Coyotes), Paul Postma (Winnipeg Jets)

Offense

Possible need: Scoring depth

There may be no offensive lineup as deep as Washington’s when healthy, but what happens when someone gets nicked up in the playoffs? The plan appears to be to carry Jakub Vrana and Zach Sanford as extras for the postseason which means if there’s any injury on offense, the team will be turning to a rookie. That’s a gamble.

What type of offensive player would the Caps target? Washington currently ranks second in the NHL in goals per game so there’s no point in adding a top six player. The price tag would be too high and it would mean a major shakeup of the lines. Instead, the target would be a bottom-six caliber player who can produce and can be relied upon in the postseason. In my mind, that does not include a 39-year-old Jarome Iginla or a 40-year-old Shane Doan.

Possible targets: Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay Lightning)

MORE CAPITALS: Power Rankings: Trade season

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A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets featured a number of high-profile NHL stars. In a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division, you would expect Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Braden Holtby or Sergei Bobrovsky to be the heroes.

While Ovechkin did score and Holtby recorded a shutout in a 4-0 win over Columbus, it was Washington’s fourth line that stole the show as Dmitrij Jaskin and Travis Boyd each scored their first goals as Capitals.

While playing well this season, Jaskin has struggled finishing offensive chances. This is a player with 25 career NHL goals and who scored 13 goals in a single season in 2014-15. And yet, coming into Saturday’s game, Jaskin had yet to score a goal in 22 appearances with the Caps. The way he finally got into the net was by doing the same things he’s been doing effectively all season.

One of Jaskin’s best attributes is that he always goes to the net when he’s in the offensive zone. Boyd had the puck high in the zone and drew both Blue Jacket defensemen to him. Jaskin, as always, was headed to the front of the net and got in behind Columbus’ overly aggressive defense. Boyd looked for him on the pass, but it hit off of Jaskin’s skate and went directly into the top shelf behind a shocked Bobrovsky.

“I’ll take it,” Jaskin said. “Even if it was off the skate, I’ll take it any day.”

Boyd had an even more memorable night as he scored not only his first goal as a Cap, but the first goal of his NHL career.

Alex Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone launching a two-on-one with Boyd. Ovechkin looked ready to wrist it, but instead passed it to Boyd who had plenty of net to shoot on as Jonas Korpisalo, who came on in relief of Bobrovsky after the first period, of course expected Ovechkin to shoot.

It was a nice moment not just for Boyd to get his first goal, but for it to come off the stick of Ovechkin who Boyd gave an assist to last season for his first NHL point.

“Pretty cool how it worked out for me having my first assist be on an Ovi goal and he feeds me a beautiful pass,” Boyd said. “Had a wide-open net for my first goal so pretty cool.”

It was truly a night of firsts for Washington with Jaskin’s first goal, Boyd’s first goal and the Caps walking away still in first place of the division.

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Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin is taking over. 

With a goal and an assist in Saturday’s decisive 4-0 shutout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ovechkin continued one of the hottest streaks of his career. 

At 11 games, this is Ovechkin’s second-longest point streak in his brilliant career. He has 10 goals and six assists during that stretch, and has taken over the NHL goal lead with 22 through 29 games. 

This outburst has helped make up for a stretch where Washington missed center Evgeny Kuznetsov for six games, and they still don’t have forward T.J. Oshie (concussion). He’s missed 11 games in a row. 

The power play has dried up with the personnel on the top unit in and out due to injury. Tom Wilson, who replaced Oshie in the “bumper” role in the slot on the power play, has missed two straight games. That hasn’t hurt Ovechkin at all. He has 16 points during the stretch – but 15 of those are at even strength or with the opposing goalie pulled (two goals, two assists) and a chance to put the game away.   

That’s a big deal. Washington’s power play during that stretch is 6-for-32, yet Ovechkin is still producing. Dating to Nov. 11 the power play is actually 6-for-39 (15.4 percent). He isn’t feasting in that area, which is normally a lock.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 22 goals. He’s on pace for 62. That probably isn’t happening, and he will cool off at some point. But he’s put himself in legitimate contention for an eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin just missed at 49 goals last year. 

A lot of Ovechkin’s work has come with center Nicklas Backstrom by his side. But he’s become a playmaker, too, lately. He showed that unselfish side again on a 2-on-1 with Travis Boyd against Columbus.

Last year Boyd earned his first NHL point when he was pushed into emergency duty on the top line in a March game at Philadelphia. He had a sweet spin-o-rama pass to Ovechkin for a goal. On Saturday, Ovechkin pushed a pass to Boyd , who scored his first NHL goal. 

It’s been that kind of month. Ovechkin goes for 12 in a row Tuesday against Detroit due for both a power-play goal and a multi-goal game, which he has done just once during the streak (Nov. 19 vs. Montreal). 

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