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: Defensemen Nick Jensen (28, Detroit Red Wings), Ben Lovejoy (34, New Jersey Devils)
Why it makes sense:
Brian MacLellan has added at least one defenseman at the trade deadline every year as the Caps’ general manager and considering the team’s defensive struggles this year in addition to their home run acquisition of Michal Kempny for cheap last season, this seems a much more likely scenario than paying big for a big-name target.
If MacLellan is looking for a low-risk, high reward addition, Jensen seems to fit the bill. He does not add much offensively but is very stout defensively and a strong skater. He is also a right-shot defenseman which adds to his value. Adding a right defenseman gives Washington a bit more flexibility in their defensive pairings.
Right now, John Carlson and Matt Niskanen and Madison Bowey are the only right-handed players among the team’s eight defenseman (including Jonas Siegenthaler, though he is in Hershey). If Washington were to lose either Carlson or Niskanen to injury, they would be very thin on the right.
It doesn’t get much cheaper than Jensen’s total cap hit of $812,500. Washington could conceivably afford to add him without giving up a roster player to free up cash.
Lovejoy is also a right-shot defenseman, though he is older and more expensive than Jensen. While Jensen is a No. 4 or 5 defenseman and could play on either the second or third pairing, Lovejoy would strictly be a depth move. Because of that, however, and the fact that he is on the final year of his contract with a New Jersey team that is not headed to the playoffs this season, the Caps could probably get him with a very cheap trade.
Todd Reirden has some familiarity with Lovejoy as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Teams tend to go through a lot of defensemen on lengthy playoff runs. Adding some depth on the blue line certainly couldn’t hurt.
Why it doesn’t make sense
The Red Wings are reportedly interested in re-signing Jensen so he may not even be available. If Detroit is indeed interested in bringing him back, then his price tag on the trade market just went up. Washington would have to sweeten a trade to the point that the Red Wings decide it makes more sense to trade him than to re-sign him.
Lovejoy is older, slower, has a larger cap hit and just is not as good as Jensen. Unless the Caps take a swing at Jensen and miss, there is no real point in going after Lovejoy or giving up pretty much anything to get him. He just would not add that much to Washington’s lineup.
Experience is a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s great that Reirden knows Lovejoy and could potentially know how best to utilize him. On the other hand, coaches sometimes can rely on what’s familiar too much.
Lovejoy should not be playing over Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler, but he is a right-shot defenseman and has experience so it would not be a big surprise to see Lovejoy get into the lineup on a semi-regular basis. If Washington were to add Lovejoy and was playing more than some of the Caps’ younger talent, they would have actually made themselves worse, not better.
The addition of Jensen would be a huge boost for Washington and, in my opinion, he should be at the top of the trade deadline wish list for MacLellan. Even if it means overpaying slightly in a trade to get Detroit on board, this looks like it would be a great move.
The same can’t be said for Lovejoy. Depth defense is important, but I would not play him over Djoos, Siegenthaler or Bowey. What is a ninth defenseman worth? Probably less than what New Jersey would ask for him.
CAPITALS POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS: