Let’s Make a Deal! A look at the Washington Capitals’ trade bait

Apparently the NHL’s offseason trading frenzy has begun! Late Friday we saw the Montreal Canadiens ship post-season stud goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for a handful of prospects. Then, over the weekend we saw more movement as the Nashville Predators had a yard sale, trading the rights to Dan Hamhuis, the coveted free agent defenseman, to the Philadelphia Flyers for blueliner Ryan Parent and Jason Arnott to the New Jersey Devils for Matt Halischuk and a second-round pick.

Through all of this the Caps’ General Manager George McPhee kept a steady course, not hinting at moves he planned on making prior to the looming open to the free agent signing period. It’s definitely a tricky line to toe, as not only does GMGM need to find the missing piece to raise DC’s play- he has to make sure that the sacrifices made to bring it in are at the right cost.

While we are not trying to flood the airwaves with rumors in the same vein as Brodeur-for-Semin, Sharp, Hjarmalsson, Huet, and Huet’s huge cap hit-for-Semin and a 2nd rounder, and Boudreau-for-Joe Jonas, I feel that the following four Caps would most benefit the squad if they started the 2010 season on another team.

Ready to make a deal? Make the jump!

Alexander Semin Age: 26 2009-10 Salary: $6M 2009-10 Stats: 73 GP; 40G, 44A; 19:07 TOI/G
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way early. When he signed his year extension last season, I had the feeling it was a means to sweeten the deal to move him at the trade deadline – but I was wrong. I think moving Semin would benefit the Caps by not only allowing them to shed a $6M dollar hit to the cap, but also the depth they could get in return and from building with the newly-freed up cash. The key here would be the return for #28, as it would need to not only replace 40 goals, but also the opportunities he creates for his line mates. While Ovechkin might miss his soul-mate, I sure wouldn’t miss his offensive zone penalties, negligible post-season play, and oft unmotivated regular season play that is more erratic than the functionality of DC’s Metro escalators.

John Erskine Age: 29 2009-10 Salary: $1.25M 2009-10 Stats: 50 GP; 1G, 5A; 15:58 TOI/G
I’m not sure there is much demand for a lumbering Jim Gaffigan impersonator that can’t hold on to his stick, but John-Boy could be thrown in with another player in a trade. He’s not a good fit on this roster, his play has been surpassed by others (as evidenced by not dressing during the playoffs), and moving him would open a roster spot and about $1M in cap space. He’d be like the chips in Taco Bell’s $2 Meal Deal- buy the burrito and drink, get ’em free.

Boyd Gordon Age: 25 2009-10 Salary: $761K 2009-10 Stats: 36GP; 4G, 6A; 10:17 TOI/G
If there is one thing the Capitals have an excess of, it’s a fourth line center (even after not re-signing Brendan Morrison). Also, while it’s not fault of his, I can’t justify holding a roster space for someone that has been habitually sidelined with back problems. There are plenty of teams in the league that would benefit from adding a young, Hershey-trained, penalty killer to their squad.

Tomas Fleischmann Age: 26 2009-10 Salary: $725K 2009-10 Stats: 69 GP; 23G, 28A; 16:02 TOI/G
Flash was pushed-and-pulled a lot during the 2009-10 season between positions (C vs. LW), lines (2nd vs. 3rd), and game time (9 minutes vs. 20, or not dressing) evidence that he has trouble finding his niche in Washington. He’s young, filled with talent, and very eager to do well – but he lacks the experienced grit that the Caps need to make it to the next level. On another team (and away from the shadow of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, and others) he’d be able to step into the light as a star player, and get the kind of money he thinks he’s worthy of (remember his “never bench me again” comment to Boudreau after a GWG?). The question here (like with Gordon) is if a team will move tangible assets, or wait and try to sign him later.

No matter who is moved, if anyone at all, I just hope GMGM finds the right fit for this Caps team. There are several free agents available on the market, let alone tradeable players are signed, that would compliment this team exponentially- but the key is not overpaying for performance. Like you TOTALLY would with that Jonas trade.