The Capitals have made a couple roster moves over the past couple of days that probably deserve more attention than they've gotten.
The first move was D.J. King's assignment to Hershey. Not all of us were in agreement that it would be a good thing for the Bears because it meant possibly less ice time for an NHL prospect, never mind a guy with a bigger contract than the team's #1 center just coming down to the AHL, a situation where a lot of those suddenly "former" NHLers don't react well and are a negative force in the locker room. I don't think King will be a problem, after all, he's not far removed from the AHL anyway, he knows he's good enough for the NHL, and he just wants to play. He asked to be waived so he could play hockey for another NHL team, and considering what a good teammate he was in DC despite his lack of playing time, he should be a great teammate and mentor for the players in Hershey, too. Not all of us were on board with the trade that brought King here, but that's another story.
So, with the addition of another winger who would be getting into the lineup regularly, the question became "who would sit out?" Well, that suddenly got answered when the Caps dumped underachieving winger Francois Bouchard to the New York Rangers for a defenseman prospect. Bouchard was a second-round pick in 2006 and had one decent season in Hershey two seasons ago before regressing last season and falling off the map completely this season amidst some personal issues and the lack of Mathieu Perreault centering his line to make him look good. Bouchard will not be missed in these parts, and considering he had no points in 8 games for the Bears, D.J. King should have no trouble replacing his offense.
But hold on a second, who did we get in return? Who is this Tomas Kundratek guy, anyway? NHL.com's player page lists him as a left-handed defenseman standing 6'2, 201 who doesn't put up a ton of points. He's a righty, you say? Well, then, this trade just got a whole lot more interesting.
Kundratek was a 3rd round pick of the Rangers in 2008. He came to the WHL the next season and played two years of junior before going pro last season. He apparently adapted well to the North American game and had a very solid first season in the AHL, with 12 points and an even rating in 70 games, plus 2 points in 6 playoff games. He's had another solid start to the season this year and Hockey's Future thinks he could be ready for the NHL next season. With a right-handed shot, though, he could be the next call-up from Hershey instead of Sean Collins, though. He's just 21, but has a full pro season and all the physical gifts to be an NHL defender, including a big shot and decent puck-moving skills, never mind the tendency not to take penalties, which McPhee always likes. He's no stranger to the rough stuff if need be, though. Check out more about him on "Da Bears" page, with links to various player pages.
Did the Caps blueline depth just pick up a red-chip prospect for a washed up spare part? If so, score a big win for George McPhee. Welcome to America's Hockey Capital (and Chocolate Capital!), Tomas.