So many Washington Capitals fans wanted General Manager George McPhee to make a move at the NHL Trade Deadline, but the truth is by standing pat he may have made one of the smartest moves in the league.
If you think teams always try to get better before the trade deadline passes, you are kidding yourself. Sure, teams look to add players if they need to, but really NHL general managers search for the right deal to help their team accomplish its goals. For a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets, that goal is trying to rebuild, and for a team like the Caps it is trying to reload.
The Capitals have a lot of holes and some of them might not be able to be fixed via trade, but they aren’t that far away from being an Eastern Conference powerhouse again. This is a down year, where some deals haven’t worked out and others from the past are coming back to bite the team. When that is the situation, the best option is to look for the future and build on what could be. Making a deal at the deadline could have been disastrous to that proposal and could have had the Capitals looking in the rear-view mirror, asking what happened.
Obviously everyone in Washington wanted a second line center to fill a void the team has struggled with for years, but no one available was going to really plug the hole at a reasonable price. No one can sit there and say that Paul Gaustad was the secret puzzle piece for this Washington team. Not only that, but the third-line energy player is in no way worth the value of a first round pick.
From one projected second line center to another people wanted desperately to don the red, white and blue, Sammy Pahlsson. He certainly plays center, he definitely is a name people are familiar with, but a second-line center he is not. Here is a hint on how to pick out if a players is a top-six forward: whenever the team who acquires him labels him as a “depth forward,” he really isn’t that great. He can probably make plays, but he is likely just another Brendan Morrison, someone who at one time was a standout but can’t do it anymore.
In fact, GMGM was incredibly smart to pass on a lot of players who were moved on Monday and probably kept a better team intact because of it. The only player he should have jumped on, if he in fact knew he was available, was the Canucks’ Cody Hodgson.
If any of you listen to the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast, produced by Sportsnet and Puck Daddy, there was talk of whether or not Hodgson was simply dumped because there was no room for him on the team and GM Mike Gillis was told to contact a few select teams for a trade. If that is the case, then there is no way to blame GMGM for not acquiring Hodgson. If it comes out that the rookie was available to everyone in the NHL though, then it is a missed opportunity.
The young center is only 22, and in 63 games has 35 points and 17 goals, all while playing on the Canucks’ third and fourth lines. Hodgson is a young star in the making and is definitely worth the value he commanded. Acquiring him would have solidified the Washington center problems for years, as he still has RFA status. Alas though, he wasn’t acquired, probably wasn’t available, and is definitely not a guy GMGM is going to lose sleep over.
Capitals fans should be overjoyed their team stood pat at this deadline. Prices were just too high to make a sensible move. Look at a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who had actual salary cap space available for the first time in years and didn’t make a move. By hanging on to their assets, the Caps have the opportunity to get better in the offseason when the prices are lower and they can cultivate those assets through development camp and the draft.
This may be the first time in over two years the Capitals have had an eye toward long-term success instead of short-term celebration. If Washington is poised to take the stage with teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins as perennial Stanley Cup challengers, that opportunity could have been squandered had they tried to go for it all this year. It may be painful right now to lose even if the ultimate goal is to be better in the future, but is anything ever really worth it if it is easy to attain?
I bet not, and if the Capitals hoist their first Stanley Cup in the near future, I imagine many of you will agree it was worth it.