Capitals Miss the Point as Trade Deadline Passes: A Fan’s Take

Like many NHL fans, I woke this morning and prepared for a day of team defining trades. As a Washington Capitals supporter, I saw the team moving some disgruntled veterans off the squad. I also thought they would look hard for a second line center, in hopes of adding some scoring punch to the lineup. My Twitter feed was buzzing with rumors, but none that involved Washington. That was because when the deadline hit, we had done exactly nothing.

This team with offensive holes and defensive liabilities could find no deals that made sense. At least that was the take of general manager George McPhee, who made that clear in his press conference on CSN Washington. He stated, "We weren't going to make a mistake, we weren't going to chase a bad deal." There is a fatal flaw in the rationale, and I think George knows it.

The Capitals painted themselves into a corner with a number of bad contracts for underachieving players. No team wanted to take on Alex Semin at his $6.7 million dollar price tag. Brooks Laich is getting $4.5 million for the next five years. Joel Ward and Roman Hamrlik have cap numbers that are far above what they have brought to the team. The Caps had to put Nick Backstrom on long term IR to have room to do anything. That gives one an idea what they are up against.

That is not the only problem that this team has. Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik wanted out of Washington. I will give Knuble the benefit of the doubt, because he has always been a team guy here. Hamrlik has been a malcontent since being sat out, which is a sad statement from a veteran. He went as far as to make disparaging remarks about coach Dale Hunter. He needed to be gone for whatever a team would give in return. McPhee mentions the good depth, but Hamrlik has looked horrible all season.

McPhee mentioned that people had an interest in members of the team, but only for futures or prospects. Talk is that he wanted a young forward for Hamrlik. McPhee should have been concerned with dumping the salary. A prospect would be fair here. Denis Wideman is an unrestricted free agent after this season and will leave with the cap issues the team has. Defensemen below him went for second round picks. I am sure there were teams out there willing to give a number one for Wideman. Alas, McPhee is happy with this team.

The biggest flaw in the thinking of the team is that we can beat anyone with Backstrom back in the lineup. Sorry, but it is simply not true. Backstrom played into January, and the team still struggled mightily. Mike Green was not playing at the time, but a defenseman does not account for the lack of production the team was experiencing. McPhee even acknowledged that, without Backstrom, Washington is only a playoff team. That was enough reason there to pursue something.

The last thing I heard in the news conference was McPhee saying there was no one better than what we had at Hershey available. My friends, we have heard this line before. Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, and Cody Eakin are functional players for the third or fourth line, but they are not significant talents. They get shutdown and do not have the muscle to deal with bigger players. Sorry George, but I see no asset in Hershey better than a player like Derek Roy or Hal Gill.

It leaves this Capitals fan feeling a bit empty as the deadline passed. This team cannot advance past the first round as presently constructed. What is worse is that McPhee made that mention of still having to field a team in September. When Wideman and Semin walk in the offseason, what will George fall back on then? The free agent class is not that exciting coming up, so McPhee will once again have this team in a heap of trouble.

John Atchison is a fervent supporter of his hometown Washington Capitals. He has a passion for hockey and someday hopes to have a role in the Capitals organization so he can raise the Stanley Cup! Follow him on Twitter @John_Atchison.

Sources: CSN Washington

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Updated Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012