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: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, 29, St. Louis Blues
Why it makes sense
You may not have heard Pietrangelo's name recently among all the trade chatter, but he is worth discussing because he was among the big-name players reportedly the Blues were looking to move earlier in the season. Now that St. Louis is hot and currently sits in a wild card spot in the West, perhaps those plans have changed. General manager Doug Armstrong, however, has never been shy about selling at the deadline even when his team is in a playoff position. When Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to Washington, St. Louis sat in the second wild card spot and was very much in the playoff mix. Because of that, the fact that the Blues are a wildcard team now does not necessarily mean that Pietrangelo is off the market.
Armstrong and Caps' general manager Brian MacLellan have managed big deals before and have made three trades together in the past, including the Shattenkirk deal and the trade that netted Washington T.J. Oshie.
Pietrangelo plays on the top pair in St. Louis as well as on both the power play and the penalty kill. As a right-shot defenseman, he also fits an obvious need for the Caps.
Let's face it, the second pair has not been good this season and Matt Niskanen in particular seems to really be struggling. As a right-shot defenseman, however, he's hard to replace. Bringing in Pietrangelo would shore up the second pair and allow NIskanen to move down to the third. That's a massive upgrade for a Washington defense that has been shaky for much of the season.
Why it doesn't make sense
In terms of fit, there's no argument here. You never know about chemistry, but at least on paper this looks like a tremendous fit. In terms of everything else, it's hard to fathom how the Caps could make this work.
First, Pietrangelo's cap hit is $6.5 million. Assuming that Andre Burakovsky would be part of the trade package, you would still have to trade at least one other roster player just to get the money to work.
Pietrangelo is a top-pair defenseman, a right shot, captain of the team and his contract goes through the 2019-20 season. Now go back and reread that sentence, but imagine a cash register sound after each point. To say this would not be a cheap trade would be putting it mildly.
The biggest difficulty of all is the fact that I don't actually believe the Blues are interested in moving Pietrangelo anymore, regardless of what you want to offer for him. They may have been shopping him earlier in the season, but that was when the Blue thought they were headed for a high lottery pick. That's changed. Since Jan. 1, St. Louis has the best record in the NHL.
Oh, and Pietrangelo also has a full no-trade clause.
If you're the captain of the hottest team in the league and playing on the top pair, why would you accept a trade to Washington to play on the second pair behind John Carlson?
If you're the GM of the hottest team in the league, why would you risk derailing your team by trading away your captain and top-pair right defenseman who is not even on the final year of his contract?
You can go ahead and file this one under a fantasy land scenario. Getting a right-shot, top-four defenseman would be great for Washington, just like it would be great if I won the lottery, but it's not going to happen.
There is no way St. Louis is trading Pietrangelo to Washington or to anyone at this point. The Blues got off to a horrible start and that's why he was originally available. That equation has changed and whatever package the Caps could put together for him is irrelevant. I cannot imagine Armstrong trading away the team captain and top right defenseman when they are just now starting to live up to expectations.
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