NHL Trade Deadline Approaches for McPhee and Capitals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – General Manager George McPhee has been busy this week and will continue to be busy until 3:00 pm on Monday, February 28th. The reason is that time signifies the NHL Trade Deadline.
Will the Capitals make a big splash by adding a stud center like Brad Richards from Dallas? Are they in the market for a goalie? How about another defenseman? Center, defense and goaltending are three of the areas that pundits claim the Capitals could improve upon. What will McPhee do? See below.

Fellow Eastern Conference foes Boston and Pittsburgh have already made consequential trades before the deadline. The Bruins added power-play specialist Tomas Kaberle from the Maple Leafs and also added Rich Peverley from Atlanta to strengthen their offense.

Last night the Penguins added Alexi Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a 7th round draft pick in 2011. The trade will help Pittsburgh replace the offense of injured Evgeni Malkin up front and give them a potent scoring forward when focused.

Fortunately for the Capitals, it’s unlikely they’d be interested in any of the players already traded except possible some faint interest in Kaberle, although he certainly would not help the improved Washington team defense.

Starting at the most important position in the lineup, it seems unlikely the Capitals will make a move for a goalie. Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have played well lately and they even have Braden Holtby in Hershey in case of injury. What McPhee will really examine is what else is available on the trade market.

Tomas Vokoun could be acquired but it will certainly be expensive in terms of prospects being moved and is he really a significant step up from Varlamov or Neuvirth? There was also some speculation that the Caps may have been interested in Martin Brodeur but now that the Devils only 9 points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, he isn’t available anymore not to mention that Johan Hedberg has a 1.32 goals against average (GAA) in his last 9 games. Evgeni Nabokov was available also but considering how he struggled in the KHL in Russia, he doesn’t seem like an upgrade either. Unless an injury occurs before Monday or McPhee wants to add depth, a move for a goaltender seems unlikely.

Defense is different than goaltending in that the Capitals could use an upgrade. It seems like John Erskine would be the man left out as Bruce Boudreau seems fairly comfortable with the pairing of Mike Green and Scott Hannan. Green returned healthy on Friday night for the game against the New York Rangers after missing several games with the flu, but then left early in that game after taking a high hit in the first period.

Sheldon Souray has been mentioned as a possibility but sources around the NHL have expressed concern about his speed, not exactly something that would mesh with the Capitals high tempo offense. It seems safe to rule him out.

There are some higher priced options such as John-Michael Liles of Colorado, Chris Phillips of Ottawa or Brian McCabe from Florida. There are also some cheaper options such as Filip Kuba in Ottawa. Ultimately, if the Capitals are serious about winning a Stanley Cup, another puck-moving defenseman would be a serious asset.

There is a rumor circulating that Alexander Semin could be on the move but since Washington just signed him to a one-year extension, a move doesn’t seem likely. If Semin doesn’t get dealt, it would seem that the Capitals will be serious players for Brad Richards. In fact, two Dallas Stars scouts were in attendance for Washington’s game on Friday night against the Rangers. It’s unusual for two scouts to be in attendance unless a possible move is on the way. The rumor is the Stars would accept a top prospect and a combination of draft picks for Richards. Although you can never believe what is floating around right before the trade deadline, the Caps certainly have the prospects and the need for a second line center. Richards won a Stanley Cup playing with Martin St. Louis and others in Tampa in 2004.

Ultimately Washington seems the likely destination if Dallas is in fact looking to move Richards. This move would move Washington to possibly the favorite in the Eastern Conference for a second year in a row. Adding Chris Phillips or anything puck moving defenseman would even improve their odds. Whatever George McPhee decides to do, one has to imagine he’s willing to mortgage some of the future for a shot at the Stanley Cup this season because if this team flames out in the playoffs again, he’s likely not to return as the General Manager and Bruce Boudreau is unlikely to return as Head Coach.