Photo: Claus Anderson
The NHL trade deadline is coming up on February 29. The Caps have a real chance to win the Stanley Cup this season, so you can bet that Brian MacLellan, though he doesn’t need to make a deal, will certainly try to improve the team if he finds a good deal.
While memories of the Filip Forsberg trade may fill some fans with Sartrean nausea, it must be noted that the Caps are in the midst of a two-year Cup window. The focus has to be on players who can help the team right now. Everything in 2015-16 has been coming up Caps so far, but nothing about future seasons is assured. If MacLellan can improve this club, one that has a very real shot at being the last team standing in June, he needs to strike now.
Without going down a rabbit hole, I’ll say this about trades and team chemistry: if adding a depth player or two has such an effect on the Caps’ chemistry that it costs them in the playoffs, this team probably wasn’t cut out to win anyway.
One area that the Caps could improve their depth is at wing in the bottom six. Specifically, they could use an injection of skill there. If Marcus Johansson is the third-line center when he returns from injury (as he should be), the Caps won’t be using the third line as a shutdown line, but instead as a third scoring line, which is something Barry Trotz has previously hinted at wanting to do.
Jason Chimera seems to be cemented to the left wing, so Tom Wilson would be the guy who’d get bumped to fourth-line duties. Wilson has been okay in his current spot and I’m sympathetic to the argument that demoting him to the fourth line doesn’t help his development, but the Caps should prioritize what’s best for the club now over what’s best for Wilson’s future. And bumping a guy who is capable of playing on the third line to the fourth isn’t the end of the world. In fact, that kind of depth is what can make a great team even more dangerous.
Unknowns like injuries or streaks might dictate lineup decisions as much as anything else. The important thing is to appreciate that adding skill the the bottom six is the Caps’ most pressing need as the deadline appears.
On that topic, the lottery-bound Toronto Maple Leafs have a bunch of players they’ll be looking to trade for future assets this spring. There are three wingers in particular that could help this Caps team.
I’ve called in Leafs virtuoso Platinum Seat Ghosts to help us out. Below are vital stats, a brief blurb on each player from a Leafs fan’s perspective, and my discussion. You can and should follow PSG on Twitter and then check out PSG’s website for some of the most informative prospect coverage around.
Cap hit: $1.5 million (UFA after season)
Platinum Seat Ghosts: One of the few forwards on the Leafs this year with noticeable skill when the puck is on his stick. Good for carrying the puck through the neutral zone and getting zone entries due to his shifty hands and skating. He has been a staple on the power play, where he has excelled. Highest offensive upside among Leafs trade chips.
Pat: Parenteau would cost the most among the three players we’re talking about here, but he’d be worth it. If the Caps rolled a third line of Chimera-Johansson-Parenteau, it would be one of the best third lines in the NHL and would be better than some second lines around the league. He’s an offensively talented player who has positively impacted his team’s share of the goals when he’s on the ice for the past 6 seasons.
He’s a strong puck possession player too, having posted a relative shot attempt percentage of plus-2.5 percent or higher in five of the last seven seasons. While he doesn’t shoot the puck at a prolific rate, he’s above average in individual shot generation.
Parenteau doesn’t kill penalties but the offensive upside here is too big to ignore.
Cap hit: $3 million (UFA after season)
PSG: Easiest way to describe him: Grabner has the speed of Mason Raymond and the hands of David Clarkson. Can easily get two breakaways per game, but it’s a miracle if he actually scores. Not going to repeat his 30-goal season but he is still decent on the penalty kill.
Pat: So, given PSG’s description, we can all agree that Grabner is basically Jason Chimera, right? All speed and hands that are known to fail him. Grabner would be a decent get. He can kill penalties, which would give Trotz the option to take a top-six forward off the penalty kill, and he has enough in his offensive arsenal to be a legitimate third-line scoring threat.
Grabner would be my third choice among the three guys listed here. His cap hit would require the most gymnastics to fit under the cap, and he’s the least talented of the three.
Cap hit: $700,000 (UFA after season)
PSG: Leafs fans are still unsure as to why, but Boyes has fallen out of Babcock’s good books despite great possession numbers and production rates. He has been a healthy scratch in favour of players such as Rich Clune and Byron Froese. When he’s in the lineup, he makes the team better. 33-years-old now but still lots of upside.
Pat: Mike Babcock is probably the best coach in the NHL, but given his usage of Boyes this season, the Caps could probably get a very useful player for a really cheap price. Boyes leads all Leafs’ forwards with 1.9 points per 60, so he’s been really productive when he’s been given the opportunity. He’s been a strong possession player too, ranking second among Toronto forwards with a plus-5.86 percent relative shot attempt percentage (55 percent raw).
The Caps have an opportunity here. They’re a strong team in a sputtering conference. They are the best team in the eastern and they can get even better between now and the trade deadline. Moments like this don’t come along often and there’s no guarantee any future season will go as well as 2015-16 has. There’s no doubt MacLellan is monitoring the trade market already. He will strike if given the opportunity.
#BigBuffToDC was always a long shot (and a bit tongue in cheek), but it’s more realistic to think the Caps could acquire one of these three Leafs players. If I was MacLellen (which I’m not), I’d make PA Parenteau one of my main targets as the trade deadline approaches. Today, we begin #PAPtoDC.
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