Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh Heut, How We Miss Thee...

The one question mark coming into this season for the Washington Capitals was it's goaltending. George McPhee tried to calm those fears pointing to new acquired Jose Theodore's resume. He was NHL's MVP, led the Avalanche back to the playoffs last spring, yada yada yada.

The Caps thought they were getting a steal after they couldn't come to terms with Cristobal Huet. Theodore was playing well in Colorado (never mind the stinker of a playoff series with Detroit) and they got him for less money and less time on July first. It allowed the Caps to sign some key players that they wanted to keep and allow some young goaltenders some time to grow down in the AHL. Good deal, right?

It only took two shakey games for that plan to come unraveled. Theodore let in some head scratchers just in the first 2 games. Suddenly, back up Brent Johnson needed to step in and take some of the work load from Theodore. Now the coaching staff is just going with which ever way the wind seems to be blowing when making the starting night goaltender decision. There is no clear number one goaltender in Washington.

Hockey Night In Canada might have spilled the beans on McPhee's plans as Al Strachan told the panel between the second and third periods of the Penguins and Maple Leafs game, "Washington is, indeed, asking around about goalies."

It shouldn't be shocking that the Caps have been looking for an early season trade. The Caps did have a deal in the works with Chicago, a Micheal Nylander for one Nickolai Khabibulan with a few more particulars. But the time expired on that front and the Capitals had some major injury shoes to fill. The way Caps were dropping like flies they needed Nylander. Besides Khabibulan was playing inspired goaltending when Chicago thought about putting him on waivers or even sending him abroad. Khabi became indespensable to the Blackhawks.

Who could the Capitals be looking for now. A name that was batted around on HNIC was Tomas Vokoun, but I highly doubt the Panthers would make a in division trade. Other goaltenders to consider but are not likely canditates are the Boston pair of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. Both are UFA's at the end of the year and Thomas comes with a very attractive $1.1 million price tag. It's unlikely anyone in the Eastern Conference will make that deal on the off chance they would play the Capitals in the post season (since it appear the Caps would be in the playoffs, knock on wood).

How about the west? There are a plethora of goaltenders that are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season that the Caps may consider trading for. Some highlights on that list are:

Andrew Raycroft, Colorado - But only if the Avs don't make it to the playoffs or Peter Budaj channels his inner Roy.

Ty Conklin, Detroit - Not very likely the way Chris Osgood has been playing. Detroit will need a good one, two going into the post season.

Dwayne Roloson or Mathieu Garon, Edmonton - Both goaltenders' contracts are up at the end of the year. Both come with plus and minus. Garon would be cheaper and younger. I can imgine you could get some inspired play out of Roloson (when he was traded from Minnesota he took that Oiler team to the finals).

Jason Labarbera, LA - Big goaltender, but nothing overly special about him.

Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota - Yeah, right.

Mikael Tellqvist, Phoenix - A back-up, not really a number one.

Brian Boucher, San Jose - Good, he filled in for Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks didn't miss a beat with him in net. But unlikely as San Jose will want a good tandem going into the post season.

Manny Legace, St. Louis - Injury prone.

Curtis Sanford, Vancouver - Only if the Canucks miss the playoffs.

Ottawa has a couple of marginal goaltenders they may want to trade with to spark their roster in Martin Gerber and Alex Auld (Auld comes with Southeast Division experience). But the pickings are small for the Caps right now. If they want a trade for a goaltender the Caps have more than enough to bargin with, Nylander and the growing talent pool in Hershey. It just depends on how much the Caps want to spend too.

All of this is pure speculation of course. Many times I have claimed to know the best way of running the Capitals' organization. And many times I have been wrong. Hence I don't have a job as a GM in the NHL. But the Caps apparently do have a situation in goal that needs some fine tuning. Maybe they should tap the ticket sales department for their next goaltender.

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