Monday, February 28, 2011

Deadline Deeds

The Washington Capitals' general manager George McPhee faced what could be his toughest trade deadline of his career. How can he spark a struggling offense without giving up too much in return? While it remains to be seen how the newly acquired players will form into the collective, one thing is certain; McPhee certainly got the most bang for his buck.

Acquisition #1

Claimed LW Marco Sturm off waivers from Los Angeles Kings

Sturm '10-'11 Stats: 17 GP, 4g, 5a, 9p, +6, 1ppg; 32 years old, 6', 194 lbs.
Contract 1 yr $3.5 million UFA

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Sturm brings some offensive punch. Although coming off of an injury and only playing 17 games this season with the Kings, he has nine points in his last 17 games and can add some scoring power to the Caps sputtering power play. A smart pick up for McPhee as it costs nothing in way of trade bait as in player assets or draft picks. Sturm has one day of practice under his belt already and will start against the New York Islanders Tuesday night.

Acquisition #2

Caps trade prospect Jake Hauswirth and a 2011 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers for D Dennis Wideman

Wideman '10-'11 Stats: 61 GP, 9g, 24a, 33p, -26, 8ppg, 11ppa, 75 h; 27 years old, 6', 196 lbs.
Contract 2 yr $3.9375 million UFA

With question marks on Tom Poti and Mike Green, McPhee felt he needed to step in and help his defensive core.

"Not knowing Tom [Poti's] status, I felt like geez, we may need to pick up another defensemen," McPhee said of the decision to trade for Wideman. "I thought maybe we could tough it out with what we have. But when Mike [Green] went down I thought it was really important to help this team now."

Wideman is another vet that can handle the puck well and quarterback the power play relieving some of the pressure on John Carlson, who has filled the void with injuries. Wideman's 19 power play points will inject some life into the struggling power play for the Caps. He also has another year on his contract.

"Wideman seems to be a real good fit," McPhee went on. "Because he is an offensive guy, he is good on the power play, he is a right hand shot. We were pleased we were able to do that deal."

The Capitals give up prospect Jake Hauswirth. Hauswirth impressed the Caps in his first development camp with the team, but then fizzled to make any head way in the organization eventually landing in the ECHL playing for the SC Stingrays once he signed as a free agent. The lack of depth in the Florida ranks may see him excel in the AHL level where the Caps' farm team is loaded with more than enough talent.

Wideman was obviously excited:

Acquisition #3

Caps trade C David Steckel and a 2011 second round pick to the New Jersey Devils for C Jason Arnott

Arnott '10-'11 Stats: 62 GP, 13g, 11a, 24p, -9, 2ppg, 3ppa; 36 year old, 6'5", 220 lbs.
Contract 1 year $4.5 million UFA

Jason Arnott's return to New Jersey hasn't gone smoothly. His numbers are down from a season ago. What he does bring is some Stanley Cup experience. McPhee is hoping that not only can Arnott hold down the center position on the second or third line, but also be a leader in the locker room. McPhee compares his trade with the one that saw Sergei Fedorov boost a team that was in need of some leadership and direction.

"There weren't many centers available," McPhee said as he talked about targeting Arnott. "He [Arnott] was one a lot of people wanted to have and he had a no trade clause... He was hoping to work it out with us."

The trade comes at a cost as McPhee had to give up David Steckel in return. Steckel's trade not only secures a centerman the Caps wanted, but also frees up some cap space to do it.

"We took a player out of our roster that we love," McPhee said of giving up Steckel in the trade. "[Steckel] is such a great guy, he has done really well for us here, he has become an NHL player, a solid NHL player. But we thought we had some depth there with Boyd Gordon and Jay Beagle."

Overall Grade: B

To pick up Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman and  Jason Arnott for one roster player, a prospect and no first round picks is something to be admired. McPhee played his hand close to his chest and it payed off. The only reason it's not an A grade is because I am not sure how these players will blend into the Caps' collective. It is a wait and see sort of proposition.

McPhee bolsters his defense core with a player that can make an impact now. He gets two veteran forwards that have playoff experience and the Caps see a ray of light at the end of the regular season tunnel. If the newcomers can gain some chemistry with the rest of the team, this is going to be a tough Caps team to beat in the post season.

Capitals are five points from their division rivals the Tampa Bay Lighting.

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