Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Caps active at trade deadline

Despite warnings that he might not be terribly active at the deadline Capitals general manager George McPhee made three trades this afternoon, while still holding keeping his word that he wouldn't give up too much in the way of players or picks.

As a primer, here's an breakdown of the changes the Capitals made:

Matt Cooke
Sergei Fedorov
Cristobal Huet

Shipped Out:
2008 2nd round draft pick
Matt Pettinger
Rights to Ted Ruth

At face value, the Capitals look much improved. But are these moves really going to help the team as much as it seems like they should on paper? To answer, let's take a look at each trade individually.

A 2nd round draft pick in 2008 to the Montreal Canadiens for Cristobal Huet

Initial Reaction: Wow. Shocking for a few reasons: Huet wasn't supposed to be moved, the Caps are apparently willing to spell Olaf Kolzig as their starting goalie, and it's odd that Huet was had for only a second round pick.

(1) Cristobal Huet is a good goalie. Really good. Like top ten in the NHL good.
(2) Huet's save percentage is .916
(3) Olaf Kolzig's save percentage is .888
(4) Brent Johnson's save percentage is .908
(5) Acquiring Huet now gives the Caps a chance to show off their young talented core to him and gives them the jump on negotiating a contract with the free-agent-to-be.
(6) He only cost a second round pick.
(7) Coming from le bleu, blanc et rouge of Montreal, Huet's pads already match the Capitals' uniforms.

(1) Huet is still a free agent come July 1.
(2) How will Kolzig handle his demotion?
(3) Kolzig deserved better. I'm not saying the Capitals shouldn't have made this trade, but it is unfortunate for Olie the way this season has played out.

Grade: A. The Capitals addressed their biggest weakness even if it meant possibly offending a portion of their fan base, picked up a very good player and have a chance to build with this move if they can re-sign Huet. No other goalie nearly this good was available and it only cost the Capitals a second round pick.

The rights to Ted Ruth for Sergei Fedorov

Intial Reaction: Again a surprise. Not that Fedorov was moved, but that the Capitals were able to pick him up. Who's Ted Ruth?

(1) Fedorov is an offensively skilled center who can hopefully fill Michael Nylander's shoes.
(2) Ted Ruth is far from a blue-chip prospect.
(3) Fedorov seems a good fit for the Capitals second line since he's historically a good defensive center, gives Alexander Semin a Russian countryman to work with and has undeniable offensive talent.
(4) Fedorov has played 1178 NHL games, 162 NHL playoff games and won two Stanley Cups. That's the kind of veteran presence you want when you're making a playoff push.
(5) Fedorov's contract expires after this season.

(1) Fedorov has become too lazy too often in recent years.

Grade: A-. Fedorov is a great pick up for the Capitals second line because he not only has offensive skill but because he is a two-time Selke winner who speaks Semin's language (literally).

Matt Pettinger for Matt Cooke

Initial Reaction: A fair trade and a solid pickup for a player (Pettinger) who needed a change of scenery.

(1) Matt Cooke is a solid defensive player.
(2) Pettinger couldn't seem to get things going in D.C. this year, so maybe a new locale will help.
(3) Cooke provides grit and agitation skills, something the Caps could use a little more of.

(1) Pettinger has more offensive upside than Cooke.
(2) At 27, Pettinger is two years younger than Cooke.

Grade: B. Simply a good, fair trade that will probably benefit both teams in the end.

Aggregate Grade: B+. To me, these trades are even better than they initially look because each player has some advantage beyond their playing skill: that the Caps can start negotiations with Huet for the future earlier than anyone else, Fedorov's experience and potential to mesh well with Semin and Cooke's agitation tendencies. The Capitals filled two of their biggest holes with the acquisition of Fedorov and Huet and didn't give up a whole lot doing it and for the trades that were made I'd give them an A/A-. However there were two notables non moves: the failure to trade for a big, mean stay-at-home defenseman and the decision to hold on to Steve Eminger. Perhaps they were the best decisions because perhaps the Capitals couldn't get a stay-at-home defender for what they were willing to give up and perhaps they didn't get any decent offers for Eminger. But those non-moves keep this deadline from being a complete success...although the team came much closer than anyone could have expected.

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