Washington Capit’‘als’’’: 33-20-10, 76 pts, 5th place, 2nd in Southeast.Status: Buyer’
One of the most powerful offensive teams of last season sputtered in the playoffs against a hot goalie in Jaroslav Halak and fell to the Montreal Canadiens. This season, the Capitals’ offense has dropped off dramatically, as coach Bruce Boudreau’s team has placed far more emphasis on defense. The Caps’ offense ranks 10th in the East, but their defense has improved to 4th in the Conference, although some would say the improvement has come with mixed results.
Last season’s Capitals were shoo-ins to make the postseason by January, and while there’s little doubt they’ll be in the spring tournament at this point, the Capitals have been far less dominant this year. One of the biggest holes the Caps have in their lineup is the lack of a true second line center. Youngsters Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perrault have both been given plenty of opportunities to seize the role, but have yet to do so. This week’s waiver wire claim of veteran Marco Sturm certainly can’t hurt, but I doubt the aging German with a career high of 56 points is the missing piece that the Capitals need going into the postseason. >
The quandary that faces GM George McPhee is the fact that he seems unwilling to part with prospects or draft picks to acquire any additional assets, but in a tough seller’s market, he may be forced to do so if he truly wants to make an impact deal. The Florida Panthers have been rumored to be looking to move Stephen Weiss, their top-line center who would be a perfect fit on the Caps’ second line, but the asking price will likely be too steep for the tight-fisted McPhee’s liking.
In addition to the need for a top-six center, the Caps could use some help on the back end, as well. The blueline anchored by John Carlson, Mike Green and Karl Alzner was bolstered a bit with the addition of Scott Hannan, and with veterans Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine also in the fold, the Caps seem to be pretty well-stocked. Still, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from generating plenty of talk regarding their interests in a number of potential trade targets, all of which have ended up going to other teams so far. In the absence of a true shutdown defenseman, Chris Phillips could be a possible target, but it’s still unclear whether he’ll even be dealt out of Ottawa.
To be honest, there’s a pretty good chance the Capitals don’t make any moves at the deadline. With the influx of early deals this year, they may end up wishing they’d gotten active a bit sooner.