Monday, April 7, 2008

A Tale of Two Matts

This is the first in a series of two articles looking at the Washington Capitals trade day deadline deals with the last weeks of the 2007-2008 NHL regular season in retrospective.In many ways the most interesting and surprising deadline deal was the Matt Cooke - Matt Pettinger trade the Caps made with the Vancouver Canaucks.

The Caps picked up Matt Cooke, a 29 year old left handed shooting forward from the Canaucks at the trade deadline for Matt Pettinger, a 27 year old left handed shooting forward at the deadline. Both are considered checking line forwards (aka "grinders"). Cooke an 8 season veteran counts $1,525,000 against the salary cap this year and will be an Unrestricted Free Agent in July. Pettinger is a 6 season veteran with a salary against the cap of $1,000,000 this year and $1, 100,000 in the 2008-2009 season before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in July 2009. Prior to the trade Pettinger was under-preforming his prior two seasons slightly and struggling to find a solid fit in Coach Bruce Boudreau's revamped, faster paced offensive game in Washington; Cooke was on pace with his prior two seasons but clearly not playing the type of relentless forechecking game he had become known for with the same level of intensity as during the prior year in Vancouver.

Pettinger's numbers before the trade were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Washington NHL 56 2 5 7 -11 25 98 2.04.

Cooke's numbers before the trade were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Vancouver NHL 61 7 9 16 -4 64 68 10.29.

Subsequent to being traded Pettinger's numbers for the remainder of the season were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Vancouver NHL 20 4 2 6 0 11 29 13.79.

Subsequent to being traded Cooke's numbers for the remainder of the season were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Washington NHL 17 3 4 7 +5 27 18 16.67.

In addition to the increased productivity (0.11 goals per game increased to 0.18 goals per game); Cooke also enhanced Washington's penalty killing and provided a gritty edge to their forecheck, forecheck, forecheck some more style. Pettinger's post trade productivity of 0.20 goals per game and shooting percentage of 13.79% were basically a return to form to his prior two years pace. Unfortunately for Pettinger and Vancouver fans, the Vancouver offensive production was relatively weak and they missed the playoffs finishing 11th in the Western Conference. The Caps finished with 7 straight wins, many of which Cooke and his two trade deadline compatriots Christobel Huet and Sergei Federov contributed to positively. Overall, this trade seems like a good deal for everybody, both players responded and amped up their play; Matt Cooke made the playoffs when he likely would not have done so; without the trade deadline moves it's open to debate whether the Caps would have made the playoffs though with the moves and super play by the entire team they did so. The Caps now have the option of talking to Cooke after the season and he has seen that Washington, DC can be a hockey town, as well as the fun players can have playing, a tough aggressive style of game his own style of play is well suited to under Coach Bruce Boudreau. He likely will be available to resign at a a reasonable salary, though the Caps have other Restricted Free Agents and Unrestricted Free Agents to look at and close with first. Pettinger has another full year on his contract with Vancouver and is playing in front of what amounts to, for him, a hometown crowd so is likely to continue playig well in Vancouver the City of ???? Clearly this unexpected move by Caps GM George McPhee and David Nonis made the deal to spark the two players and on Nonis' part to get something for a guy who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. By all measures when you look at the numbers and review the game tapes, this has to be regarded as a win-win for both players and both teams.

As the Caps move into the playoffs Matt Cooke's style of play and intensity will only help Washington even more. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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