Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Caps Trade Deadline Moves And a Quick & Dirty On Tonights Game Against The Sabres In Buffalo

First, Caps GM George McPhee GMGM made some moves today and from what I can tell it sure looks like he did so in a manner that a) didn't cost the Capitals all that much and b) won't in any way upset the chemistry on the team already here. McPhee acquired 4 players and he did so in moves that only affected/moved 1 person who is really on the existing Capitals roster.

- In his first move of the day GMGM acquired 36 year old Right Wing Scott Walker from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 7th round draft pick in this years upcoming draft.

- Then later this morning GMGM acquired 32 year old Center Eric Belanger from Minnesota for Washington's Second Round pick in this years draft.

- After that GMGM turned his attention to the in process salary dump underway just over in Columbus, OH and reacquired 26 year old Defenseman Milan Jurcina for a conditional pick in this summer's draft. Jurcina was sent to Columbus earlier this season in late December in the deal that brought Jason Chimera to the Capitals. Jurcina had played in 13 games between that deal and the Olympics, where he was on the Slovakian National Team. In his short stint with Columbus and in the Olympics, Juice looked strong, and got to play a bigger role and more minutes than he usually did with the Caps before the trade, GMGM and Gabby must have liked how they saw the 6'4", 233# Slovak respond. I certainly was sorry to see him go in the Chimera trade, as prior to the deal he was one of the bigger guys in terms of Hits and physical presence in the line-up.

- The latest deal to be announced was the biggest and the only one affecting someone on the current Capitals Roster. GMGM acquired 32 year old Defenseman Joe Corvo from Carolina in exchange for 32 year old Defenseman Brian Pothier, 22 year old Left Wing Oskar Osala of the Hershey Bears, and the Capitals Second Round Pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Pothier was slated to be an UFA this summer and I didn't expect the Caps to resign him, Osala had a couple of shots at the NHL level but had as of yet to catch on, though he will have a better chance at cracking the Hurricanes roster as a scoring left wing since he's not competing with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann for that role. However, the price tag for Corvo seems a little high if we're just going for a rental. Don't get me wrong, I think Corvo is a good pickup and Corvo is slated to be a UFA at the end of this season. His current salary is $2.65M and if the Caps could resign him at or near that number for a 2 or even 3 year deal he's probably a keeper but if that happens then there will be other moves this summer as well. It is nice to see the Caps now have a veteran blueliner with experience playing Bruce Boudreau's system.

The general news and emotions on the wire from pundits like The Sporting News seems to be that the Caps and GMGM had a good day and strengthened their roster or improved depth in the areas they made moves so they can make a deep run in to the playoffs. I agree with Michael Peca, Joe Corvo should take some of the heat and attention of opposing teams gritty forwards like Sean Avery off of Mike Green. That should help Green stay healthier through a 5 or 7 game series and maybe it even opens up some more room for him on some of his shift. The grit that Walker and Belanger bring only adds to the grit that Knuble and Chimera brought earlier this season. Additionally Belanger brings in another solid responsible older statesman at Center ice to compliment Brendan Morrison and ass a little more depth there. All of which helps ease the pressure on young superstar Nicklas Backstrom.

I think these moves are all pretty good and all at a reasonable cost, some will bemoan the price paid for Corvo but if as I hope it takes some pressure and attention off Mike Green in one or more of the playoff series the Caps play this post season, the deal is probably worth it, the only real impact/price the Caps likely feel from it is the loss of a second round draft pick in 2011, as in terms of the swap of Pothier for Corvo, at worst that's a wash and it wasn't looking like Osala was making the roster any time in the next two seasons here in DC. Everything else didn't cost much except for the second round pick for Belanger in this year's draft and his presence on the roster means at the end of the season and playoffs the Caps have two experienced guys who will be UFA at the end of the season competing for the 2/3 spot on the depth chart for Centers that currently make $1.5M and $1.75M so that means they ought to be able to resign the one they want to keep for a reasonable, and affordable number under the Cap while giving Backstrom the raise he will get this year as an RFA. Jurcina is a known commodity and a positive locker room presence who returns to the team with more experience and upside than he left it with, and Walker is a heart and sould kind of player who basically "didn't cost nuttin'" and played well for Carolina in their playoff run last season so to me, that deal was a "no-brainer."

Now about tonight and Buffalo we have disappointed American Olympians Tim Connely and Ryan Miller vs. disappointed Russian, Czech and Swedish Olympians Ovechkin, Semin, Fleischmann and Backstrom. I don't see Jurcina making it to Buffalo and playing tonight so no disappointed Slovaks will be on the ice for the Capitals tonight. Buffalo is fighting it out these next twenty games with Pittsburgh, New Jersey and a resurgent Ottawa for playoff seeding and home ice advantage, so they are also motivated there. This is the second of a back to back for the Sabres, they lost 3-2 last evening in Pittsburgh. This will be a close, well played game so hopefully the Caps will re-start the season on a high note. It should be a fun one to watch as these are two well coached and talented teams. I won't make a prognostication but you know where my heart is. The Caps called up Hohn Carlson so it will be interesting to see if he plays tonight as well.
Welcome back Milan Jurcina, and welcome to DC Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, and Joe Corvo. BTW in case you haven't heard, this is our year.


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