Nothing to Gain? Should a limited UFA Pool Lead the Capitals to Hold Steady at the Trade Deadline?Posted on February 25, 2014 by Adam Stringham
The players most commonly traded on trade deadline day are players whom are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) at the end of the season. A few weeks ago I showed how the Capitals have managed their salary cap space/contracts and as such they will be very limited at the trading deadline. According to CapGeek the Capitals have less than 200,000 dollars in functional salary cap space. This limited cap space will require the Capitals to make player for player trades (rather than player for prospect). Here is a general graph of some of the top UFAs; all positions and teams are included.
As you can see a large portion of the players do not contribute positively to their team's possession statistics. It is important to remember that any potential deal will be limited by the amount of salary cap space lost versus gained. Here is a quick refresher on how the Capitals' salaries break down:
Despite playing better right before the break I still I feel pretty safe in assuming that there is not a lot of interest in acquiring Brooks Laich around the National Hockey League. The Capitals' most movable contract belongs to Grabovski and trading him would do nothing but significantly hurt the team. In order to really see who was available that might be able to help the Capitals I filtered all of the UFAs into two separate graphs; one of defenseman and another of centers. I believe the Capitals biggest deficiencies are the result of lacking natural centers and not having a very successful shutdown pairing.
A true shutdown defenseman plays the vast majority of his minutes against the opposition's best players. The players who have the toughest opposition on this graph are unsurprisingly Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh) and Dan Girardi (NYR). Both of the previously mentioned players are on playoff bound teams and are therefore very unlikely to be moved, it is even more unlikely that they would be traded to Washington or any other team within the Metropolitan division.
I believe that Sami Salo (TBL) looks like the best short term option, he has strong possession statistics despite playing relatively tough opponents. However he, like Orpik and Girardi, is likely unavailable due to being on a playoff quality team. None of the other UFAs really stand out to me as potentially successful shut down defenseman. On to the centers.
The most realistic option for the Capitals is Marcel Goc (30 years old) of the Florida Panthers. He is a solid player on a reasonable contract. If the Capitals are able to find a way to fit him in, Goc could be a solid depth center for the club.
The UFA market is going to be very weak during the off season. I really believe the Capitals should focus more on resigning Mikhail Grabovski than on acquiring any new players at the trade deadline. The UFA pool this year is very limited and Grabo will go for a large sum if he makes it to the market. The Capitals have more to lose than they do to gain at this year’s TDL…In Kuznetsov we trust.
1. I spent the entire Olympics rooting for anyone but Canada, so of course they won.
2. I feel terrible for Backstrom.
3. Ovechkin deserves to win something…now.