The NHL trade season is finally here. The trade deadline isn’t officially until Feb. 25, but rumors will continue to build throughout the month as Cup contenders look to improve their rosters.
For now, I’m proposing three hypothetical trades the Washington Capitals could make at the deadline. The Caps have long been an active deadline team, largely due to their status as perennial contenders. This year is no different; they’re likely to try to bolster their roster with one or two moves this month.
Before I get into specific trades, it’s important to clarify what the Caps will be looking for and what they’ll be willing to give up. They’re unlikely to move anyone on their everyday roster, with one notable exception: Andre Burakovsky, whose name has come up in trade rumors since December. In return, they’ll try to get one or more of a middle six forward, a fourth line center/face-off specialist, and a depth defenseman.
Trade #1: 2019 4th Round Pick to FLA for Bogdan Kiselevich
Kiselevich and this trade remind me of Michal Kempny and the trade Brian MacLellan made to add him last year, which I firmly believe was the best deadline deal the Caps have ever made. This is also the most realistic of the three deals I’m proposing given that the Caps’ more subtle trades have been much more successful than their aggressive ones in recent years.
Much like Kempny, Kiselevich has struggled to find success in the NHL after coming over from Europe. In fact, the Panthers just re-assigned the 6’0” Russian to their AHL affiliate after he was scratched four games in a row. Much like the Blackhawks gave up on Kempny last year, the Panthers appear to have completely given up on Kiselevich, meaning the Caps can get him for next to nothing.
But the 28-year-old NHL rookie could be a solid shutdown defenseman for the Caps. Despite his top-line struggles, his advanced statistics are encouraging: his 51.8 Corsi for percentage is better than any regular Caps defenseman. That number comes with caveats: it’s only through 31 games played and involves some fairly sheltered minutes (55.8 percent offensive zone starts), but it still indicates his ability to be a good defensive player. Kiselevich is a left shot, so I’d use him to replace Brooks Orpik on the third pair.
The Caps saved Kempny’s career when they traded for him. I think they can they do the same for Kiselevich.
Trade #2: Andre Burakovsky to EDM for Jesse Puljujärvi
This simple, like-for-like trade is attractive in that it makes sense for all involved, including both players. Both Burakovsky and Puljujärvi are highly skilled young players who aren’t living up to their potential. Both could help their new teams and benefit from a change of scenery.
Burakovsky, a 2013 first round pick, would rejoin his junior linemate Connor McDavid, who also happens to be the best player in the world. If playing on a line with McDavid doesn’t jumpstart Burakovsky’s career production, then nothing will. Edmonton needs to find scoring wingers to help McDavid, and Burakovsky has the potential to be one for years to come.
Puljujärvi, the No. 4 pick in 2016, is younger than Burakovsky and arguably has more potential, but he’s struggled to produce within Edmonton’s shallow forward group. Puljujärvi wouldn’t be a top-six forward for Washington, but Lars Eller and Brett Connolly on the Caps’ third line would be a huge upgrade from his current linemates, and that could be the help he needs to start scoring.
Trade #3: Lucas Johansen, 2019 3rd Round Pick to NJD for Marcus Johannsson
This trade is difficult to predict because some salary cap magic would have to happen to fit Johansson’s cap hit. A more realistic scenario for this trade might be the Caps flipping Burakovsky for picks and using them for this trade, providing more cap relief. Still, given current assets, I think this is pretty reasonable for both sides. The Devils are looking to get something for their pending UFA and the Caps add scoring depth
Reuniting Johansson with the team where he had his most productive years is a logical proposition. He could slot in easily on a third line with Eller and Connolly, adding more speed and skill than Dmitrij Jaskin or Chandler Stephenson and more defensive responsibility than Burakovsky.
Lucas Johansen is a good young player, but you have to be willing to part with assets to go all-in on the Stanley Cup. He’s a first round pick and will likely be an NHL defenseman in a few years, but the Caps have fantastic organizational depth at the position and can afford to lose a prospect to help their team now. They could also replace him with Madison Bowey, Connor Hobbs, or a number of other young defensemen in this trade.
It’s really difficult to predict all the intricacies of NHL trade talks, even when you’re just analyzing one team. The Caps may or may not make any of these trades, but all of them would help them repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Let me know what you think the Caps will/should do at the deadline on Twitter or Facebook!