Last week, I looked at some potential deals the Washington Capitals could make ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Now, I’m looking at the Caps’ recent deadline history and the implications those trades may have on their thinking this year. The Caps will want to replicate their successes and avoid repeating their failures, so both will be in the back of Brian MacLellan’s head when he takes calls this year.
2018: Acquired Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek
The Caps went for a subtle approach at the 2018 deadline, and it worked wonders. They gave up two mid-level draft picks (a 3rd for Kempny and a 5th for Jerabek) for two obscure defensemen.
With plenty of offensive skill on the blue line, the Caps were just looking for somebody to stabilize them defensively and chew up minutes as a reliable defensive guy. Though Jerabek never really established himself, Kempny became a top pair defensemen for the Caps through the playoffs, and they couldn’t have won the Cup without him.
Kempny’s story is incredible. A frequent healthy scratch on the Chicago Blackhawks in his second year in the NHL after leaving Europe, he admits he had decided with his agent that he just wasn’t good enough and would be returning to Europe after the 2018 season.
When the Caps traded for him, barely anybody even knew who he was. But he was so crucial to the Cup run that the Caps rewarded him with a four-year, $10 million contract after the season. This year, he’s proven worth every penny by continuing his reliable two-way play alongside John Carlson on the first pair.
The Caps were, unsurprisingly, thrilled with their performance at the 2018 deadline. So what does that mean for this year? It means that, all things being equal, they’ll prefer the more subtle deals over the flashy ones. That could mean something along the lines of the Bogdan Kiselevich acquisition I proposed. MacLellan won’t forget soon how well he did with Kempny.
2017: Acquired Kevin Shattenkirk, Pheonix Copley
This was the year of the blockbuster trade. The Caps were a historically good (regular season) team in 2017 and went all-in on the Cup by picking up one of the best defensemen in the league.
Though it didn’t work out to a Stanley Cup, I like this trade quite a bit. For one, Shattenkirk was valuable to the Caps in his time as a rental. He ran the top power play unit and scored an overtime winner in Game 3 against the Penguins that I’ll never forget (a goal like that makes you worth any price all by itself).
Moreover, the Caps didn’t give up all that much to get Shattenkirk. They traded the 27th overall pick (which St. Louis later traded to Philly, who picked Morgan Frost, who has yet to play an NHL game); Zach Sanford, a pretty meh prospect who hasn’t yet played a full NHL season; and Brad Malone, a minor leaguer.
Most importantly, though, the deal wasn’t entirely a mortgage of the Caps’ future because of Copley. The Caps had previously traded Copley to the Blues, and getting him back was a bonus that made this trade impressive. If the Caps do make a major trade this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to replicate this deal by picking up a bonus asset to make it worth it. I’d be surprised, though, if they gave up another first round pick.
2015: Acquired Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason
The 2015 deadline gave the Caps two aging players who had varying degrees of success. They overpaid for a declining skill player in Glencross, giving up 2nd and 3rd round picks. He had only one point in 10 playoff games and retired following the season. They won’t again give up high draft picks for an older player.
For Gleason, on the other hand, they traded Jack Hillen, a defenseman who ended his NHL career three games after the trade, and a fourth round pick used to pick a goalie who now plies his trade in the ECHL, the lowest rung in NHL-affiliated professional hockey. Gleason was a valuable defensive presence on the ice and veteran leader off it (think Brooks Orpik).
I don’t think the Caps feel they need an older player right now given the leadership presence already in the locker room. Still, if they were to make a deal for an older player, it’d be a Gleason trade, not a Glencross trade.
2013: Lost Filip Forsberg
There are some deals that are so awful that you can tell when they’re made how bad they are. In 2013, the Caps made one of those trades when they sent away one of the best prospects in hockey for
a bag of pucks Martin Erat and Michael Latta.
The Caps were extraordinarily lucky that Forsberg fell in their laps at the 11th pick in the 2012 draft. He was widely considered the third best player in the draft at the time. Time has shown that to be incorrect: he was the best of that draft class. This trade was a desperate stroke by then-GM George McPhee to retain his job. Needless to say, he lost it soon after.
I certainly hope the Caps have learned their lesson and never again trade away a top prospect. They don’t really have anyone of Forsberg’s caliber in the system, but they’ll be wary with losing any young player, including Andre Burakovsky. The return will have to really make it worth the potential.