It was a relatively quiet day around the NHL on Monday. Despite the league's annual trade deadline, there was very little activity and even the trades that were made were relatively minor moves.
The general opinion for this inactivity was due to so many teams being on the verge of the playoffs. And as the Flyers showed a couple of years ago...all you need is a chance.
So, from a Bears perspective...
This is great news. If the Caps were buyers they likely would have traded prospects and/or draft picks. Both of which would have hurt the Bears at the very least down the road, if not this season.
If the Caps were sellers they likely would have traded off their soon-to-be free agents and aging players for draft picks and prospects. That would have been bad news for this season as Hershey likely would have lost players like Cody Eakin and Tomas Kundratek for the remainder of the season. That would have been good news for future years though as Hershey would have seen an influx of new talent from the picks.
But neither happened and the Caps and Bears enter the stretch run with their rosters still (relatively) intact.
Now, from a Caps perspective....
I think this was a mistake. And I don't think the Caps should have been buyers, which it would appear they were trying to do.
I understand that the Caps are right in the playoff race (8th as of this morning). But the Caps aren't the Florida Panthers or Winnipeg Jets. Their goal is not just to make the playoffs. Their goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Making the playoffs is not good enough.
Nor should it be.
I understand that all you need is a chance. But has this Caps team shown anyone anything over the past 2+ months to convince you that they will be able to win 4 out of 7 against a top Eastern Conference team? Have they shown you anything to convince you that they can even win 4 of 7 against a bad Eastern Conference team?
They haven't shown me anything.
So why not trade your soon-to-be free agents (Semin, Wideman, Vokoun) and some of the aging players (Knuble, Hamrlik) for picks and prospects. Even if you don't get "fair" market value, isn't it better to get something for these players than to watch them all leave this summer for nothing.
You can't honestly tell me that no teams would have offered a nice package for Alexander Semin. Or Wideman. Or Vokoun.
Trade them now, get some high picks or young playmakers, and be better positioned for the next 5 years instead of the rest of this one.
I keep reading that the Caps have a ton of talented prospects in the system. Where? Goalies, yeah they have a few of those. Orlov...obviously but he is already in the NHL. Eakin...yeah, but I am not sure anyone is convinced that he will be a top 6 forward in the NHL. Kuznetsov...I will give you that (although he may not leave Russia). Galiev...maybe.
After those players is Mattias Sjogren, listed at #6 by Hockey's Future. He couldn't manage to compete at the AHL level let alone the NHL. Brett Flemming is #8. He has played well for the Bears, but can't even maintain a spot there let alone in Washington. He seems like a fringe NHL defenseman at this point.
There isn't much talent in the Caps system outside of the goaltenders. I am not sure what everyone is looking at.
Then I saw a post from someone saying something like...if you sell off members of this team, you are just signaling to the rest of the team that you have given up on them this year.
Yeah...but didn't the players give up first? Didn't they give up Boudreau back when everyone was healthy? Haven't they played like crap for months now?
Obviously trading Wideman would hurt. But you would still have Green, Carlson, Alzner, and Orlov as your top 4 defenseman with Erskine and Schultz as well. Plus you recall Kundratek. Or you play a defensemen you got in one of the trades. I don't think that top 6 would be that bad. Surely not any worse than what they have been to date.
Yes, Semin is arguably the best player in Washington right now. But do you really think the team would play much worse without him in the lineup? Semin is a top NHL scoring talent. No question. But he doesn't make the players around him better the way a Nicklas Backstrom does. Or the way a Keith Aucoin does.
Yes, without Semin the team might not make the playoffs. But guess what, with Semin...the team might not make the playoffs. And you probably could have gotten a very nice group of players/picks in return.
Vokoun...Neuvirth can handle the duties along with Holtby.
Knuble and Hamrlik...they aren't playing anyways.
And who knows what kind of pieces the Caps might have gotten in return. Maybe a couple of players that were "almost there" NHL players. Young guys, highly drafted, who are starring in the AHL or picking-up valuable, yet fringe, minutes in the NHL just waiting for their chance. The Blackhawks have a few of them. Rumor has it they wanted a top 4 defenseman and were willing to part with one. Were they not interested in Wideman?
Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe McPhee was trying to trade for the future and couldn't pull off a single move. It is possible. But not likely. My guess is that the Caps were looking for that elusive 2nd line center that they have been unable to locate for the past few years. And that player wasn't available for the right price.
And this was the perfect year to be a seller. You had 20+ teams looking to buy players and only a few looking to sell. You weren't going to get a ton for some of the guys, but you would have gotten enough to make yourselves better next year and multiple years after that.
Instead you go into the offseason with the likelihood of losing all the players that would have garnered attention this past week.
And instead of having future stars to replace them, you have fringe prospects and overpriced free agents (see: Joel Ward).