NHL Trade Deadline: Washington Capitals
In past seasons, cracks didn't begin to show until the playoffs.
But as this season winds down, winger Alex Ovechkin is on pace for his lowest scoring season in the NHL and center Nicklas Backstrom -- even without Monday's thumb injury -- could struggle to reach the marks he set as a rookie. The team's lackluster scoring efforts, inconsistent goaltending and injuries that have resulted in stilted defensive pairings hardly inspire confidence heading into the playoffs where the Caps have flailed mightily.
So far, GM George McPhee has stuck with the squad he entered the season with -- minus November's trade that sent forward Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado in exchange for defenseman Scott Hannan. Defenseman Mike Green, out the last two weeks after a taking a shot to the head that caused an inner-ear injury, is expected to be back in the lineup later this week. With the return of Jeff Schultz from a broken thumb earlier this month, the team's defensive corps appear to be intact at the deadline.
A known entity in the scoring ranks certainly wouldn't hurt. A big splash would be had if the Caps moved Alexander Semin, a ghost in playoffs for the Caps in their recent runs. His contract was extended through the 2011-12 season a few weeks ago, so there might be a team willing to bite.
McPhee, who is one of the most tight-lipped executives in the league, has come out, along with coach Bruce Boudreau, to back the team's young goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. But neither has exactly shined this season, partly due to injuries, so it wouldn't be out of the question to ponder whether the team could make a move for a veteran goalie.
Another early exit could mean big changes for the Caps. As tolerant as owner Ted Leonsis has been, it's doubtful Boudreau and maybe even McPhee will be back next season if the Caps get downed in the first round again -- even if they don't enter as the Presidents' Trophy winners like a season ago. This could make the Caps major buyers before the deadline.