George McPhee delivers on deadline day

George McPhee made the trades on deadline day that will lift the Capitals back into the contender discussion.  McPhee was able to acquire Dennis Wideman from the Florida Panthers, and Jason Arnott from the New Jersey Devil.  In addition, the Caps acquired Marco Sturm off the waiver wire on Saturday from the Los Angeles Kings.  Sturm was placed on waivers by the Kings so they could make room for additional acquisitions on trade deadline day.  The Caps staked their claim on Sturm and didn’t look back.

The acquisition of Jason Arnott is truly the headliner though.  The lack of a quality second line center on the Capitals roster goes back two years when McPhee acquired Sergei Fedorov at the deadline.  When Fedorov left for the KHL, the giant hole re-appeared and hasn’t been filled by an experienced NHL regular since.  Arnott’s acquisition helps the Capitals in two ways.  First, he brings Stanley Cup experience, he is a big body, and has a cannon of shot from anywhere on the ice.  Finally Alex Semin may have the center iceman he has needed for all these years.  With Semin scoring 40 goals a season without a bonified center iceman, Caps fans are licking their chops at the production we may see from him with a guy like Arnott as his pivot.  Secondly, Arnott is will be a godsend to the power play which has been absolutely dreadful this season.  I see him being a good fit either on the left half-wall, or using his size in front of the net to pound home rebounds.  Although Arnott is having his worst season statistically, keep in mind that he was playing for the New Jersey Devils, who up until the firing of John McLean was the worst team in the NHL.  With the star power on the Caps roster, you can expect Arnott’s productivity to jump as well.

If there is any concern to be had with this deal, it has to do with Arnott’s speed.  Will Arnott be able to keep up with Semin and the newly acquired Marco Sturm?  This is yet to be determined, and only game action will give us any clues to whether this concern is legitimate.

So what did Jason Arnott cost the Capitals?  David Steckel and a 2nd round pick will be headed the other way.  David Steckel was a great role player for the Capitals, but for the money he was being paid, was probably on the short list of players to be traded.  At a $1 million per season, that was lot for a player whose primary contribution was winning faceoffs.  Those types of players can be found at much cheaper rates.  Steckel was buried on the 4th line and wasn’t much of a contributor offensively.  That said, Steckel is a very serviceable NHL player.  He will thrive in the Devils system which is dedicated his style of play; solid defensively and great on the forecheck.  He’s also the NHL’s top ranked faceoff man.  Despite this move likely being a rental move, this will clear the $1 million in salary off Capitals’ salary cap.

George McPhee was already in on the trade deadline action before the Arnott trade.  The Capitals were able to acquire Dennis Wideman for prospect Jake Hauswirth and a 3rd round pick.  With injuries to Mike Green and Tom Poti, a move for another defenseman was smart.  There is no real time frame for Poti’s return, so the acquiring a puck moving defenseman was smart.  Additionally, Mike Green is expected to be out of the lineup for the next three weeks.  But the primary reason this move was made was to provide a spark to the anemic power play.  Wideman was previously the quarterback of the Panthers power play.  He has a heavy shot from the point, which is something the Caps could use should they now place Ovechkin on the left circle, which is something I’ve been preaching all season.  Wideman success on the power play speaks for itself.  He is averaging 3.31 points per 60 minutes on the power play.  That is almost a full point better than any current Capitals’ defenseman, including Mike Green.  And remember, those stats were for a Florida Panthers power play whose effective rate on the road was in the single digits at one point this season.

Wideman also brings playoff experience which no team can have to much of.  Marco Sturm is quoted as saying Wideman was the Bruin’s best defenseman two seasons ago when they went to the Eastern Conference Finals.  But as we know all roster moves have repercussions.  Wideman is signed through next season at $4 million.  With the two year extension Poti signed earlier this season, it appears pending UFA Scott Hannan may be the odd man out.  Hannan has been solid in his 35 games since being traded for Tomas Fleischmann in late November.  He is a solid veteran presence in the locker room.  It will interesting to see what McPhee does with Hannan’s contract.  My guess is Hannan will be the casualty.

Not only has this been a successful trade deadline day for the Capitals and George McPhee, if you include trades made earlier in the season it’s been a great few months for the Capitals organization.  The Caps have added Jason Arnott, Dennis Wideman, Scott Hannan, and Marco Sturm in exchange for David Steckel, Tomas Fleischman, Jake Hauswirth, a 2nd round pick, and a 3rd round pick.  The Caps have picked up skill, depth, and veteran leadership for what hopes to be a long post season.  I’ll severely question anyone who thinks the Capitals are worse off today than they were a week ago.

It was no secret what additions the Capitals had to make in order to be considered a legit contender.  George McPhee addressed each of those issues without having to part ways with a top 6 forward, a defenseman, or any of the three prized goaltenders in the organization.  The Capitals won today’s unofficial trade deadline contest.  Now let’s just see if they can carry that momentum into the last 20 games of the season, the post season, and eventually a Stanley Cup.

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About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.

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