Despite a fairly explosive offense (when it works), the Washington Capitals have problems on the blue line. Two of their current D-men (Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey) have less than a dozen NHL games between them on their resumes and are better suited for the AHL. Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan has hinted he’s in the market to add defensive depth – or soon will be – and he shouldn’t waste any more time.
A Team In Need Of A Defenseman
During the offseason, Washington lost three starting defensemen to either free agency or the expansion draft. One of those players, Karl Alzner, was an iron man for the Capitals; he missed only a couple of games during his nine seasons in Washington. Alzner was nearly always paired with John Carlson (another defenseman who has barely missed a game during his D.C. tenure) and that kind of stability was present for the past seven years. It’s gone now.
The other two starters to move on were Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk, to the Vegas Golden Knights and the New York Rangers, respectively. And, with veteran Matt Niskanen currently out on long-term injured reserve with an upper-body injury, the Capitals now have huge problems clearing their own zone, holding on to the puck and creating any offense from their defense. The team has allowed 17 goals in the four games since Niskanen was injured. In short, it’s a mess – and a trip out West this week to face Vancouver (Thursday), Edmonton (Saturday) and Calgary (Sunday) isn’t going to improve anything.
The Defensemen To Consider
So, what should MacLellan do? He has a solid-gold trading commodity in goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov – currently playing in the KHL. Unlike the awful mess created the last time the Capitals traded their top prospect away, (is Martin Erat or Filip Forsberg currently a household name in NHL circles?), a trade involving Samsonov would actually help Washington. Once he’s done cutting his teeth in Russia, and returns to North America, there is no way that Samsonov could challenge Braden Holtby for the number one netminding spot, and that makes him a great bargaining chip right now.
Ultimately, who are the defensemen that MacLellan might consider trading for?
Nate Schmidt: Why not bring back someone who is already familiar with the team? It’s well known that Vegas Golden Knights GM (and former Capitals GM) George McPhee wants to offer up any of his veteran defenseman. The Capitals team last season was so good that letting Schmidt leave in the expansion draft was the lesser of 23 evils. He signed a two-year deal with Vegas, making $2.15 million this term and $2.3 million next season. Putting Schmidt back in DC would improve the Caps’ blue line overnight.
Mike Green: Another former Capital who might be on MacLellan’s radar, Green is playing well right now for the Detroit Red Wings and his club would be extremely hesitant to let him go. However, he’ll be a UFA after this season, making Green trade fodder in the coming weeks and months. He’s an attacking and big defenseman who was a crowd favorite in Washington. Bringing him back would add a much-needed offensive-minded veteran to the mix. Green is playing his last season of a three-year deal worth $6 million a year for Detroit, so a trade deal involving him would involve a lot more than just Samsonov going the other way.
Chris Tanev: Vancouver’s Tanev is reportedly on the trading block and would be a great fit for the Capitals. Cut from the same cloth as Niskanen, the veteran has played 356 games for the Canucks since his first season back in 2010-11. The Canucks are rebuilding (again) and getting a future superstar goalie (as well as something more to sweeten the deal) might suit them. Tanev is three years into a $22.25 million five-year deal in Vancouver and will make $4 million this season.
The Capitals have an explosive top-six offense, a mediocre bottom-six and two rookie defenseman – each of whom put pressure on the blue-line vets to be perfect each and every game; they’re not perfect, and the Capitals will continue to let in four or five goals a game until the D-chasm is filled.