As trade deadline nears, Capitals are trying to ‘thread a needle’

As trade deadline nears, Capitals are trying to ‘thread a needle’

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

With less than a week to go until the NHL trade deadline, the Washington Capitals are still within striking distance. After Friday’s uplifting comeback win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals enter Sunday just six points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand on the Flyers, who are third in the Metropolitan Division.

That puts Washington General Manager Brian MacLellan in a tricky position. The only thing that’s clear at this point is the Capitals are no longer in the business of chasing rental players at the deadline, leveraging their future in hopes of making a push for another Stanley Cup title.

Beyond that, MacLellan will walk the tightrope for as long as he can. Washington has two more games before Friday’s trade deadline — at home against Arizona on Sunday afternoon and at Pittsburgh on Thursday. The results of those games — perhaps even just Sunday’s — are likely to be the final factors in MacLellan’s decisions.

“I think we’re in the mix,” he said Saturday. “I see the math that it’s unlikely, but you could get some help from other teams, too. We have a week left to make some decisions. I think our priority would be the future of our club. All decisions will be based on [that]. It’s not, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and rent a guy for the playoffs.’ We’re not in that game. We’re here to look for opportunities to find more young players, add more young players to our roster and compete — still compete.”

Last year, MacLellan traded defenseman Dmitry Orlov and winger Garnet Hathaway to the Boston Bruins, then flipped the first-round pick the Capitals received in that deal and defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for young defender Rasmus Sandin. In a perfect world, that’s the kind of deal Washington would pull off again.

“That would be ideal,” MacLellan said. “That would be the type of thing we’re looking to do.”

With Evgeny Kuznetsov on waivers, Caps see a chance for a ‘fresh start’

Making matters more difficult for MacLellan is the fact that a variety of other teams — including the Flyers, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders — remain in the mix, too, and all are waiting to see what their competitors do.

“We’re trying to thread a needle of being competitive and making good trades,” MacLellan said, “and it might go either way on us.”

MacLellan acknowledged the challenge of trying to thread that needle.

“It’s difficult to do, but that’s the spot we’re in,” he said. “We want to stay competitive, but we also want to incorporate young guys and develop young guys and have one eye on the future of our organization. Then we have some older guys that are finishing up careers that we remain respectful to.”

Capitals launch a furious rally, thump Flyers to boost playoff hopes

MacLellan met with captain Alex Ovechkin in recent days to discuss the team’s approach as the deadline nears. MacLellan made it clear Ovechkin isn’t thrilled Washington is more likely to be a seller than a buyer.

“Ovi wants to win,” MacLellan said. “He puts pressure on us — ‘I want to win’ — which is a good thing. I get it.”

Washington’s commitment to keeping the team around Ovechkin competitive as he approaches Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goals record is in the background of every decision. As the deadline gets closer, MacLellan has plenty of decisions to make as he keeps one eye on the future and the other on a potential playoff chase.

“We’re not going to sit here and just dump players at the deadline,” he said. “I think if something makes sense for us, if it’s a good trade and I think it’s good value or it helps our organization, we have to consider it. But just to blindly go in and say we’re just getting rid of all these guys, we’re not going to do that.”

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