All year long, many anticipated the Capitals to be heavily involved in acquiring a center for their second line and a defenseman. After Washington seemed all too quiet, they made two moves on the trade deadline, adding Dennis Wideman from Florida and Jason Arnott from New Jersey. The moves add depth to Washington’s blueline and a second line center who brings leadership and playoff experience.
At around 11 a.m. the Capitals made a move to bring Florida Panthers defenseman Dennis Wideman to Washington. The Panthers have considered themselves sellers this trade season, and Wideman cost them a $3.9 million cap hit; far too much for a team looking to rebuild again. Thus, the Caps were able to get Wideman for a deep minor leaguer in Jake Hauswirth, and a 2011 third round draft pick; a low-risk offer on Washington’s part.
With Caps defenseman Mike Green suffering from two head injuries in such a short period of time and is out for one to two weeks, and Tom Poti remains injured (and is susceptible to constant injury), Wideman helps to fill that hole. An offensive defenseman, the 27-year-old blueliner has 9 goals and 24 assists, and led the Panthers in power play goals. As the Caps’ power play continues to struggle, Wideman could help in those regards, especially with the most important piece to that power play missing in Green. One main issue on the Caps’ power play is the need to shoot the puck and Wideman is used to a power play system that forces players to shoot the puck; therefore, he could potentially help to increase the amount of actual chances and shots on net for Washington’s power play.
As far as Wideman’s defensive capabilities go, some have cautioned Caps fans for his uncanny ability to turn the puck over often by the blueline, among other careless defensive mistakes. He is also a -26, although placing him on a better roster might help to improve his plus/minus stats. He does have 100 blocked shots on the year, placing him just 13 behind the Caps’ blocked shots leader, John Carlson. Wideman’s role is to be an offensive defenseman, and on a team like Washington, it is possible that all of his defensive liabilities are no longer an issue.
Dennis Wideman Trade Grade: B-
The final trade Washington made just before the deadline involved trading away fourth line center David Steckel and a 2012 second rounder for New Jersey’s Jason Arnott. The 36-year-old center currently has 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points with the Devils and is a -9. All of that can be discounted though because for about 75 percent of the season, the Devils were hovering over last place and played extremely poorly. Putting Arnott on a team like the Caps could aid him in a resurgence for his season, and Washington’s offense.
In obtaining Arnott, the Caps had to give away Dave Steckel, who, besides being notorious for knocking Sidney Crosby to the ice in the Winter Classic, is also known for his size and efficiency at the faceoff circle. In the Capitals’ “new style” of being defensive and trying to be more physical, Steckel’s size did well to accompany that style. However, Arnott is 6’5”, 220 lbs, and can hold his own on the ice. Not to mention, the Caps do have other options to plug in at center on the fourth line, such as Boyd Gordon.
Having been with New Jersey, Arnott has played in a defensive system before, and can help to define and solidify that for Washington, while still producing. While this is not the most important aspect he can bring, it certainly is something to consider and it works in Washington’s favor.
Finally, Arnott provides leadership. He has won it all with New Jersey in 2000, and has appeared deep in the playoffs multiple times with them. For a team that has hardly anybody that’s gone past the second round, Arnott has that experience and can add to Washington what Sergei Fedorov added to the team in 2008. The Capitals did well with this, killing two bird with one stone for intangibles and the need for someone to center the second line.
Even though Steckel provided good, hard work for Washington, they had to part with him to get a guy to fill that gaping hole on the second line. Size for size and a status upgrade? I’ll take.
Jason Arnott Trade Grade: B+
Overall Trade Grade: B
Some may call me a tough grader (I got graded pretty harshly during my college years, maybe that’s why), but Washington did just
what I thought was necessary for them to make moves towards being a true Stanley Cup contender. By acquiring the second line center who is also a veteran player for leadership, and a little bit of defensive insurance, they took care of their needs.
The Wideman deal overall role on the team is to be an offensive defenseman, and the move is similar to what the Caps did last year in getting Joe Corvo from Carolina last year. But what the Caps cannot afford is to have this turn out just like that Corvo deal — a waste of space on the team.
While possibly better options such as Radek Martinek from the New York Islanders or Matt Hunwick from the Colorado Avalanche could have been tried, the asking price might have been higher and less easy for the Capitals, especially for a defenseman who seems like nothing but an insurance for Mike Green. However, considering Caps GM George McPhee’s familiarity with Avs GM Greg Sherman, a deal there might have been able to be done. Nonetheless, not much was given up for him and he provides a little bit of defensive depth in the face of injuries.
The Arnott deal brought the team’s grade up, though, seeing as he was on the Caps’ radar all along and gives the team more than many other centers could give.
With the main concern being a center for the Caps, McPhee had told Caps’ senior writer Mike Vogel yesterday that he likes Marcus Johansson in the second center spot. Having said that, if Washington is trying to win soon (like, this year), as good as Johansson looks like he will be, developing a player in such a high role would have been a questionable move. To give Johansson another year or two to form his responsibilities in a much lesser role should help him in the long run. Arnott in replacing Johansson as a rental player should give the team a better chance now.
What Washington also needed to consider were the missing intangibles. The lack of identity, and seemingly a loss of confidence, the Capitals had to consider bringing in a leader who has been through the playoffs and can be vocal at times. Arnott provides just that, and not only has he been through the playoffs, but has been to the Finals and has won the Cup.
Some were concerned that the Capitals were not going to do anything, and that Saturday’s waiver pick up of Marco Sturm was going to be the only move since Tomas Fleischmann was moved for Scott Hannan earlier this season. All the other general managers were making moves and going after all the players that filled their team’s voids. It was difficult to watch it all happen, when all the problems with the Caps seemed so glaring and obvious.
These moves made by Washington finally show the fans, observers, and the players on the team that there is a commitment to winning in Washington soon, and McPhee deserves praise for making that statement today. How these trades will pan out will have to wait, as the Caps sit as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals will need to begin gearing for the playoffs now with the squad they have, but it will be an interesting final 17 games in the regular season.
Note: Washington’s next game will be tomorrow at home against the New York Islanders.