Reflections from a reporter born in 1987

With deadline moves, McPhee fills Caps' needs

February 28, 2011 - 07:39 PM
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Former Cap Dale Hunter: Wideman (Photo: Associated Press)

The needs of the Washington Capitals heading into this year's NHL trade deadline were obvious for all to see. The Capitals needed a second-line center. They needed more help on the back end as Mike Green and Tom Poti continue to struggle with injuries. And a little more forward depth certainly couldn't hurt, either.

So Capitals General Manager George McPhee went out and solved all three of those issues in turn. First, he picked up Marco Sturm on waivers from the Los Angeles Kings Saturday. Then, with hours to go before the trading deadline, McPhee dealt a third-round pick in this summer's NHL draft and prospect Jake Hauswirth to Florida for defenseman Dennis Wideman. Finally, as the clock ticked past 3:00 p.m. in the east, McPhee plugged the Caps' most obvious hole, dealing center David Steckel and Washington's 2nd-round pick in the 2012 NHL to New Jersey for veteran center Jason Arnott. 

For those of you keeping score, that's three veterans brought in for one roster player, one ECHL prospect, and two draft picks.

"I thought we did really well in that regard," McPhee told reporters Monday evening at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. "We did not give away a first-round pick, we did not give away any of our 'A' prospects. We took a player [Steckel] out of our roster that we loved. He's done really well for us here, he's become a solid NHL player, but we felt we had some depth [at fourth-line center] with Boyd Gordon and Jay Beagle, and if we were going to upgrade the club at another position, this was the asking price. You do it reluctantly, but it's a decision you have to make in this position sometimes. You know you have to do it to help yourself."

Washington's need for a second-line center had been acute since November 30, when Tomas Fleischmann, the previous holder of that title, was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Scott Hannan. It was difficult to argue with the logic behind the trade at the time, as the Caps needed defensive depth. But rookies Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault struggled to fill Fleischmann's shoes as the Capitals plunged toward the bottom half of the goals per game standings (they're currently 22nd, with 2.64 goals per game).

There is one potentially negative subplot that does bear watching here: the fact that the acquisition of Wideman might serve as a tacit admission that Mike Green's head injury might be more serious than first thought. Green, who is currently back in Calgary seeing to family matters following the death of his grandmother, took two hard hits to the head in the space of 19 days. The first came from a Brooks Orpik slap shot February 6 that caught Green on the side of the head. The second came this past Friday against the Rangers when Derek Stepan banged his shoulder into Green's head, a hit that earned him a fine from the NHL. McPhee confirmed today that Green would be held out for "at least a couple of weeks, maybe longer" while he continued to recover from his injuries.

On top of Green's injury, Tom Poti continues to struggle with the same lower-body injury that's kept him on the injured reserve list since January 13, making the acquisition of another puck-moving defenseman an absolute necessity.

"Not knowing Tom's status, I felt like, 'We may have to pick up another defenseman, but maybe we'll tough it out with what we have.'" McPhee said. "But then when Mike went down, it was really important to help this team now. And Wideman's seems to be a real good fit because he's an offensive guy, he's good on the power play, he's a right-handed shot. So we were pleased that we were able to do that deal."

It didn't hurt that Wideman got a ringing endorsement from former Capital Dale Hunter, who coached Wideman with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

"I called Dale this morning before we went forward on the deal to ask about this player," McPhee said. "And [Hunter] said great things about [Wideman], great competitor, real good person. And his final comment was, 'He'll block a shot with his face if he has to to win a game.' And I said, 'Well, that works for us.'"

Which leaves the Sturm pick-up, which not many were expecting, but made perfect sense to McPhee. "We saw one of his games last week, and when we saw him on waivers, we said 'This is an experienced player, who has speed, who when healthy consistently scores 20 goals, and it's not going to cost us a draft pick or a prospect, so why not try?"

 Notes: Poti and Eric Fehr (right shoulder injury, on IR since January 15) were placed on long-term injured reserve by the club, according to McPhee. This is less odious since this sounds, since the two can be recalled at anytime. NHL rules require a player on the long-term injured reserve list miss 24 days and 10 games before being recalled, and both Poti and Fehr have met that criteria ... McPhee also confirmed that center Jay Beagle and defenseman Tyler Sloan will remain on the Caps' roster for the rest of the season, as will D.J. King, who cleared waivers Monday afternoon after being placed on waivers Saturday ... McPhee said Arnott and Wideman should arrive in D.C. tonight and be available for tomorrow night's game against the New York Islanders (7:00 p.m., CSN).

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