Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Analyzing the Mike Fisher Trade: What It Means for the Caps

The move of Fisher (left) limits the Capitals' trade options.
Thursday, the Nashville Predators added another forward to their roster by trading for Senators center Mike Fisher, regarded by some as Ottawa's best player. The deal sends two draft picks, a first rounder this year and a conditional pick next year, to the Senators in return for Fisher. With the Senators out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and the Predators in another conference, you might be wondering why I am mentioning this.  The answer is simple: the Capitals can use a player like him.  He is not going to set the world on fire, but Fisher is a gritty, tough two-way forward who can score a bit (14 goals and 24 points this year) and contribute on the penalty kill.  As such, I think he would have been a great fit for the the Capitals' second line...
But he's not available anymore.  That means that if the Capitals are going to make a move for a second line center, which they should, their options are going to be limited for two reasons.  First of all, there are few players who fit what the Capitals need who are on teams who might be willing to deal.  Second of all, the Predators gave up a lot to get him: two draft picks, including a first rounder, is a bit excessive for anybody other than a good first line player.  That sets an extremely high standard as a starting point for any negotiations that the Capitals get involved in, and George McPhee learned his lesson about trading high draft picks away long ago.  This combination of circumstances makes it unlikely that the Capitals make a move.  But if they do, this is what the market will probably look like in terms of possible second-line centers:
Jason Arnott: After spending the last eight seasons in Dallas and Nashville, Arnott came back to the team that he won a Stanley Cup with in 2000, New Jersey, with hopes of winning another one on a revamped Devils team.  Whoops. The Devils have been awful all year, and Arnott has not been that much better, although his stats are pretty similar to Fisher's (13 goals and 24 points).  The Devils, though they have turned it up a bit recently, may deal Arnott; he is not part of their long-term plans at age 36 as they look to rebuild.  And therein lies the problem.  Arnott is old and a defensive liability, and the Capitals probably won't be willing to match what the Devils would demand even if they did go after him.  I do not see this one happening.
Stephen Weiss: Weiss is a career Florida Panther who has been with the franchise since they drafted him fourth overall in 2001.  He has 37 points this year, and is on pace to come close to his last two seasons where he scored 61 and 60 points, respectively.  He is a very fast skater and good penalty killer, and would be the best fit for the Caps at this point.  The Panthers are going nowhere this year as they, too, look to rebuild after several disappointing seasons in a row. Weiss is much younger than Arnott, only 27, but the Panthers would probably be willing to trade him for the right package.  He would cost a fortune, probably something along the lines of two draft picks and Andrew Gordon, but you never know with George McPhee.  He may be able to pull it off, and the Capitals would be much better with him.
RJ Umberger: Umberger gained fame in 2006 for being the man that Brian Campbell used as a crash-test dummy in a May playoff game between Umberger's Flyers and the Sabres.  Hidden in that unfortunate legacy, however, is a good hockey player. The 28 year old has hovered around 50 points per year in his NHL career, and is on pace to surpass that this year with Columbus, with 19 goals and 41 points on his ledger already.  Umberger is a good at faceoffs, too, so it would prevent Bruce Boudreau from needing to put Dave Steckel or Boyd Gordon out with Alex Semin and Brooks Laich late in a game, and is a responsible defensive player with a plus-7 rating.  The Blue Jackets are out of the playoff race, and have said they would be willing do deal some players, but it remains to be seen who.  If Washington got him, he would cost a lot, but, like Weiss, would make the Capitals a much better team.

The trade deadline is February 28th at 3 P.M. EST, which is not far off at all. Their upcoming west coast swing and road trip should be enough to tell McPhee if he needs to make a move.

Data from NHL.com was used in this post.

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