Caps Make Moves For Playoffs

By Rick Davis
In case you don’t read much about hockey or have been living in a cave, the Capitals made a couple of moves that could turn out to have a serious impact on the upcoming postseason. The one that really sticks out is the acquisition of Trevor Linden and Danius Zubrus from Montreal in exchange for Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis. The Capitals also traded their first round pick in the upcoming draft in exchange for New Jersey’s second round pick to sweeten the deal for Montreal. Washington also acquired Jason Marshall from Anaheim in exchange for Alexei Tezikov and a fourth-round pick, and swapped AHLers by trading Matt Herr to the Flyers for defenseman Dean Melanson. John and I will look at these deals and try to see what they mean for the Capitals and their affiliates, both in the short and long term.

The Deal With Montreal:
Washington gets: Trevor Linden (some salary picked up by Montreal), Danius Zubrus, New Jersey’s 2001 second round pick
Montreal gets: Richard Zednik, Jan Bulis, Washington’s 2001 first round pick

Both John and I like this deal a lot. I hate to trade Zednik, but it takes quality to get quality in return these days in the NHL, at least most of the time. Linden is a proven playoff performer (with 80 points in 79 career playoff games), and will hopefully provide the Capitals with a physical presence in the playoffs if and when they face teams such as Philadelphia and New Jersey. Earlier in the year, Washington was ready to deal Peter Bondra for Danius Zubrus, so you have to think the Capitals are pretty high on him. John thinks that Zubrus is the most talented player in the deal, and I am inclined to believe him. Given his size and natural talent, he could be an impact player for the Capitals for years to come. However, a questionable work ethic has been the downfall of many a talented player and only time will tell if Danius can fulfill his potential.

The swap of draft picks bugged both John and myself, but in a deep draft such as the upcoming one it would probably be better to have two second round picks instead of a first round pick and no second round pick. McPhee showed his faith in his scouting staff by essentially trading down instead of trading away a draft pick. In other words, I am glad we got a draft pick in return because I think the depth of the draft is such that we should be able to pick up two NHL-caliber players in this draft, late in the second round. Of course, there is always the possibility that Washington will trade up again on draft day.

In giving up Zednik and Bulis, Washington gives up a ton of speed. These guys have good skill, but both still could learn a lot and improve their games. Hopefully for Montreal’s sake, the increase in ice time and media pressure will translate into production for them. Zednik played extremely well in the playoffs in 1998, and as many Caps fans know on a recent “Zed Head” night, he scored a hat trick, so the possibility of thriving under pressure is certainly there for him. Bulis had been upset with his lack of ice time and had asked to be traded, so hopefully he can find a new home in Montreal.

The Deal With Anaheim:
Washington Gets: Jason Marshall (UFA after this year)
Anaheim Gets: Alexei Tezikov, Washington 2001 fourth round pick

With Dmitri Mironov out for the season (and possibly his career over) Washington felt that they needed to add a physical veteran defenseman for depth in the playoffs. Jason Marshall had played for coach Ron Wilson in Anaheim, and so Washington sent the talented Alexei Tezikov and a fourth rounder to Anaheim to get him. As an upcoming unrestricted free agent, Washington should be entitled to a draft pick if they do not resign Marshall after this year, and that may be why Anaheim demanded something in addition to a draft pick. John feels that we gave up too much in this deal; I have to wuss out on this one and say that I don’t know Marshall well enough to know if he is worth what we gave up for him. Certainly Tezikov is a talented (though underachieving) defenseman. The Capitals expected him to be in the NHL by now, and trading him could be a real roll of the dice. He has the talent to be an NHL all-star, but hasn’t shown that he is willing to do the work necessary to bring his game to that level. With defensemen such as Ross Lupaschuk and Nolan Yonkman tentatively pencilled into Portland’s lineup next season, Washington apparently felt that Tezikov was expendable and therefore included him in the deal.

The Deal With Philadelphia:
Washington gets: Dean Melanson
Philadelphia gets: Matt Herr

As John pointed out, Portland needed veteran defensemen pretty badly with the injury to Jamie Huscroft and Rob Zettler’s call up. Dean Melanson should provide that, as well as providing some of the physical play that Portland lost after Washington traded Remi Royer to Florida for a veteran forward, David Emma. Matt Herr is an unrestricted free agent after this year, so the Capitals could even sign him again this summer if they wanted to.

All things considered, John and I both like the moves the Caps made, although certainly the best judge of these deals will be time. Hopefully, the Capitals will be able to put forward a respectable playoff run and play well enough to give them a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup this season. Whether these moves prove to be successful or not, it should be extremely interesting to watch. Thanks to John Blankenship for his contributions to this article.