George McPhee brought in two veterans, Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman into the fold today

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that the Jake Hauswirth era is over. Hauswirth was packaged along with Washington’s 3rd round selection in the 2011 draft for defenseman Dennis Wideman. The 3rd round pick is minor, since a player drafted in that round plays an average of 71 NHL games — total for their career — while they amass an eye popping 24 points. But the Caps lost Hauswirth, so a moment of silence.

Now let’s focus on picking up the pieces, and see what goodies George McPhee got Caps fans.

With Poti on LTIR and Green out for a few weeks after an elbow to the head, the Caps picked up another puck moving defenseman in Dennis Wideman. It’s important to note that this isn’t a rental. Wideman has a year left after this one valued at a $3,937,500 cap hit. So let’s look at the present and possible future.

Wideman has been on the ice for 3.31 power play points per 60 minutes of ice time, more than any other Washington blue-liner. His eight power play goals this year would lead Washington’s current roster, despite playing on a worse (yes, worse) power play unit in Florida.

At even strength, many will point to Wideman’s minus-26 +/- rating and conclude he is a liability in his own end, however, it is probably due to goalies managing a dismal .886 save percentage when he has been on the ice. If he gets anywhere close to the 5v5 save percentage Washington’s defenseman get, we should see a quick improvement.

As for 2011-12, I admit I had some concerns, but it looks like Wideman might not be a terrible value at the $4 million cap hit. If we use similar players at the same age for comparison, we can expect the following production during the 2011-12 season:

Player Year GP G A Pts PPG Shots TOI GVT
Dennis Wideman 2012 proj 76 7 27 34 3 126 1776 9.9

For Wideman’s cap hit we should expect about 10.5 goals above what a replacement player would produce, and Wideman’s 9.9 is right in line with that. The true downside of taking on this contract — barring an offseason trade — is it probably signals the end of the Scott Hannan era after this season. And that is a true loss.

Jason Arnott also will be rocking the red, but at the expense of fan favorite faceoff force David Steckel and a 2nd rounder in the 2012 draft.

I have mixed feelings about this one. Arnott is clearly an upgrade over Steckel offensively, but I wonder who is going to take the defensive zone faceoffs. Boyd Gordon will certainly fill that void at the beginning, but nagging injuries don’t give me the warm and fuzzies that he can be a reliable solution. The more probable outcome is that Backstrom will be left carrying most of that burden, and that means less offensive zone starts for him and Ovechkin. Make no mistake, it does make a difference. Look at how percentage of starts in the offensive zone affects even strength points per 60 minutes while on the ice over the last three years throughout the league:

Ozone% 5v5 Pts/60
25-35 1.18
35-45 1.51
45-55 1.77
55-65 1.94
65-75 2.27

This season, Ovechkin has seen 50.6% of his starts in the offensive zone and has been on ice for 2.37 EV points per 60, Backstrom 51.7% and 1.94 pts/60. Last year, Ovechkin saw 55.6% and 3.70 pts/60, Backstrom 58% and 3.03 pts/60. In contrast, the Sedins see over 70% of their starts in the offensive zone. Is this the sole reason for the Caps offensive woes? Of course not, but I don’t see Arnott easing that burden either.

Since New Jersey’s progression to the mean, Arnott’s production has decreased, not only seeing less points per game but also slightly reduced ice time as well. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a good deal for Washington, who shed a not so great contract and get some more offensive firepower to go along with a solid playoff resume. I just am skeptical it will help as much as others may think.

  • Jon

    Has Scott Hannan really endeared himself that much to you?

  • Colin

    Hannan has proven himself to me. I’d love for the Caps to find a way to start next season with Green-Hannan, Carlson-Alzner and Wideman-Erskine as their top 6. That is a quality blueline. Of course, it would me finding a way to bury Poti’s very ill-advised contract and finding a way to move Schultz, which may be possible if they expect nothing but a salary dump. With those as the top 6, the Caps could say goodbye to Knuble, Arnott and have bout $7M to get a good 2C and an extra winger. Probably not going to happen, but I’d like it.

  • Christophe

    Two trades, three 6’5” centers involved. JESUS.

    And Colin, I think you re-sign Knuble because you know exactly what you’re getting from him and his price will, at the very worst, stay flat.

  • Christophe

    And I wouldn’t be opposed to shipping Sloan and Schultz back to Calgary for “future considerations” or some other such joke of a return.

  • RAL

    Good stuff, Neil. Now, the real questions: how long before the MSM thinks Ovechkin and Backstrom have “disappeared” or “are struggling” again?

    And will this be the next step in Backstrom’s development into, hopefully, the next Zetterberg?