Questioning the Logic of the Mathieu Perreault Trade


Never forget. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Tonight I was naughty and ordered pizza. A food coma knocked me out for two and a half hours on our living room couch. When I woke up, walked downstairs, and refreshed the website I helped create, I learned that the Washington Capitals traded everybody’s favorite French Canadian bro, Mathieu Perreault, for a fourth round pick and a minor league dude from Anaheim that George McPhee will probably say “can play.”

As an avowed fan who gets emotionally connected to some of the players, it’s — ya know — kinda upsetting. From a blogger’s point of view, Perreault was one of the most interesting players on the team. He had personality. He delivered many, many pageviews.

But when I check my emotion and look at the facts, this move is curious on a few levels. Mathieu Perreault was an underrated player who brought the team a lot of value. Since the 2010-11 season, the Capitals have been a much better team with Perreault on the ice than off. Despite his tiny size, Perreault is a talented puck-chaser and forechecker who drives play.


Perreault’s the type of player — especially when playing in the bottom six — who can create instant offense and take advantage of certain match-ups with his speed and skill. He can also join the top six in a pinch and has proven in the past that he can play well there.

While he was the tiniest guy on the ice during the Caps/Rangers playoff series, he still led the Caps in playoff points, tied with Mike Green and Joel Ward at 4. I know it’s a small sample size, but isn’t playoff performance something the Caps value? Isn’t that where this team has faltered over the years?

Simply put, Mathieu Perreault is a player that was blossoming, and ready for more of a prominent role on the team. Instead, when Mike Ribeiro signed with the Phoenix Coyotes during the first day of free agency in July, George McPhee said Brooks Laich would fill his void, and did not even mention Perreault. Perry was relegated to playing with the Capitals B team during this year’s preseason.

Did Perreault fall out of favor? Is McPhee looking for more grit a la the Toronto Maple Leafs? Does he want a more traditional player in the bottom six? Did Perreault’s request for more ice time last season sour him to management? Was Perreault the only option for a trade? Only McPhee knows.

Shedding Perreault’s $1.05 cap hit basically finalizes the Caps’ opening night roster. The team now has enough cap space to fit Tom Wilson, a six-foot four-inch rookie winger, on the team all season. Instead of sending Wilson back to Plymouth and letting him dominate the OHL for one more season, he will now fight for playing time in the bottom six. While I believe Wilson will turn out to be a good player for this team (because of his skating ability), this season is very important for his development. Will he be a lifetime bottom-six winger who fights more than scores? Is 6 to 10 minutes a night in an accelerated league going to hinder the 19-year-old Wilson from developing a scoring touch? It’s a tough decision, but the safer route would have been to send him back to the OHL where’d he dominate– and then bring back next season oozing confidence. At least with Perreault you know what you had– a competent role player with 3 seasons of experience. Wilson could have been brought on at the end of the season just like last year. Sometimes punting isn’t the worst thing.

This trade seems to lack long-term vision. It seems more a reaction to temporal forces– the roster deadline and the salary cap crunch. It’s not as if the team’s depth at center has been magically fixed with the signing of Mikhail Grabovski. While Grabo has been everything the Capitals wanted during the preseason so far, he’s likely only here for one year. He’s here to build up his stats to get a big long-term deal somewhere else in 14-15. Let’s not kid ourselves about that. Mikhail Grabovski in the long term is probably a mirage.

If you take Grabo out of the equation for 2014-15 and beyond, the Caps are faced with the same issues they’ve had for the last 200 years: depth at center. They have Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, and maybe Martin Erat and Eric Fehr as options. Here’s how Mathieu Perreault stacked up against them.


Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, as we’ve discussed before, is probably not going to play center (if and when he ever arrives). Brooks Laich can play center, but he’s a natural at wing. Marcus Johansson can play center, but can’t win face-offs and does best when sheltered and playing with talented linemates. The Caps do not have many talented center prospects in the system. Next season, they will once again lack a number-two center and we’ll have to complain about it all over again.

To shed salary, the Capitals have lost a high-quality depth centerman in the prime of his career. The move opens up minutes for Eric Fehr (who led the team in preseason scoring) and checkers Tom Wilson and Michael Latta, but at a dear cost. The move hints that this team values sheer size over the qualities that are proven to win games, qualities Perreault certainly had.

You just have to think that George McPhee’s philosophy on building a team changed after losing to the New York Rangers in the second round of the 2011-12 playoffs.

“In the playoffs, we made a note after one of the games,” Capitals GM George McPhee said after he drafted Tom Wilson during the 2012 draft. “It was to remember these games when we’re at the draft. Remember how intense they are, how demanding they are, how physical they are, and make sure we get someone who wants to play in that kind of stuff.”

Trading the smallest guy on the team to make cap room for the new largest guy on the team is no coincidence.

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  • Priscilla Villanueva

    What a horrible way to wake up.

  • Tommy

    Probably the value of this trade had more to do with Perreault than with the Caps. We could maybe have gotten more for Perreault from another team, but GMGM sent him back to BB. However nice that is, I am also sorry to see him go.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Trust in GMGM. It’s really all we can do, even if his choices are sometimes… “questionable”.

    Also, discounts on Perry Celly shirts?

  • Matt Lauer

    I actually think that Grabovski will stick around for more than one season, especially if he develops chemistry with his linemates (which should be Fehr and Erat, by the way).

    Also, if you want to discuss the first *really* bad GMGM trade, you’d have to go back years to the Zednik/Bulis for Zubrus/Linden trade. That trade totally disrupted the team. — Which is to say, the problem is long-standing.

  • I think you’re right. The Caps being strapped by the salary cap and the roster deadline probably put them at a disadvantage in negotiations.

  • yv

    I have seen MP85 from his first game in VC and from his french(canadian) origin, looks and the feisty, flying way he always played I called him “a little prince” on ice as a hero in known french novel.

    I think that there wouldn’t be too many reasons/excuses why Grabo will not resign with Caps after amazing season here, considering that salary cap will go up, probably to 70M$ region.

  • Thaddeus Guy

    You’re smoking some serious crack if Trust GMGM (the same guy who traded away a top prospect and roughly 2.5-3M in Cap Space for Martin Erat and Michael Latta last season) is your response. At this point, it’s Fire GMGM, and if possible, send the Oompa Loompa with him.

  • Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Brouwer, Johansson, Erat. There’s your top six players without Grabo next season. Then you have Laich, who has a 4.5 mil cap hit, that could play there too. Wilson also may be deserving of top six minutes next season as well.

    Signing Grabo to a long-term deal at 4-6mil (where you start to pay him a lot for years more and more removed from his prime) would not be smart. But that’s just me.

  • Jeremiah

    its a bad trade. caps gave away a player who once led the league in shooting per and had 16 goals was decent on faceoffs. he could be used by the ducks as the 2nd c that they lacked and now mp85 will have selane as a winger if that happens. the caps don’t have a 3 c now since oates says he doesn’t believe in a checking line. beagle would only be a 3c if hunter was still coach. and as proven before and even admitted by mcphee; you can’t put a wing at center and expect to succeed.
    the caps traded a proven nhl player for an echl player and a 4th round pick. if they got a decent prospector maybe a 2nd then it would be able to stomach it. wilson and carrick should go down to the whaler instead of sitting in press box . this stems back to the stupid erat trade 4 million ofr a bottom 6 player, yes he was a top 6 with the preds but with that team hendricks is a top 6 player.

  • I woke up at 7am to do a post on Ovi’s torch run this morning. I figured I’d be good taking a nap at 5pm to get some of that rest back. You know, nothing would ever go down then! WRONG. Haha.

    Yeah, I’m bummed. I feel like this trade was necessitated by the Erat/Forsberg trade last season, which I still think is/was/will prove to be a big mistake. This team is overpaying so many checking line forwards, why trade a guy you can get a ton of value for (at a great price) that has a lot of skill and can play in the top 6 for years to come for an aging expensive winger? But hey, I’m looking forward to seeing what Erat can do in a full season. Same for Wilson now as well.

  • That or take them down completely! Haha. Would any of you guys buy them if I mark them down a few bucks? Let me know.

  • Caps Red Man

    I agree with GMGM’s logic that we need bigger, tough guys to be successful in the postseason. It’s a fact. Look at the Stanley Cup champions from the last four years: Chicago Blackhawks, LA Kings, Boston Bruins, and again the Blackhawks. What common denominators did all these teams share? Great goalies, the ability to score goals when you need to stay alive, and size/grit/toughness; out of these three pillars to success in the Finals, size is what the Capitals have lacked the most in the last half dozen seasons. The Capitals have had big guys, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You need to have guy who can deal out and take big, hard hits for the entirety of the Playoffs while maintaining the ability to play and stay healthy. I love Mathieu Perrault; the kid has talent, personality, and most importantly he plays with heart. Unfortunately I have seen games where Caps players get thrown around the ice, tossed into the glass, looking like little children trying to tackle a 300lb punching bag when they attempt to make hits. It was embarrassing, and it was the most apparent missing piece that the Capitals needed. George McPhee saw it and he’s doing his job to fix it. I will miss Matty P, but I do think that it’s a necessary move that needed to be made, and I’m glad that GMGM had the decency to send him to Bruce Boudreau. Now Perreault will get the time on ice that he deserves, he’ll continue to grow as a player, and his career will thrive.

  • Barry

    It all goes back to trading for Erat for a team that already had salary cap issues taking on that contract didn’t help anyone

  • I agree.

  • Matt Lauer

    The one difference is that Grabo will still get extra pay from the Leafs all those years (or am I wrong about that?), which may make a reduced salary feasible. And still, you can never have too many puck-possession players. Oh, wait…..

  • Looking at those Stanley Cup Champions, I see another, better-documented pattern: strong puck possession. Matty Perreault was among the best on the team, and now he’s gone.

    Fawning over big players is where market inefficiencies come from.

  • yv

    But there is only one center, Nicky. Caps will need 2d line center, so why look somewhere, when they already will have proven one. From cap point of view only Grabo and Kuzya would be needed to sign somewhere for 3 years, and extra 5-5.5M$ for both will do. All others already under short-term contracts, tradable and already sliding to 2-3 lines.

  • yv

    It looks like, the problems with roster are not finished. Capgeek just published updated salaries and Caps now 55,962$ above the cap?! This would be very interesting tomorrow for GMGM to resolve this situation.
    Again, this is a situation when even small overpayments to other players results in messy roster situation.

  • hyusis

    I am really disappointed. Mathieu Perreault was one of my favorite players whose work ethic and heart aren’t going to be overshadowed by size. Discovering he was traded was the lowlight of my day. Adam Oates messed up by not trusting him and I consider this his first major misstep as a coach. Later Mathieu, light em up for the ducks.

  • Anela

    I still want to get a shirt–just haven’t been able to afford one yet. I want one even more now to remember one of my favorite players. I’m super sad to see him go.

  • Jeremiah

    blackhawks won without giants. pat kane is the same height as well as a few other players on that team which won two cups in the last few years and is a top contender again. faawning over giants is what got brian burke rightfully fired . mp85 was probably taller than marchand

  • Matthew Kory


  • RESmith

    Another 180 degree change in philosophy on McPhee’s part.
    As much as I like Wilson, learning that Drouin is going back to juniors (even though he has got “nothing left to learn there,”) puts this move even more under the microscope.

  • Matt Root

    Unfortunately, you just mentioned Kane and Marchand who are exponentially better than MP85. Just because he is short does not mean he is that caliber of player.

  • Matt Root

    What basis are you holding on to Perreault’s guaranteed abilities? You provide, in my opinion, a flawed metric as he only warranted 8 to 13 minutes a game. You mentioned 2C time a few years back in the previous article, was that not due to injury? Also, wasn’t the big issue with the Caps of that time was a lack of a TRUE 2C? So why has Perreault become so irreplaceable?

    Big prospects are in the position of being overvalued because the combination of size, speed, and skill is a proven formula of success. Whereas the undersized player that stands out in the upper tiers like Kane, St Louis, even Marchand are the rarity and Matty P is nowhere near that echelon.

  • Jeremiah

    mp85 led the league in shooting percentage and scored 16 goals with limited ice time . marchand is a short person as well ..that has been given more ice time and better line mates which makes him look better but not really actually better. if you don’t like him matt fine but now the caps are stuck putting wings in the third line center position and got rid of a decent center

  • Shaun Phillips

    Horrible move all around. Agree with all the points above. In addition, this really limits the flexibility Oates has with his lines. Now he’s stuck using Erat or Laich as 3c (assuming they’re healthy) instead of being able to swing them to wing with MP as center. I know they’re almost impossible to quantify, but MP seemed like one of the guys in the locker room that keeps guys loose (along with Wardo). You need that come playoffs too.

  • His puck possession skills have been pretty stable. Corsi Rel is not a perfect stat, but limited ice time wouldn’t be the reason why.

    Yeah, he was 2C due to injury. I’m not saying he was a good top 6er– I was just saying he filled in when the team was in a pinch.

    And no, big prospects are not by any means proven. Most wash out of the league before a full season. Here’s hoping Wilson is an exception.

  • OlietheGoalie

    It should be stated that I was being kind. I do not,in any form, thing McScarf is a good GM. He has made numerous errors, and continues to fawn over smooth-skating Europeans that can score but are horrible on defense.

    I stated we have to trust him because, really, what else is there to do? We are stuck with him until Ted decides to axe him, which isn’t going to happen because GM took a team to the Cup (even though we all know it wasn’t his own doing, but he inherited a majority of the roster).

  • Sabrina

    Why don’t you remember this GMGM: You have a history of making bad decisions. How about we trade GM? I’m for that.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Reverse Perry Celly 🙁

  • John

    While I will miss Matty, teams that win cups generally have a a quality 2-way center on every line. Matty P’s skill set is incompatible with the ideal 3C or 4C . I was hoping the Caps would give him at shot at 2C after Rib’s departure, but that obviously never happened. Come April, Caps will be better served w/ Brooks at 3C than Matty.

  • Alex

    At least he’ll be back with a familiar face in Bruce Boudreau

  • Brad Ricucci

    If Oates was high on this guy, hes not dealt, we probably move Chimera for a six pack and bag of cheetos. It was very clear when Oates talked about MP85 he was not in this teams plans. Lets actually skate a 3rd line Center that can match up and play shutdown hockey on someone elses 1st line.

  • Brad Ricucci

    This move smells of the coach all the way.

  • Jalabar

    I am not putting my trust in GMGM. I’m putting my trust in Adam Oates, as I think he and his staff are outstanding and the staff to lead Washington to the promised land at long last. You think GMGM did this in a vacuum, that he didn’t have Oates backing for this move? I believe in Adam, and if he feels this makes Washington better, then show me. I’ll be patient.

  • bskillet

    Here is the recipe to having a better shot at bringing the cup to the DMV area, get rid of McPhee. In the past he has made moves that are just unexplainable, certainly the past few years. I’m guessing Ted doesn’t read the blogs very often and obviously George has free will to do whatever is going through that mind of his. We keep getting some needed pieces of the puzzle only to have a few in the middle go missing???? How frustrating.

  • Sigh.

  • johnnymorte

    This trade makes no sense. You can only conclude that there were issues behind the scenes that we don’t know about. The fact that Oates was experimenting with Fehr and Erat at C confirms the decision had already been made. We already know that GMGM does not tolerate egos, as he traded Varlamov when he demanded the #1 role. I’m assuming that something similar happened here.

  • Pat Magee

    Honestly, Perry lost his spot as soon as Fehr started playing center. His possesh was pretty damn good in the preseason games that i saw.

    At least perry went back to BBBB on the other end of the continent; not some team we’ll have to play 10 times this year.


    For me, this goes back to last year, when a rather whiny MP unloaded to the press: Mathieu Perreault: “Trade Me If I Am Not Part of Your Plans”

    This is raw conjecture, but I don’t think Oates liked his attitude nor really his style of play. As a fan, I always thought he looked outgunned out on the ice. While I agree that “grit” can be overrated, and possession stats are important (when in context), at the end of the day, I think Wilson has far more upside than Perreault.

    But I think we all wish MP85 well.

  • kyle boyd

    i’m actually not overly worried about the second line center position moving forward, possibly for the first time since the lockout. happy grabo has been known to like to set up roots, as despite both contract extensions he received from toronto being for relatively large amounts, he has shown a willingness to avoid the market. the big issue remains what will the cap look like next season.most, if not all, believe the cap is going to blow up before end of the decade, though ive heard great arguments on whether that happens immediately, or whether it would take a year or two to overcome the 57-50% drop for players. if it raises by 4 million or more i wouldn’t be shocked to see grabo sign with us again, perhaps even long term. beyond him though, i think the erat experiment is worth consideration, and kuznetsovs faceoff woes aren’t particularly troubling for me. i played center and understand the importance of winning draws, but i also know its maybe one of the most teachable skills in hockey. he was going to have to face a learning curve winning draws in north america anyways even if he was a faceoff force in russia.

    the loss of MP85 though still does bother me, and i’ll admit I’ve never been much of a fan. I’ve heard people criticize him for being lazy or soft on the puck, but i didn’t see that much so much. he just struck me as a player who shouldn’t be in the nhl. or more precisely, a guy that just doesn’t fit in where he’s been put. he wasn’t good enough to be a top 6 pivot, and didn’t have the skill set to really do the job in a traditional sense in the bottom 6. for years i wanted him to switch to the wing, mostly because he reminded me of st louis in the early days when calgary forced him into a chequing role. as i said earlier, i didn’t think work ethic was the issue, far from it. i think he was tenacious enough to perform a wingers duties in the offensive zone adequately despite his small stature. but the few times he did get those opportunities weren’t impressive. still, would’ve liked to experiment more with it.

    again, was never his biggest fan. very entertaining to watch but also very frustrating with his inconsistencies. biggest issue i had for the trade, and i was telling everyone this the day of as we knew someone was going, was this. no one knew what he had in that kid. fans around the league didn’t realize the talent he had, the work ethic, the pure skill that frustrated fans like me as he seemed like he under-performed only because of brilliant flashes of over-performance.looking up and down the lineup, i like it, even without perry. wilson earned his way into the lineup, and i like latta a lot in a fourth line role. but we didn’t get enough for him. we shed the cap space of an affordable player, and got a 4th rounder that has an outside chance of turning into something (not even gonna mention mitchell). 29 teams fans are gonna see that transaction pop-up on their news feed, and think nothing of it. but we know we got robbed.

  • kyle boyd

    i think its a bit falacious to say: “we need to have the size not to get pushed around come playoffs, we’re only as strong as our weakest link so therefore smallest guy needs to go.(hope im reading your argument right).” when said smallest guy was one of our better players in the playoffs. i was never a big fan of perry, but i thought if we just needed to make room for latta and wilson there were better options available.

  • Bryan Gleason

    I don’t want to sound too ignorant, but what does 2c mean?

  • Zen

    2nd line center.

  • Hockey Mom

    First Ribiero, now Perrault…sad that they are both gone…

  • Miklos Roth

    Great success story! It is hard to have these days when trades generally do not turn out to be good.