Photo: Mark Buckner

(Photo: Mark Buckner)

Coming into the 2014 NHL trade deadline, some fans feared Caps general manager George McPhee would make a drastic move in the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Instead, he made three reasonable ones. The Caps got better this year without harming themselves in the future.

The biggest deal was the final one, with the Caps sending Michal Neuvirth and the newly acquired Rostislav Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres for Caps killer Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick.

“I think we start with Neuvirth, and he wasn’t happy being a number two,” McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We tried to accommodate him. We brought in an experienced guy. I think it’s an upgrade on the tandem which is what we wanted to accomplish.”

Halak was just acquired by the Sabres when they traded away Ryan Miller. He never suited up for the squad, but posted a record of 24-9-4 with goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .917 this season with St. Louis Blues. Caps fans will remember when he powered the Montreal Canadiens to a seven-game win over Washington in the 2009 playoffs. Halak will now compete with Braden Holtby for starts.

“He’s a good goalie and he can get hot,” McPhee said of Halak. “Both guys will start games. We’ll see where it goes.”

While Washington’s biggest problem this season has been defense rather than goaltending, Halak, an unrestricted free agent after this year, provides an upgrade at the position. Neuvirth wanted out anyway. It seems likely Holtby and Philipp Grubauer could be the tandem next year, though Halak may always re-sign here.

“We like Grubauer a lot and we’ll see,” McPhee said. “I can’t project for September right now.”

Holtby, however, seems to be the goalie of future.

“We love Braden Holtby,” the general manager said. “Love his talent, love his character, love the way he battles. He’s going to be here a while. Long time. There’s lots to like about him. He’s only 23.”

“He still has lots to learn and lots to develop,” McPhee added of Braden. “Sometimes there are some rough stretches with young goalies.”

Meanwhile, McPhee traded for Dustin Penner, now slotted in as the second-line left wing. He gave up a fourth round pick to Ducks to get him. The Caps needed another LW to replace Martin Erat, who they finally got rid of later in the day. Penner is a net crashing winger who has played most the year with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, one of the best duos in the NHL. He should compliment the Capitals top-six well.

“Everyone once in a while you call a team and they raise a name and go ‘Geez, that fits for us’ and you know right away,” McPhee said. “I got off the phone and said to our guys ‘This make sense. Right now, it makes sense to me.’”

“I like the fact that he’s a big guy,” he added. “He can play on lots of different lines. I sure like what Knuble did for us a few years ago. It’s nice to have those guys who can just go to the front of the net and just hold people off and jam pucks in.”

All in all, the Caps are a stronger team than they were Monday, especially with Evgeny Kuznetsov heading over in the coming days. Even for proponents of a rebuild, these moves are far more benign than McPhee’s big deadline maneuver last year.

We’ve got about five weeks left in the regular season. This should be fun.

  • Jack Conness

    I am going to start by saying I am usually GMGM Basher #1. I think most of the move he has made as of late have been poor. His management of players and of the Capitals organization has been questionable as well.

    With that being said, I kinda sorta, almost really like what he did at the deadline. Let me explain.

    At the end of the day (or deadline), we traded Marty Erat (who wanted out of town), John Mitchell (no big deal), Michal Neuvirth (who also wanted out of town still?), and a 4th round pick in 2015.

    What did we get? We got an awesome, huge, crash the net, funny (I know the last part isn’t important) player in Dustin Penner, a proven, possibly better goaltender than Neuvirth and Holtby in Jaroslav Halak, an interesting prospect in Chris Brown, and a 3rd rounder in 2015.

    With just that right there, I think we got better. Possibly much better. This team needs a guy like Penner. Maybe the Caps didn’t need another goalie but Halak is a nice addition. I think he is better than Neuvy. He might be better than Holtby. We also gain a lot of cap space for the upcoming summer. Hello Grabo? Penner comes back? I really don’t know? But we do have a lot more flexibility. I like that. I really like that.

    I know people will complain about not acquiring a top defenseman. Yeah, I agree. But Jack Hillen is coming back. Is he the answer we are looking for? Probably not. But it is an upgrade nonetheless. The Caps will also be adding Kuznetsov. So on top of Penner and Halak, we add Hillen and Kuznetsov. And a draft pick. Not bad.

    I am not siding with GMGM, yet. But I am certainly not hating what he did at the deadline. I am in wait-and-see mode. This could work out.

  • Barrett

    I’d rather hear him explain why he thinks the defense on this team doesn’t need to be addressed. They are terrible.

  • Barrett

    Giving up a 2014 2nd rounder and 2015 3rd rounder for Andrew MacDonald on the 2nd defense pair with Mike Green would have been nice. Penner is a good addition. Halak is a sideways move player wise, the bonus is it frees cap space. Getting rid of Erat was a must. I don’t see Halak staying in DC with Holtby here after the season is over.

  • CM

    I’d like to hear it from him too, but…

    I don’t think there was any way to address the d-corps in a meaningful way right now without giving up wayyyy too much. Klesla was not the answer.

    I think he treated this team like the bubble team that it is. Make improvements at the deadline but don’t mortgage the house on one season,

  • Barrett

    The trade the Flyers made for a 27yr old Andrew MacDonald in no way mortgages the house.

  • Guest

    Macdonald is known as a turnover machine. At least that’s what Isles fans say.

  • CM
  • Barrett

    Is he a top pair defenseman? No. He played in New York with Travis Hamonic as his partner on the top line. He would be better suited on the 2nd pair. Anyone partnered with Hamonic is going to look bad.

  • Barrett

    He is also a shot blocking machine, leading the entire league in blocked shots. It would seem to make sense if you are GMGM that adding the leagues leading shot blocking defenseman to your roster is a good move…especially when you offer up this gem when discussing the reason you traded for Jaroslav Halak, “We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play,
    but most of them are from the outside, we’ll allow those. In some ways
    that might be better for this particular goaltender.”

  • Mac blocks a lot of shots b/c his team never has the puck when he’s on the ice.

    And GMGM is so catastrophically wrong in that comment, but we’ll get to that later.

  • Barrett

    The Capitals as a team allow more shots per game than the NY Islanders.

    Washington us currently ranked 27th in SA/G with 33.4, the Islanders are 19th with 30.4 SA/G.

  • Eric Schulz

    People keep thinking that Halak makes signing Grabovski possible. NO, moving Erat and acquiring Penner made money no longer an issue with regards to signing Grabovski.

  • Eric Schulz

    Robidas for a 4th; Meszaros for a 3rd; Nick Schultz for a 5th; MacDonald for a 2nd, 3rd, random prospect. Yeah, way too expensive, right? (I’d’ve made the two trades yesterday, I liked those, then today, instead of Neuvirth for Halak, I’d’ve done Neuvirth and Carrick for MacDonald. You think that gets it done? If not, then a 2nd also. Now, we add MacDonald to 2nd pairing, and keep Klesla as depth, probably an upgrade on all but 5 of our guys.)

  • Eric Schulz

    Isles fans are also saying that Snow is a worse GM than Milbury; not gonna trust their hockey IQ.

  • Oh I’m well aware. I’ve had this post written since the first period. Should be fun.

  • Eric

    I like that we got a veteran goalie, but I doubt he’ll be here next year when we’ll really need him. Love that we got Penner, but, again, he probably won’t be here next year when we need him.
    I hate the fact that we still don’t have a good defensive lineup. Hillen is a smart, good player, but he can’t clear the crease. Green should be playing forward and never go below hash marks. Erksine is… Erksine. And Alzner and Carlson are too inconsistent, We need a presence in our zone and we still don’t have it. Hopefully Halak can come in and calm down the play.
    This is not a playoff team, and I seriously doubt they will make the post season. I don’t care that Ovechkin scores 50 goals every year, I want the team I’ve grown up watching since 1979 to succeed,and this lineup will not. I want them to prove me wrong. Please.

  • johnnymorte

    I hope Kuzya’s middle name is Jesus H. Christ and Halak knows how to stand on his head, because that’s what it’s going to take to save this team. BS moves again and no shut down Dman. He is clearly delusional spouting gems such as “You don’t want to play go home” and “we’ve been pretty good at it (trading) for a while.” Glad you’re wearing black because I can hear your exit music. While you were out shopping for grizzlies, Flyers picked up MacDonald. It might not be what we need, but they’re addressing their needs. If there’s no moves to be made, make them. That’s your job.

  • Fedor

    We’ve traded 2014 4th rounder and got 2015 4th rounder. So if 4th rounders are a wash, it looks even nicer.