Photo: Ronald Martinez
During the 2012 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals sent a B-level prospect to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribeiro. The then 33-year-old Ribs played one season for the Caps as the team’s second-line center. His overall possession numbers were disappointing, but hey, he collected power-play points like coins in Super Mario.
George McPhee offered Ribeiro a contract extension at the trade deadline that year. Ribeiro did not agree to the deal, so McPhee traded Filip Forsberg for a top six-depth in Martin Erat, and Ribeiro walked away for nothing on the first day of free agency before signing a ridiculous five-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Meanwhile, that B-level prospect that the Caps gave up was Cody Eakin, who has become quite a player in Dallas.
Eakin finished the season as the Stars second-line center, notching 16 goals and 19 assists in 81 games. He also drove play, finishing with a 51.2 shot-attempt percentage. If Eakin were on the Capitals, he would have been the team’s third best possession player according to extraskater.com.
In the playoffs, Eakin has scored two big goals. In game four, he scored on a beautiful individual play, taking the puck hard to the net.
In game six, Eakin scored five-hole on a one-timer from the middle of the ice on a Stars power play. That was kind of wordy. My bad.
And though he made a bad read on Anaheim’s game-tying goal in game six, Eakin was on the ice taking the important face-offs for Dallas with the series on the line.
I’m not one to cry over spilled milk, but we should appreciate where we are two years later. This is the exact moment when I believe the Capitals began overestimating who they were as a team.
Instead of committing to a partial rebuild and recommitting to its youth, McPhee went all-in on this deal– trading for an aging veteran with declining possession– and giving up some of the team’s prospect forward depth. And just like Alex Semin before him, McPhee didn’t flip Ribeiro at the trade deadline when he knew he wouldn’t re-sign.
If you add in the Perreault and Forsberg deals, the Caps gave away precious players that would be going into their primes in the next several years, to load up on veterans who were not in the right times in their careers to help the team “win now.”
The Capitals did not win– barely qualifying for the playoffs last season– and not doing so this year. It suggests some more painful times are ahead, while we watch our prospects succeed elsewhere.