There are always two sides to the annual trade deadline: buyers and sellers. The buyers are looking to use draft picks and prospects wisely to grab the right players for the stretch run and in the postseason. Some of those teams overpay; others find bargains. Then there are the sellers, who unload rental players to stock up the cupboard on future assets.
The 2004 Capitals, one of the worst teams in the NHL that year, were one of those sellers and conducted a ‘firesale’. At the deadline, they dealt away the likes of Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, and Robert Lang (among many others). Little did GM George McPhee know just how much the pieces he picked up in those particular deals would be helping five years later.
In just those three trades, McPhee acquired three prospects: Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, and Shaone Morrisonn. He also picked up 1st round picks from Detroit and Boston, which turned into defensemen Mike Green and Jeff Schultz – their current top pairing on the blue-line.
Laich and Fleischmann were great finds by McPhee and his scouting staff. Laich has blossomed into a solid two-way forward and role player for the Caps, and is getting better every year. Fleischmann has finally emerged as a consistent offensive threat after a couple up-and-down seasons. After the ‘big three’ up front, you can make the argument that Laich and Fleischmann are their two most important secondary scorers.
Green has been an offensive stud on the back end for Washington. Last year, he set a record for a defenseman by netting a goal in eight straight games. In 68 games, he scored 31 goals and 73 points… and is on pace to post similar numbers this year. He is simply a machine on the power play next to Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin.
The acquisitions of Schultz and Morrisonn can’t go unnoticed, either. Schultz currently leads all D-men in plus/minus (+39). Of course, it helps that he’s paired with Green and often is on the ice with the top line. Morrisonn has been a very serviceable defenseman for the Caps, as he’s been on the plus side of the plus/minus in each of his five seasons with the team.
Often you see sellers absorb picks and prospects that never pan out; that was not the case here! McPhee did an excellent job acquiring young talent that has since turned into a huge part of a Capitals team that is the best in the NHL right now with 94 points. Ottawa, Boston, and Detroit didn’t win the Cup with Bondra, Gonchar, and Lang, respectively. With those pieces they dealt away, the Capitals are looking for their own silver prize when the time comes in June.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.