The Washington Capitals were looking to bolster their defensive depth and possibly look for an offensive minded forward before the trade deadline hit February 29. The Caps got going early when they acquired Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber February 23 for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. This bolstered their depth on defense after the recent injury to John Carlson, who is out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury.
On February 28, the Capitals acquired Ryan Bourque from the New York Rangers for forward Chris Brown. Bourque has appeared in one game with the Rangers, making his NHL debut against Ottawa. Bourque has tallied 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 55 games with the Wolf Pack (AHL) this season. Ryan has joined his brother Chris in Hershey with the AHL Bears.
Perhaps the biggest trade before the deadline came late Sunday night when the Caps said goodbye to longtime forward Brooks Laich, Hershey Bears defenseman Connor Carrick and a second-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft in exchange for Toronto Leafs’ forward Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. Laich was a fan favorite and has been with the team for 12 years, coming to the Caps when Peter Bondra was traded to Ottawa.
- Laich’s contract is what made him expendable as Winnik has a slightly better skill set and a lower salary cap hit. Winnik has 198 points (62 goals, 136 assists) in 625 career NHL games between his time with Arizona, Colorado, San Jose, Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Toronto.
General Manager Brian MacLellan spoke with the media about the trades shortly after the deadline had passed. He said he felt the Caps had enough depth at defense after the Weber trade so no additional defensemen were necessary. They were exploring looking for another scoring forward but the offers were just not juicy enough to merit a trade. He then got emotional when speaking about Brooks Laich.
- “He expressed that he really wanted to be part of it and win a Stanley Cup here,” said MacLellan. “It’s hard to do. You want him to be a part. He’s earned it, you know? But we had to do what was necessary to keep the organization and keep the team going forward.”
These moves should only help the best team in the NHL as they drive towards the playoffs.
Written by Chris Johnson