This weekend's draft will be Brian MacLellan's first as Capitals GM.
Philadelphia will serve as the epicenter of the hockey world Friday and Saturday as the site of the 2014 NHL Draft. The next two days provide a unique opportunity for general managers as all 30 front offices will be in the same place preparing to improve their respective clubs.
While the focus of the draft will be on stockpiling future assets, the trade market is expected to be active as teams search for an immediate boost.
“I think there seems to be bigger names being talked about in the trade market,” Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said last week. “We’ll see if that really comes to fruition. I think with the cap going up, there might be a little more room for trades to happen...I'm going to explore it."
The draft is the first phase of what management has called an organizational "refresh," and making a draft-day trade -- which the Capitals have done in each of the past six years -- could assist in speeding up the process.
That being said, who (or what) are the most realistically tradable assets available to MacLellan to dangle if he should so choose? Consider this a speculative exercise.
If the Capitals are looking to sell high, then they should look no further than Brouwer. The 28-year-old veteran finished last season with a flourish, scoring 15 goals in his final 27 games to finish with a career-high 25.
Brouwer can play in all situations; he was the only forward to average more than three minutes on the power play (where he scored a personal-best 12 goals) while simultaneously averaging over two minutes on the penalty kill.
With an excess of right wingers on the roster (Alex Ovechkin, Joel Ward, Tom Wilson), the impetus for Brouwer's departure may be to dissipate that logjam. (Of course, if coach Barry Trotz elects to move Ovechkin back to left wing, Brouwer becomes less expendable.)
Under contract for two more seasons at a reasonable $3.66 million salary-cap charge, Brouwer presents an intriguing option for other clubs.
Johansson has spent the majority of his even-strength ice time over the past two seasons with Ovechkin (72.8 percent in 2012-13, 56.2 percent in 2013-14) and Nicklas Backstrom (72 percent, 54.2 percent). Yet the 23-year-old has done little to step out of the enveloping shadows cast by his elite linemates.
Last season, Johansson became the first forward ever to play at least 1,400 minutes at even strength and score fewer than three goals. In all, Johansson has scored five even-strength goals in the past two seasons.
Yet Johansson, who finished sixth in Lady Byng Memorial Trophy voting, does have value as a facilitator. He led the Capitals last season in "setup passes," an estimate of passes that directly lead to a shot attempt. Johansson also had 28 primary assists, most among his teammates.
Simply put, the Capitals need more from the 2009 first-round pick than they have received through four seasons. Perhaps another team may be attracted to Johansson as a reclamation project of sorts, finding a defined role for him that has often fluctuated in Washington.
A constant source of trade chatter among armchair general managers, the former two-time Norris Trophy finalist has been written off by many after several injury-plagued and inconsistent seasons.
Last season was the defenseman's healthiest since 2009-10, appearing in 70 games for Washington. Green tilted the ice in the Capitals' favor when he was on the ice, leading the team with a 51.7 Corsi percentage. Yet he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on goals against, turning the puck over or playing suspect odd-man defense.
The catch-22 in potentially trading Green, however, is that the Capitals have no one to replace him among their assemblage of young defensemen and minor-league journeymen. They would need to be confident that his loss could be somewhat mitigated before considering any trade offer.
MacLellan said last week that Washington's priority is to "get Mike Green back on track," adding that there were "certain circumstances that might have hindered his performance."
If the right offer came along, however, perhaps MacLellan could be swayed.
The 13th Overall Pick
There is a perceived lack of potential franchise players in this summer's draft class, meaning it is unlikely that whomever the Capitals select will make an instantaneous impact on the roster. After missing the postseason for the first time in seven years, Washington is seeking to improve immediately.
MacLellan has pinpointed defense as his main offseason priority. With a shortage of high-end defensive talent available in the draft and few notable defensemen available via free agency, a lottery pick (albeit the final lottery pick) could be part of an enticing trade package to procure what Washington is in sore need of. The Capitals could acquire more draft picks in return, allowing them to still restock their pipeline whlie also upgrading their current situation.
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