Why the Caps should consider trading for Jaromir Jagr (seriously)

(Sharon Ellman/AP Photo)
(Sharon Ellman/AP Photo)

The Washington Capitals trail the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth by just three points, putting them within playoff contention but still on the outside looking in. They trail Southeast Division leader Winnipeg by just four points, but have two games in hand. They aren’t alone: Six other teams are within five points of a playoff spot. Does that logjam mean the Caps should be buyers at the deadline?

Yes it does.

The Capitals are on a 47-point pace this season, which would place them 23rd in the standings at the end of the season. That’s both out of the playoffs and without one of the top five picks in the 2013 entry draft.

If they squeak into the playoffs as the eighth seed, their first-round opponent would be the white-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won 15 in a row and are the class of the Eastern Conference. If the Capitals win the Southeast Division, they are, at worst, the third seed and have Toronto or Ottawa as likely opponents. So it makes sense to go for it.

I looked at every team on the bubble — defined here as seeds No. 6 through 10 at the trade deadline but still within five points of a playoff spot — and how they did after the trade deadline.

There were nine bubble teams who did not make a trade within a week of the trade deadline. Just two made the postseason (2007-08 Colorado Avalanche and the 2011-12 Capitals). Both lost in the second round.

Twenty-nine bubble teams made at least one move to help their club, and 10 of them made the playoffs, including the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

 

Season

Bubble team that made at least one trade at deadline

Playoff result

2005-06

Anaheim Ducks

Lost conference finals

2007-08

Washington Capitals

Lost conference quarterfinals

2008-09

Anaheim Ducks

Lost conference semifinals

2008-09

Carolina Hurricanes

Lost conference finals

2008-09

St. Louis Blues

Lost conference quartefinals

2009-10

Boston Bruins

Lost conference semifinals

2010-11

Anaheim Ducks

Lost conference quarterfinals

2010-11

Buffalo Sabres

Lost conference quarterfinals

2010-11

Nashville Predators

Lost conference semifinals

2011-12

Los Angeles Kings

Won Stanley Cup

 

So if it makes sense to make a move, what should Washington look for? How about renting a true left-handed winger to ride shotgun with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? One who has some history with Adam Oates and has shown he still has what it takes to put points on the board at both even strength and on the power play.

I am talking about making a move like Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr is an upgrade to Marcus Johansson in almost every way: scoring, puck possession and experience. He is a left-handed shot with 26 points (seven on the power play) in 34 games. He is an unrestricted free agent on a team that is out of playoff contention, and he likely can be acquired with minimal assets.

Besides, what could go wrong?

greenberg
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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