“There may be more activity in this one than in other drafts,” Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee said leading up to the draft at Prudential Center in Newark. “You would think that that would be the case because some teams have cap issues and have to move some players. You would think there would be more of that kind of activity. So we’ll see.”
The Capitals hold eight selections on Sunday, including the 23rd overall, but it’s highly unlikely any of the prospects they choose would make an immediate impact in the NHL. If Washington alters its look for 2013-14 this weekend it will be by trade.
While McPhee remained true to form and didn’t divulge his approach to the draft or the bustling trade market to reporters, recent history provides a pattern.
McPhee has made a draft-day trade each of the past five years, three of which resulted in the addition of key parts to the Capitals’ roster last season. At the 2012 draft, Washington acquired Mike Ribeiro from Dallas in exchange for prospect Cody Eakin and a second-round pick. By sending their first-round pick to Chicago in 2011, the Capitals picked up the rights to then-restricted free agent Troy Brouwer. And in 2008, Washington packaged Steve Eminger and a third-rounder to Philadelphia for the 27th overall choice that yielded John Carlson.
It would hardly be a surprise to see that trend continue. Players that could be on the move this weekend range from big names such as Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang and one of Vancouver’s goaltenders, Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider, to role players like Chicago’s Dave Bolland and Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck. Other deals could include the rights to impending free agents, for example defenseman Andrew Ference, who won’t be re-signed by Boston.
The salary cap for next season is $64.3 million, roughly $6 million less than what it was this season, forcing teams to creatively balance their salary distribution as they work to improve their rosters. The introduction of compliance buyouts, which are akin to the NBA’s amnesty clause and do not result in a cap hit, have added unexpected names to the free agent market including veteran center Vincent Lecavalier, forward Danny Briere, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and perhaps more to come.
One thing is abundantly clear this year, and it’s that general managers aren’t wasting time being coy. Instead they’re broadcasting their wants and tradable assets to all of their counterparts.