Washington Capitals Fail to Land Second-Line Center

George McPhee said he will sign a free agent
George McPhee said he will sign a free agent "if it makes sense." (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 28, 2009

MONTREAL, June 27 -- The Washington Capitals completed a trade on the second day of the NHL draft. It's just not the one they had hoped to swing when the weekend began.

General Manager George McPhee sent prospect Sami Lepisto to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday for a pick in next year's draft. But the Capitals left Bell Centre without making a trade to fill their biggest void: a second-line center.

"There wasn't a lot of [trade talk] that went on here," McPhee said. "There may be more of that next week and closer to camp. We're not going to force anything. The season doesn't start until October."

With the departure of veterans Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov this month, McPhee said he plans to monitor the free agent market, which opens Wednesday, and will sign someone "if it makes sense." But he quickly added that he's not feeling intense pressure to do so because he feels there are players on the roster capable of replacing them.

"We feel Brooks Laich can play [second-line center], and he might be able to play it very well," McPhee said. "He did it a lot last year when Sergei was injured."

McPhee added: "Chris Clark scored 30 goals [as a first-line right wing] a couple of years ago. We've got guys internally who can do it. We'll just see what's out there. If there's a player out there that can help our club, we'll be interested. Just don't expect us to go out and commit to a big or long-term deal in free agency. We've seen that movie before."

McPhee also said he does not expect to replace Donald Brashear with another heavyweight enforcer if, as expected, he does not return.

"Do you take a page out of Detroit's book and throw as much talent at the other team as you can?" McPhee said. "If people want to screw around, you beat them on the power play. Nobody is going to intimidate [Alex] Ovechkin, [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Mike] Green or Laich or any of those kids. Some teams you have to have it, some teams you don't."

The only trade of consequence on Saturday involved the Florida Panthers sending the rights to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary for the rights to defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick. Bouwmeester, 25, is going to command a huge contract extension.

"With a guy like Bouwmeester, we've got our top guy in Mike Green," McPhee said. "So to get into a contract like that wouldn't make any sense for us right now."

Lepisto, meantime, had fallen out of favor with the Capitals after failing to impress during a seven-game stint in Washington last season. So the team opted to swap him for a draft pick rather than lose him to a European league for no return.

"I always thought Sami would settle down," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But he was always jittery."

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