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That fateful season: was it worth it?

By Nicole Weissman

Caps fans, you already know which season I’m talking about.  With the prospect of a lockout looming, whispers of a salary cap, and the Caps struggling even with a star-filled and pricey roster, we should have seen it coming. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but here’s my take on which of these trades ended up being worthwhile.

October 5, 2003
Caps give: Denis Hamel to Ottawa Senators
Caps get: Future considerations
Was it worth it? Hamel now plays for the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. Because we don’t know what “future considerations” amounted to, this is a toss up.

October 22, 2003
Caps give: Steve Konowalchuk and 2004 3rd round pick (used to select Denis Parshin) to Colorado Avalanche
Caps get: Bates Battaglia and Jonas Johansson
Was it worth it? Konowalchuk’s career ended early after he was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome in 2006, so his seasons were numbered. However, in my book trading your team captain is a morale-killing faux-pas, so I’m saying not worth it.

January 23, 2004
Caps give: Jaromir Jagr to New York Rangers
Caps get: Anson Carter
Was it worth it? Worth it. I’ll never understand why Jagr crashed and burned quite as badly in D.C. as he did, even after we brought in Robert Lang. We swallowed our medicine, and we moved on.

February 18, 2004
Caps give: Peter Bondra to Ottawa Senators
Caps get: Brooks Laich and 2004 2nd round pick (used to select either Chris Bourque or Mikhail Yunkov)
Was it worth it? By far the hardest call. Not only was Mr. Capital traded, but he was sent to Ottawa, not even a likely Cup contender. We traded an extraordinary player late in his career for a very good player early in his. The trade turns out to have been worth it, but should never have been made in the first place because sometimes intangibles like loyalty ought to outweigh pragmatic calculations.

February 27, 2004
Caps give: Robert Lang to Detroit Red Wings
Caps get: Tomas Fleischmann, 2004 1st round pick (used to select Mike Green), and 2006 4th round pick (used to select Luke Lynes)
Was it worth it? The greatest trade of the season. The Caps gave Lang a shot at a Stanley Cup playing for a team that was a great fit for him, and at the same time acquired Fleischmann, whom I like, and the pick that would become Mike Green, the eventual face of post-lockout Caps defense. Absolutely worth it.

March 3, 2004
Caps give: Sergei Gonchar to Boston Bruins
Caps get: Shaone Morrisonn, 2004 1st round pick (used to select Jeff Schultz), 2004 2nd round pick (used to select either Chris Bourque or Mikhail Yunkov)
Was it worth it? As great as Gonchar is, he was at the end of his contract. Shaone Morrisonn played well here, and Jeff Schultz, for all his 6’6” awkwardness, led our team in +/- last year while anchoring the penalty kill. Worth it, though it sure does sting to see Gonchar in a Penguins uniform.

March 4, 2004
Caps give: Michael Nylander to Boston Bruins
Caps get: 2006 2nd round pick (used to select Francois Bouchard)
Was it worth it? Nylander’s veteran presence would have been a positive influence during the rebuilding period, and Bouchard is a long shot to end up playing here. You have to play the draft, and McPhee does it well, but this particular one was not worth it.

March 8, 2004
Caps give: Anson Carter to LA Kings
Caps get: Jared Aulin
Was it worth it? Neither Carter nor Aulin is playing in the NHL now. This one is a toss up.

March 9, 2004
Caps give: Mike Grier to Buffalo Sabres
Caps get: Jakub Klepis
Was it worth it? Mike Grier was a reliable contributor both before and after this trade, while Klepis no longer plays in the NHL. Not worth it.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 20, 2010; 9:40 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  | Tags:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  
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Next: Extra Points - 10/20/10

Comments

If I am remembering correctly Konowalchuk wanted to be traded at the time. Perhaps not. Blog posts like this are kind of irrelevant because while Klepis (for example) isn't an NHL player, he helped Hershey win the Calder when Green, Laich, Fehr and others were on the team. You have to look at the big picture. Aulin too was part of the 2006 Calder Cup bears with Green et al on it.

The Nylander trade was worth it, because they were a) getting rid of salary going into the lockout and b) the 2nd round pick was good value. What McPhee did with the pick is what you judge, not the pick itself.

Not to mention that keeping any of the players deemd "not worth it" in the trade may have caused them to win a few more games and taken them out of contention for the Ovechkin lotto. In that sense, everything was worth it (or will be if/when they win a cup).

BIG PICTURE

Posted by: GFisher1 | October 20, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Really good points -- I definitely struggled when writing this with how "big" a picture I wanted. In other words, how many degrees of separation do we want? Thanks for your comment!

Posted by: nicko | October 20, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Interesting analysis. I realized in 2003 or so the Caps were "cleaning house" but I really felt team leaders like Kono and Jeff Halpern would've been valuable even on struggling rebuild teams, and it's not like they were high-priced players.

As for Jagr, probably in part he was just better suited to be a second banana alongside someone like Lemieux, and no doubt his play was better suited to the Penguins' schemes than the Caps of that era.

Nitpick: Maybe you should say it "used to hurt" to see Gonchar in a Penguins uniform since he's with the Ottawa Senators now. :)

Posted by: blackjack65 | October 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

It should be noted that Hamel was claimed off of waivers from Ottawa two days before the Caps sent him back to the Senators. "Future Considerations" in the pre-Salary Cap days was often code for "absolutely nothing." For instance, when the Caps got Craig Billington from Colorado for "future considerations" those considerations were exactly $1. The current CBA prohibits giving away players for nothing or for cash.

The 2005 second round pick the Caps got in the Peter Bondra trade was later sent to Colorado along with our second round pick in the 2005 draft for Colorado's first round pick. We took Joe Finley with that pick from Colorado The Avs took Chris Durand with Ottawa's pick from us and Tom Fritsche with our pick.

The second round pick the Caps got in the Sergei Gonchar trade was used for Mikhail Yunkov. Chirs Bourque was our own second round pick in that draft. Gonchar was traded because he informed the team that we would not resign with the club after the season was over.

We also obtained a fourth round pick in the 2006 draft from Boston for Michael Nylander. That pick was used to select Patrick McNeill.

Ok, now that we have those corrections to the record out of the way...

Konowalchuk was traded well before the decision to blow the team up was made. As a matter of fact, the Caps didn't have Kono in their long-term plans so moving him before the firesale was a smart move. As for your point about the captaincy, he had shared the captaincy with Brendan Witt the season before (taking it over full-time at the start of the 2002-2003 season), there were also many rumors of leadership problems swirling around the team, and after Kono's trade the team said "Kolzig is the leader here anyway" which is why they didn't name another captain until Halpern after the lockout. Even then they still referred to Kolzig as the "real captain."

Jagr was a player who loved to play on the big stage and D.C. wasn't big time enough for him when he was here. Maybe we are now but not when Jagr was around.

As for loyalty to Bondra, what do you make of his multiple contract holdouts, disputes, and trade demands? Furthermore, what about his talking about returning to D.C. and skating at Piney Orchard while negotiating a contract with a division rival? Loyalty goes both ways.

Nylander was a simple salary dump. Carter really didn't fit in here and why people love Grier so much is beyond me. The guy could never finish on his nightly breakaway.

Posted by: CapsNut | October 20, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why you think the Bondra-Laich trade should never have been made. Sports is a business--both for the players and the teams--and giving up the final year or two of an excellent player on the downside of his career for a guy who has gone on to be a key player, leader and fan favorite on a Stanley Cup contender is well worth it--in fact, after the Lang trade it's no question the best trade they made that year. Bondra got traded to a team going to the playoffs--it's not like they sent him to another bad team or anything. It was exactly the kind of trade a team in the state the 2004 Caps were in should be making.

Posted by: TheFingerman | October 20, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

imagine what our team would be now if most of these prospects and draft picks panned out.

Posted by: casser | October 21, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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