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Posted at 8:54 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

The Hannan trade and its impact on 2C

By Kareem El-Alaily

If you’ve read my blog since the start of the season you know that I’ve been clamoring for upgrades to the center position and to the defense. So let me start by stating the obvious: I love the Hannan-for-Fleischmann trade! The acquisition of Scott Hannan improves the defense and George McPhee pulled it off without giving up too much. We now can roll out a defensive corps that is truly six-deep, with three being stay-at-home types and three being able to initiate the rush.

There’s plenty of internet discussion about Hannan’s potential impact on the Caps so I’ll spare you from adding to it. But I do want to discuss how Hannan’s acquisition affects the Caps ability to upgrade the 2C, which in my opinion is the only missing major piece left for the Caps to address.

Let’s talk about the current 2C situation first. While there is a growing contingent that feels Marcus Johansson is ready for the 2C role, he’s just not there yet. Johansson has played very well lately and he’s going to become a good pivot for the Caps. But the odds that he reaches the level of play needed from a Stanley Cup caliber 2C this year is low, and thrusting him in that role at the age of 20 is unfair to him from a development perspective. Based on that, I have no doubts that McPhee is actively plying the trade waters to find the elusive center who can lock down the 2C spot for a playoff run.

So what will it take to land that player? The going rate is likely a current Caps skater who can play top minutes + a first round pick + a top prospect. Sounds easy, but the pesky salary cap gets in the way. According to the Caps now have $2.4M in cap space. Let’s hypothetically assume that the Caps go after a center that makes $5M. McPhee would have to find $2.6M in cap space to acquire that player. How do the Caps get there? For starters, they can waive Tyler Sloan ($0.7M) and make sure that Eric Fehr ($2.2M) is bundled in any trade package. That gets you there with a bit of room to spare. But what if the Caps trading partner doesn’t want Eric Fehr? What other promising players would the Caps be willing to part with for a three-month rental?

The point is some tough decisions are going to have to be made to address the 2C. The Caps simply can’t bundle picks and prospects to land an impact (read: expensive) center because it likely will leave the team over the cap. A currently rostered Capital player – or two – will have to go in a trade, or set of trades.

Looking at the roster, the Caps simply don’t have that many tradable players that are coveted by other teams AND make enough money to dent the salary cap. No one is getting their hands on Ovechkin, Green or Backstrom – as franchise cornerstones they’re not on the market. Players like Poti and Knuble aren’t going to be coveted due to a combination of age and expense. Role players such as Gordon, Bradley, Steckel, Hendricks and Erskine aren’t desired at deadlines because grinders are relatively easy to find. And dangling inexpensive young players (Varlamov, Neuvirth, Alzner, Carlson, Johansson) isn’t going to get you under the cap - nor is it very wise.

That leaves free-agent-to be Semin, Schultz, free-agent-to-be Laich, Fehr and Chimera as the players other teams may covet. These five make enough money to get the team under the cap, if traded. Personally, I’d be loathe to lose this year’s new-and-improved version of Semin since I think he could do some serious damage with a good 2C. And I can’t see McPhee or Boudreau parting with Schultz either. My guess is that if the Caps land this expensive impact center then Laich (gulp!), Fehr or Chimera will be jettisoned to make cap room.  

Ultimately, who we have to give up depends on who the Caps chase and how expensive he is. (Oft-mentioned Dallas Stars center Brad Richards, for example, makes $7.8M and would require significant roster tinkering to acquire.) I can’t predict what McPhee is going to do but I can recommend that you be prepared: any future additions to the roster will undoubtedly result in a subtraction from one of our current top nine forwards, some of whom may be fan favorites. This will leave some fans unhappy as their favorite player is shipped out of town. Hopefully, a June Stanley Cup parade down Pennsylvania Ave remedies their unhappiness!

By Kareem El-Alaily  | December 2, 2010; 8:54 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  | Tags:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  
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Next: World Cup bid voting patterns make no sense


When you figure out that a $6 million player, picked up late in the season is not a $6 million cap hit, come back and write a worthwhile article.

Posted by: jeadpt | December 2, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Gotta make that trade; can't go into playoffs w/ a rookie 2C starting, he'll get destroyed. But I'd love to see us add a bigger, meaner D (ala Pronger), if we're wishing!

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | December 2, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Thank You jeadpt!!
It was my understanding that salaries are prorated based upon the percentage of the season left to be paid. Therfore a $6 million dollar player has a $3 million dollar cap hit if traded at mid-season.
Players, like Richards, are not going to be traded until the trade deadline is near and teams know whether they have playoff aspirations or not. By that time, the Caps $2.4 million dollar space will be enough to absorb most player contracts!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | December 2, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

You're right. I was under the impression that capgeek didn't pro-rate salaries and that the salary cap space was a full-time, start-of-the-year salary equivalent. With that not being the case, the Caps do have room to take on larger contracts as the season goes on with less tinkering to the roster.

My apologies for messing that up. Under any circumstance, I still see one of the top 9 forwards getting moved if the Caps bring on an expensive center, albeit it's highly unlikley that it'll be Laich since the Caps wouldn't have to clear that quantity of cap space out.


Posted by: topshelf_22304 | December 2, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The dumbest thing we could do would be to trade for a 2C. The team chemistry would be devastated.

The best thing we could do would be to go with Johannsen, who has been most impressive for a guy who can't even buy a beer yet. I disagree with the guy who said he'd get eaten in the playoffs. Nobody's dining on him now, and he'll have a LOT more experience by May.

Don't dismantle it to try to fix something that isn't broken. We got unlucky last year in the playoffs when the Canadians' goalie got too hot to handle, really freakishly hot. It wasn't because we were getting outskated, outshot, or outplayed in general, problems that the addition of a second-line center might address.

Even talking about trading Jeff Schultz makes me cringe in horror. Nobody seems to understand the truth here, that, secretly and silently, Schultz is our most valuable player and the one guy whose loss might ruin our whole season. Just watch him, watch all the 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s that he thwarts, often with such grace that nobody even recognizes the threat. It's no wonder that he was our plus/minus leader last year -- he earned it, and then some.

My view of the Caps right now is that last year is in the past. We are MUCH improved, with a healthy Varly backed up by a decent and much more experienced Neuvirth, and with the wonderful additions of Carlson and Johannsen (I am less impressed with Alzner), and another year's experience with the Caps for Chimera. The best thing we can do is stand pat right now and go with what we've got. What we've got right now is the best team in the NHL, particularly if we can keep Poti healthy somehow so we might kill a few penalties.

Wait til' late and use that cap space to ADD someone good without subtracting anyone (except maybe Tyler Sloan).

Posted by: FergusonFoont | December 2, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

sorry dude [Kareem] but you clearly have no idea how the NHL salary cap works. It's a day-by-day calculation. i.e. meaning with the cap space they have now, at the deadline they'll be able to add up to $11 mil in salary = Brad Richards, C, Dallas Stars. mark it down.

Posted by: ThatGuy2 | December 2, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

How do you get $11M in cap space by the March 1 trade deadline? If the Caps have $2.4M of space now and we're 30% done with the season...wouldn't that correlate to about ~$6M of cap space by the time we're at the 75% mark of the season (i.e, the trade deadline)?

Posted by: topshelf_22304 | December 2, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I believe the cap hits are based on 180 days.

Richards 7.8M divided by 180 = $43,333.33 per day of salary.

$43,333.33 X 40 days (number of days from end of deadline to end of regular season) = $1,733,333.30 - Richards salary if traded at the deadline. That number increases by 43K for each day traded before the deadline.

Posted by: Steve_R | December 2, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse


If you have 2.5M of space right now. Divide 180 (total number of salary days) by 40 (number of salary days after the deadline) = 4.5

4.5 X 2.5M = 11.25M of prorated salary that could be absorbed at the deadline

I think anyway...

Posted by: Steve_R | December 2, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Rather than reaching for Brad Richards wouldn't it be smarter to go after an older center with playoff experience who is on a club far down in the standings (as the club did with Fedorov in 2008)?

I know he is now too old but remember when Doug Weight was traded in 2006?

You get a guy who is 33 or 34 and has a limited amount of time left on his contract and he can be dealt for a pick and one player off the roster such as Fehr or Chimera.

I don't see the value in trading Semin for Richards. Then you don't have that dynamic goal scorer on the second line for Richards to work with.

Laich could be traded but you give up perhaps the team's most versatile forward.

He can play wing or center in a pinch.

He can take faceoffs.

And he is willing to go to the net and pay the price in close, which is something the other Capitals' forwards failed to do last year against Montreal.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | December 2, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

You all need to relax, what ever the cap rate, it will be pro-rated. (DAH).

Nice article, bottom line regardless of the $$$, what "will" the caps will have to give up?

I agree with those who caution on the side of chemistry, and keeping it together.

my guess is that they will not give up Laich. Nor will they sacrifice the plan of growing up together.

Stanley Cup this year, who knows, i will be happy with EC Finals,and keep moving forward!

As some one who have seen the CAPS underachive in the post season several times during the 80's and 90's, i will take the long and winding approach!

Posted by: hunter321 | December 2, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

how about MP85?

any worthwhile folks to go after in NJD? They'll be in rebuilding mode by Feb.

Posted by: j762 | December 2, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for writing this. Despite the Cap number confusion I enjoyed reading. What I would like to add is I believe the Caps, around the deadline, could add a 2C without trading a current top 9 forward. I think they could get that with a 1st rounder and a couple higher end prospects. As long as it is a rental player. Looking back at deadlines that's been pretty consistent. However I do think it is wise to prep ourselves for the potential of losing one of the lower line guys as part of the deal.

Posted by: Mike4169 | December 2, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

While Richards would be ideal, it seems unlikely for the reasons you mentioned. Jason Arnott, however, seems to fit the picture perfectly with only a $4.5 mil cap hit. This is assuming of course the devils do not make a surge towards contention. The question that should be asked is, do the caps have the picks/prospects necessary to pull the deal? Our once deep class of prospects is rather shallow since most have graduated to the NHL. Will a first + perault + holtby be competitive enough of an offer?
A. Gordon perhaps?

Posted by: jquinn05 | December 2, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The idea that this Caps team is improved at all from last year's is a myth. The only aspect that has improved is our Penalty Kill. Consequently, our Goals Against per Game has dropped from mid-level to top 10. However, our 5-on-5 GAA is actually worse than last year, and our scoring, while strong, isn't where it was. I am eager to see how Hannan will change this.

Posted by: jquinn05 | December 2, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Let Johansson center the second line, and go with this team as is.

Posted by: coastallp74 | December 2, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

As usual, you start with a couple of false assumptions here.

Many have already picked you apart on the salary cap implications. No need for me to pile on.

However, the idea that we could subtract players such as Laich, Fehr, and/or Schultz from the current lineup to add a 2C with minimal disruption is flat-out wrong.

Love him or not, Sarge is a valuable piece on defense, even more so this year with Green and Poti going in and out of the lineup with injuries. Subtract Sarge and we'll be seeing more ice time for guys like Erskine and Sloan.

Bad trade-off for a 2C.

Laich has established himself pretty well on the second line, subtract him and you need a new winger on the second line who will go to the front of the net. Fehr might be that guy, but has been too inconsistent.

And speaking of Fehr himself, he's found himself a decent home for the time being on the third line. Again, the inconsistency has been a problem for him in his career but he has raised his level of play in the playoffs all three years.

Bad idea to get rid of Laich or Fehr for a 2C. This would be a classic opening up one hole to fill another.

As for the problem with the 2C position itself. I don't see why Johansson can't fill it for us come playoff time.

#1. He HAS to get NHL playoff experience somehow. Shutting him down come playoff time would be worse for his development that throwing him into the fire because it shows a lack of trust in the player.

#2. Nick Backstrom spent his frist three playoff series (over two seasons) as the 2C on this team and did very well in the role. By starting off as the 2C, Backstrom did not face the top checking line or defensive pairing in the playoffs which allowed him to thrive. Johansson would draw the same situation and would have the added bonus of not having to take over 1C duties in the near future.

IMHO, time will tell and McPhee may make a move to get Richards or some other 2C at the deadline, but he's not touching the current roster to do it. The price would have to be Christobal Huet/Sergei Fedorov cheap for him to pull the trigger. If he does anything at the deadline, it will be moves to bolster the overall depth like he did last year.

Posted by: CapsNut | December 2, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

As said - the person who wrote this doesn't understand the salary cap. We could land an $8 million center at the deadline and still be under the cap because we would only be on the hook for about 1/4 or 1/5 of his salary. Second - Laich can move to center. Third - centers are much easier to come it really isn't a concern. I agree that MarJo isn't ready for prime time...but maybe Matty P will be. Regardless - MarJo should only get better with time.

Posted by: dingram3 | December 2, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Unless Matty P grows another six inches he will NEVER be the type of center that wins you playoff series. His offensive upside is unquestionable, but that is not what the Caps need in April, May and beyond. We need solid two-way players; MoJo seems to be on his way to becoming one, but will he be ready for prime-time? GMGM will have to make the call.

Posted by: jquinn05 | December 2, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse


1. I never suggested that we should get trade Semin, Schultz or Laich. I simply stated that those would be players that other teams would want.

2. I couldn't disagree with your assumptions more. I would trade Laich or Fehr in a heartbeat if it means upgrading the center spot. 2C is unquestionably a much more important position than 2W or 3W. Centers have a much greater role generating offense and keeping pucks out of the net than wingers do. Do I want to see Laich go? Of course not, but if, for exanmple, Dallas will only trade Richards to us if we throw Laich in, then McPhee has to consider that option.

3. MarJo as 2C for the playoffs?!? I think you confuse him with Backstrom. Players like Nick don't fall off trees and MarJo ain't no Nick Backstrom. MarJo has great speed and good defensive instincts - his optimal fit for this year's playoffs is on the 3rd line. He can get plenty of playoff experience there and him/Chimera can cause matchup problems with their speed. I don't mind him playing 2C up to the trading deadline, but it's a weakness if we go into April with MarJo as the 2C.

4. If McPhee chooses to bolster "depth" as you recommend he's going to have to purge players on the current roster. We have a lot of lower rung guys that are not going to be coveted by other teams. So who goes in that scenario?

5. My money is on McPhee focusing on acquiring an experienced 2C before he addresses depth.

Centers that can play on the top 2 lines are much more difficult to come by than wingers. They're much tougher to obtain because there are less of them out there. That's why the Caps haven't had much luck finding a 2C that can stick with the Caps. In the past three seasons we've gone They're enormously difficult to find and very expensive to acquire. That's why the Caps have drafted only one 1C/2C that's stuck with the team in the past decade (Backstrom).


Posted by: topshelf_22304 | December 2, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Just a thought for the number 2 center, and welcome back Dineus Zuborous, forgot the spelling. NJ has to dump more salary and he can play with Semin. I am not sure how much contract he has left, but cant be more than a single year.

Posted by: RichC3 | December 2, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

@ Steve_R: Per your numbers, it would be 40/180, which is .22222222222 (or 2/9).

However, it is technically 40/193, or .207254, as you'll see below.

For anyone who wants more info, look at the last question on this link:

"How is a player's salary charged against a team's salary cap when a trade is made at the deadline?"

"The salary that is charged against a team's cap is the pro rated amount remaining of the player's average yearly salary. For example, if a player has an average yearly salary of $2 million, the amount charged against the acquiring team's cap is the pro-rated amount remaining of $2 million. This is calculated by dividing $2 million by the number of days in the season (193). The amount ($10,363) is then multiplied by the number of days remaining in the season from the day the trade is made (40 days if trade is on March 3) to ascertain the amount charged against the team's cap ($414,508)."


How's the talent? Go Caps!

Posted by: CF11555 | December 2, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

20 is not young!!!
players 18 19 20 years old routinely play the highest levels of
Football-- the other Football
what am i missing ? ?
he's a professional.. let him deal with it..

Posted by: dean4 | December 2, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

trading a top 9 forward instead of picks and prospects for a rental at the deadline is WE TALL DID.. how did last years trades at the deadline work out for us ?

Posted by: heathdog1119 | December 2, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

FYI, Kareem, it's "loath", not "loathe".

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | December 2, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Rather than pick you apart again, I'll just out that the NHL's 23 man roster limit is lifted after the trading deadline.

McPhee could acquire more depth at the deadline and not have to sacrifice a single player off the NHL roster nor demote anybody.

But then again, the fact that you think we should have won the Cup in 1992 says everything we need to know about your hockey knowledge.

Posted by: CapsNut | December 2, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Ever wonder about all the free stuff you see on the web? It appears like everybody wants to give stuff away for nothing, nada, zilch. But are these items truly free of charge? If so, how can these companies afford to give away all of these coupons and samples? It’s truly all about you, the consumer. We live in a very competitive world marketplace place. The internet has upped the ante in terms of who could be seen and heard via all with the mass media. Now companies need to make lots of noise and this is one way that can do it. One of the best place on the web is called "123 Get Samples" and get your free stuffs

Posted by: kathrynmerry | December 3, 2010 4:57 AM | Report abuse

1. If you genuinely feel that McPhee's priorities should be adding depth forwards and defensemen - essentially insurance players - over addressing the 2C, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. I'm not interested in getting into an ad hominem game with you over it. We just have differing philosophies on what the Caps need.

2. Again, I never claimed the Caps should have won the 91-92 Cup. You're drawing poor conclusions from what you've read. I wrote that they were contenders. The Caps finished 2nd in the NHL that year, matched up well against the #1 team (NYR) whom they'd beat in the playoffs the previous two seasons, and had the defending and future champion Penguins on the ropes 3-1 with home ice. I think that's contender-worthy. If you don't, again, that's your opinion.

Posted by: topshelf_22304 | December 3, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Richards is a Conn Smythe winner. If they have the chance to add him without taking players off the roster then they probably have to. But you have to keep NHL caliber guy around for injuries anyway. Everyone is hurt in the playoffs, and having the extra depth is valuable.

What would Dallas want? Probably a Goalie prospect in addition to the Caps' first round pick and other assets. Is it worth it? maybe.

It's not like McPhee doesn't want to add these players: Let's remember GMGM was in on Pronger talk until Anaheim wanted Varlamov, Alzner, and Carlson if I remeber correctly.

Posted by: GFisher1 | December 3, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree that if the Caps can get Brad Richards at the trade deadline to be the 1C or 2C, I think they need to go for it.

I'm not saying the Caps need to give up the farm to make a marginal improvement, but I do think with Semin being a UFA after this year, the time to go for it is now.

Posted by: cainoo7x | December 3, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

FYI, Kareem, it's "loath", not "loathe".

Posted by: spunkydawg1


Really? That's your contribution? Well "Websters" disagrees with you.

loathe verb \ˈlōth\
transitive verb
: to dislike greatly and often with disgust or intolerance : detest

Posted by: MucusMembrane | December 7, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

20 is not young!!!
players 18 19 20 years old routinely play the highest levels of
Football-- the other Football
what am i missing ? ?
he's a professional.. let him deal with it..
Posted by: dean4

Well I think Baseball, Basketball and NFL football are much like Hockey. Sure you find the rare Nick Backstrom type that can start on a championship caliber team as a teenager, but this is the exception, not the rule.

Tennis, I totally agree with you but most tennis players are done by their mid 20s (again there are exceptions).

Rugby and soccer I'll take your word on..... I've never been too interested in either at the professional level.

Posted by: MucusMembrane | December 7, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

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