The Washington Capitals ended the week on a positive note. Having signed Troy Brouwer to a two year deal worth about $2.35 million a year, the Caps have inched closer to stabilizing their core lineup. With the recent signing of Tomas Vokoun, Brouwer’s deal also put Washington roughly $1 million over the salary cup. Obviously, this is not good, and it was clear the Caps would have to engage in a trade, a trade where they received no expensive assets in return. As expected, the player that was traded to clear space was Eric Fehr. He was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for a fourth round pick and prospect Danick Paquettte.
Lets first take a quick look at the Brouwer deal, next examine the Fehr trade, before wrapping it up with an overview of the Capitals remaining situation.
Brouwer is a good player. Now that his Restricted Free Agency has ended we can assess what the Caps really got in that draft day trade. The 2011 NHL Draft was a weak class. The Capitals 26th overall pick will likely need three years or more to make an NHL roster. Troy Brouwer is ready to step in anywhere from the top line to the fourth line. At 2.35 million Brouwer makes roughly the same salary as Tomas Holmstrom, Saku Koivu, and Tyler Kennedy. Recently departed Cap Marco Sturm got a similar deal with the Vancouver Canucks as well. When you consider those players and their respective roles, it’s plausible to see Brouwer finding a similar niche with a deep and talented Washington squad. The key in trading for Brouwer was that his RFA status did not force the Caps to pay an obscene price for his services. It was officially a smart deal for the Caps. Chalk another one up for George McPhee.
Eric Fehr, the enigma. Riddling Caps fans with injuries and inconsistency, mixed with Winter Classic heroics and physical play. The signing of Brouwer and Joel Ward pretty well indicated the Caps had decided to go with different role players than different skill players. With that said, Eric Fehr’s role was filled. At 2.2 million it was pretty close to an even swap dropping Fehr and signing Brouwer. What about Brouwer and Ward is better than Fehr? Maybe nothing. Eric Fehr is a heck of a scoring power forward. George McPhee used to tell the press that he would be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. It hasn’t happened yet, but the Caps couldn’t keep waiting. Brouwer picks up the offensive load for Fehr and brings a strong presence on the fore-check. Joel Ward’s defense puts Eric Fehr’s defense to shame. And he can score too. This could legitimately be a trade that benefits both sides. On a less talented team Fehr’s role could change to one he’s more comfortable playing. The Caps have their guys and some developmental assets as well.
Finally let’s quickly assess the Caps current situation. As well as they have played the off-season, the Washington Capitals have a lot of work left to do. With barely a half million dollars to spare the Caps will have to figure out a way to clear up enough space for young D-man Karl Alzner’s new contract. Alzner made about 1.65 million last season. He is due at least a small raise but given his talent and upside, other teams may be willing to try and outbid the money strapped Caps. Tom Poti and John Erskine are the Caps D-Man that look expendable. Poti is still injured, so a trading partner isn’t likely, especially, with two years left on his deal. His 2.875 salary would be really helpful though. John Erskine also has two years left but at 1.5 million. D.J King could provide a little wiggle room if his 637,000 salary is traded. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess?