“Let’s Make A Deal”

After the Caps signed Troy Brouwer to a tw0-year deal worth $2.35 mil per season, they find themselves over the salary cap limit by a little less than $2 mil. Thus, everyone knows that a trade or something is coming very soon and with 14 forwards 7 (soon to be 8 ) defensemen currently under contract, the Caps have a couple of spare parts that they can move to make cap space. We are going to need to move at least $4 mil to be able to re-sign Karl Alzner while staying under the salary cap so there’s definitely going to be some moves.

First, before we talk about trading players let’s go through two players who likely will not be healthy to start the season; Tom Poti and Eric Fehr. One option with them is putting them on LTIR (long term injured reserve) once the season starts thus, giving the Capitals a little more leeway with the cap limit and possibly allowing them enough room to keep Alzner for now. The way LTIR works is that Poti and Fehr’s salaries would not come off the books but the Caps would be allowed to exceed the cap limit by Fehr and Poti’s cap hits minus how much cap space they have left to start the season. Poti appears to have not recovered from his “career threatening” groin injury and Fehr had shoulder surgery after the season ended which means that these two are more than likely to miss more than 10 games to start next season, making them eligible to be put on the LTIR and possibly freeing up possibly $4 mil in cap space. That would work well as a temporary fix but the Caps might look to trade some players if they want to have enough space to re-sign Alzner. When looking at the roster, the odd man out could be Jason Chimera.

Chimera didn’t have a good season last year and the signings of Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer (who have a similar role to him, only they do it a lot better) tell me that Chimera might be moved in the upcoming weeks because I do not see where he fits on the roster. Also, his low cap hit of $1.875 mil is something that other teams would be willing to take if they are looking for a third line winger who isn’t depended on for secondary scoring. I’m sure the Caps would be willing to take whatever they can back to gain some salary so what we would get in return for him isn’t that big of an issue for him. I just don’t see where exactly he would fit in the lineup if things stay the way they are, but if Fehr is out for longer than intended then he could stay.

Other players names I’ve heard thrown around in trade rumors are Alex Semin and Mike Green but I think the two are too important for the Caps to trade now even though they take up a lot of cap space. One player who I’ve been thinking of being traded is blue-liner Jeff Schultz. I know he’s not as bad as his play indicated last season but with Hamrlik, Alzner, Carlson, Green, Wideman and Erskine on the blue-liner, where does that leave him? Yes, he’s better than Erskine and possibly Hamrlik but he was given less minutes in the playoffs and some teams looking to shore up their blue-line might be interested in him. Don’t get me wrong, I like Schultz and he has shown to be capable of playing top 2-4 minutes but so can five of the six defenseman I just mentioned and we are going to have 8 blue-liners under contract (counting Poti) at the beginning of the season so one of them has to be moved. If Poti is somehow moved then this becomes null and void but I just think the idea is worth throwing around. As I said earlier, he is pretty decent trade bait as a first round pick and his strong 2009-10 season might have gained him some recognition but he might end up being the odd-man out on defense. He’s due $2.75 mil over the next three seasons, so that might steer some teams away, though but it’s hard to predict anything with the way this off-season is going.

So who do you think might be traded?

Capitals Player Report Card: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Stats: 72 GP, 1 Goal, 9 Assists, 10 Points, +6, 12 PIM
Contract Info: $2,750,000 cap hit, signed through 2013-14 season
Player Card

Shooting Percentage Ranking: 17/29
Defensemen: 7/10
Balanced Corsi Ranking: 21/29
Defensemen: 7/10

After the Caps signed Jeff Schultz to a 4-year contract extension worth $11 mil, I praised it because Schultz was coming off a very good season where he led the league in +/- and looked like a solid top-4 pairing defenseman who could help clean up some of Mike Green’s messes in the defensive zone. However, I did expect some regression from him because his PDO was extremely high last year, especially for a player who only had one goal and shot the puck once every blue moon. The on-ice save percentage of .942 at even strength shows that he got lucky a few times and had the goalie bail him out a lot. However, I still expected him to stay on the top pairing and be a consistent defensive defenseman for this year. Schultz was the opposite of consistent in 2010-11.

Like I mentioned earlier, I expected Schultz to regress but he was way too up-and-down this season. Remember at the beginning of the year when Schultz wasn’t on ice for a single goal against for about a week or so? He ended up being on ice for more 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes than any other defenseman on the team other than Wideman, Poti and Sloan (in other words, any defenseman who was healthy or played for most of the season). He was also on ice for more shots allowed per 60 minutes than any defenseman on the team aside from the three whom were previously mentioned.  I also outlined in my “getting defensive” feature that his minutes bounced around a lot this season and he lost his spot as the top pairing defenseman after being outperformed by both Karl Alzner and John Carlson. That doesn’t exactly reflect well on him but one thing Schultz lacked was a consistent partner. His usual partner, Green, was injured for most of the season and Schultz’s minutes seemed to be based on who his defense partner was. If it was Hannan, he would get top-4 minutes, if it was Erskine, then it would be bottom-six. Earlier in the year he was paired with Poti a good few times and he was getting top-4 minutes, too.

There’s a few things that alarm me about Sarge’s performance this season; First of all, he faced slightly weaker competition than he did last season (albeit with worse teammates, the line shuffling has a lot to do with that) but posted a negative corsi rating. He was also given less offensive zone starts, indicating that he had a more defensive role on the team, and struggled with that, which shows that he isn’t suited for being a “top shutdown” defenseman yet. He was also a regular on the penalty kill but as the season went on, his role on the PK decreased and he wasn’t utilized as much as others during the playoffs either. It’s a combination of him being outperformed and his play regressing from last season. One other thing I should mention is that he tended to look ugly on too many plays this year. I know that generally happens when a player has a goal scored against him but far too many times this year I saw Schultz look completely lost like he did on the first three Kings goals here .

Schultz was not completely terrible this year, just not as good as I had hoped he would be. My biggest issue was something that I brought up earlier; consistency. He was great in some games and flat out terrible in others. Some games he would lead the team in blocked shots, not be on ice for a goal against and be the solid, stay at home defenseman we hoped he would be and other times he would look like he did in that highlight package I just linked. $2.75 isn’t a bad cap hit at all..for a top 4 defenseman but is Schultz one of those right now? He isn’t physical enough to be a top-pairing shutdown defenseman and doesn’t contribute enough offensively to be an all-around guy so what is he? Can he be a big minute defensemen or is he better suited as a 5-6 guy? Sarge is still only 25 and has room to improve so I wouldn’t panic about one down year from him. There’s still time to find out just what exactly his place is on this team. For this season, I have to give him a C- as much as it pains me to do that. I had high expectations for him, and he didn’t live up to them. I can see him getting top-4 minutes next year and having a solid bounce-back season defensively. It wouldn’t kill him to shoot the puck at the net every once and awhile, though.