George McPhee is ready to make a deal.
Why else would the Capitals general manager place Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve hours before todays 3 p.m. NHL trading deadline?
The roster move, combined with Sundays reassignment of Keith Aucoin to the AHL Hershey Bears, frees up roughly 7.6 million in cap space.
Placing Backstrom (6.7 million cap hit) on LTIR gives McPhee several options without necessarily ending Backstrom's regular season. Heres how:
If McPhee uses the additional 7.6 million in cap space to land a forward lets say Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger (3.75 million this season, 4.6 million each of the next five years), he would need to trade roughly 3.85 million in salary to have enough cap space to have a healthy Backstrom fit under the cap if he was cleared to play before the end of the regular season.
Or, since the salary cap is not in play for the playoffs, McPhee could keep everyone on his current roster. That would prevent Backstrom from returning during the regular season, but allow him to play in the playoffs without necessitating a roster move.
Backstrom has been sidelined with concussion symptoms since taking an elbow to the chin by former Calgary Flame and current Montreal Canadiens forward Rene Bourque on Jan. 3.
Backstrom has 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 38 games with the Capitals this season.