Caps' trade plans hinge on Backstrom

Caps' trade plans hinge on Backstrom
February 16, 2012, 10:22 pm
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The Capitals could use a hard-hitting defenseman like Montreals Hal Gill.

They could use a natural goal scorer like Columbus' Jeff Carter or Rick Nash or a secondary offensive weapon like Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn.

All four players are expected to be made available before the NHLs Feb. 27 trade deadline.

But with virtually no salary cap space and the long-term health of Nicklas Backstrom still a mystery, can general manager George McPhee make it happen?

There are always ways to do things, McPhee said. You just identify what you need and then figure out how you get it. Well all know more in 10 days, I guess.

The simplest solution for the Capitals would be to place Backstrom on long term injury reserve, which would free up his 6.7 million in cap space. If the Caps do that, Backstrom would be unable to return to the team until the playoffs, when the salary cap is lifted.

As McPhee pointed out, the danger in that approach is trying to get into the playoffs without Backstrom.

Its an option, certainly, McPhee said. But Nickys not the kind of guy you want to LTI and three weeks later hes ready to go and you cant use him. Well just see 10 days from now. If there is a way to help the club, we will, and if there isnt a deal that makes sense, then we wont do it.

With only two teams Columbus and Edmonton completely out of the playoff picture, McPhee said the number of sellers this year is smaller than ever and his efforts to stir interest among other general managers has been fruitless.

It gets harder every year, it seems, because there are fewer sellers, he said.

If McPhee wanted to pull off a blockbuster trade, he has the assets to do it. In addition to top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Capitals own two first-round picks in this years draft theirs and Colorados. But McPhee is apprehensive about mortgaging his teams future for what could be a run at the Cup without his top-line center.

Well get as close to the deadline as we can to figure out where we might be going with Backstrom and make decisions accordingly, McPhee said. We do have to put a team on the ice again in September. We do have young talent everybody would like to have, but wed like to have them in our lineup in September, too.