George McPhee says he talked to every NHL general manager 10 to 15 times in the past three or four days. But in the end, there was not a trade he could make that he thought would better the Washington Capitals.
Everyone wants action, McPhee said Monday, a day when his cell phone was active but his trigger finger was not. Everybody wants to be making deals, but you get in there and you see nothing but feathers.
In all, there were 15 deadline-day trades involving 18 teams, 31 players and 11 draft picks on Monday.
McPhee said he didnt see anything that would help his team, which sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 31-26-5 record, one point out of a playoff spot and three behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.
The theme of this years deadline was everybody wanted to add and there was no one selling, McPhee said. There were probably three or four sellers, and a couple of them are in our division, so there was not much we could do with them.
McPhee acknowledged he placed Nicklas Backstrom on the long-term injury list to free up 6.7 million in cap space in the event he could pull off a major deal, like acquiring Columbus Blue Jackets power forward Rick Nash.
Nash asked the Blue Jackets to move him, but Columbus general manager Scott Howsons asking price apparently scared off every NHL team, including the Capitals.
You talk and you talk and you talk, McPhee said. But when it comes to feeling close to closing in on something, it never got to that stage.
What would it have taken for McPhee to make a deal of any kind?
A mistake that I would regret in the summer, he said. And a lot of that happens at the trade deadline. There are more mistakes at the trade deadline than at any time in the business, because everyone thinks this is the move that takes them over the top.
And then in the summertime you have a lot of managers sitting there saying, Geez, I wish I still had that young player or that first-round pick. We werent going to make that mistake.
McPhee said he was not interested in giving away the first- and fourth-round draft picks it took for Vancouver to pry checking-line center Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres, even though the Caps own two picks in the first round this year.
We didnt talk about that player, McPhee said. We didnt see that player being a fit here, and we certainly wouldnt give up a first-round pick for a player who would be a free agent in the summer.
Speaking of free agents, the Caps will have nine of them after this season, including five unrestricted free agents Dennis Wideman, Alex Semin, Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern and Tomas Vokoun who likely will not be offered extensions.
The risk, McPhee said when asked why he held onto his potential UFAs, is you lose them, and if you do, you go get somebody else.
As for this season, McPhee said he wants Capitals fans and season-ticket holders to understand that if he saw a deal that would make the Caps better without jeopardizing the organizations future, he would have made it.
I think our fan base understands that if there was something to do, we would have done it, because we always have, said McPhee, who pulled off a series of deadline deals in three of the last four seasons. But were not going to make mistakes. We have some players in our lineup now because we didnt make mistakes the past three or four years. Sometimes, no deal is better than a wrong deal.
And so the Capitals you see today are the same club you will see over the final 20 games of the regular season. Asked if the preseason goal of winning a Stanley Cup had changed over the course of this season, McPhee said a lot depends on the health of Backstrom, whose return remains very much in doubt.
I certainly think were capable of making the playoffs with this team right now, McPhee said. If Nicky Backstrom came back, it certainly would improve our chances of winning a Stanley Cup. We can make the playoffs with this team, and if he comes back, we can beat anybody in this conference.