For the first time during George McPhee’s tenure as the General Manager of the Washington Capitals, the team decided to deal their First Round pick.
It wasn’t all that surprising, considering McPhee had consistently said that he believed this Draft Class was a particularly weak one, and that the team was not considering making a move to gain a higher pick in the First Round.
Instead of attempting to move up and select an impact player for the future, McPhee opted to exchange the team’s 26th Overall Pick in the 2011 Draft for Troy Brouwer, a grinding two-way winger with the Chicago Blackhawks. Brouwer brings a lot of attractive attributes to the table, such as the fact that he played a key role during Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup victory.
In addition to his championship-calibre track record, Brouwer brings a gritty, physical style that the Capitals desperately needed, especially if Brooks Laich is going to be testing the free agent market come July 1st. He’s a solid offensive threat, as he tallied 22 goals a year ago, and may even build on that total if given the opportunity to skate on one of Washington’s top two lines.
Unfortunately, Brouwer is a restricted free agent, so Washington will have to find a way to sign him, but he’ll be a less expensive option than the aforementioned Laich. Brouwer made just over $1 million last season, so after posting consecutive seasons of over 35 points, he’ll be receiving a sizable pay raise.
Seeing as Eric Fehr put up similar numbers prior to signing a 2-year deal in the summer of 2010 that pays him roughly $2.2 million, it’s likely that Brouwer will be in the $2-2.5 million range. He’s already said he’s excited about coming to the Capitals, so it’s unlikely the team will have much trouble signing the 25-year old winger.
However, assuming the Capitals do sign Troy Brouwer, what does that mean for Brooks Laich?
Laich will be a hot commodity if he remains unsigned when unrestricted free agency opens on July 1st, and the team has not indicated that a deal is in the works. While it’s possible McPhee is playing his cards close to the chest, Brouwer may be McPhee’s idea of a replacement for Laich, as they played similar roles for their respective teams last season.
While Brouwer is certainly a nice addition, the Capitals should still be doing everything they can to sign Laich. On-ice contributions aside, Laich is a great ambassador for the team and the sport of hockey in Washington, and is one of the team’s most popular players. If he draws offers that are far out of the Capitals’ price range, so be it, but until that happens, Laich should be the top priority on McPhee’s to-do list.
If a deal can’t be done, look for Washington to add another piece during unrestricted free agency. They’ll have the cap space, and with many of the contending teams having done most of their summer shopping at the Draft, there will be options available for the Capitals perusal.