In the days leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline the Washington Capitals were very active, and they finished off their wheeling and dealing by acquiring Jaroslav Halak and a third round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. The move was another great decision by Capitals general manager George McPhee, and it leaves the team in a great spot to climb out of 10th place and into an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The two assets that were given up in this deal were really not valuable to the Capitals at all, and in fact it is a wonder that they got rid of Neuvirth and Klesla at all. Throughout the season Neuvirth has been persistent in asking for trades out of town, and common belief was that after watching him get relegated to the bench for large parts of the season that the player and club would be stuck in an unhappy marriage. Clearly, McPhee pulled the right strings to make sure this didn’t happen, and shipping off the perennially injured Klesla after just acquiring him a day ago will not dishearten many in the Capitals organization.
Heading in the final 20 games of the regular season, it is clear that Halak will start out as the No. 2 option behind Braden Holtby, but that doesn’t mean he will stay on the bench long. Halak has had a great 2013-14 season with the St. Louis Blues, as he compiled a 24-9-4 record with a 2.23 GAA and .917 save percentage prior to being traded to the Sabres just over a week ago. And for those who have been following the Capitals for a prolonged period, memories of the 28-year-old guiding the Montreal Canadiens past Washington in the 2010 playoffs will show that he can go on a hot streak to grab the starting job and steal a playoff series or two.
Of course, the Capitals will first have to make the playoffs to make this happen, but thanks to the wheeling and dealing that McPhee has recently done this looks like a lock, and finishing as high as fourth in the East looks likely. Over the last few days the team has shipped out two unhappy players in Neuvirth and Martin Erat, and received a starting caliber goaltender, a physical power forward in Dustin Penner and gained a third round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Washington isn’t a perfect team now, but it has gotten out of two bad situations, added to its roster and now looks to be as playoff ready a side as it has been in years.