By Adam Vingan
Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee made it abundantly clear that he was less than thrilled with the talent pool in this year’s NHL Draft class. As Friday’s first round slowly trudged along and the best available prospects began to disappear, McPhee stuck with his conviction and traded away the Caps’ 26th overall pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Troy Brouwer.
The Caps and Blackhawks did not officially announce the trade until around the 20th pick of the draft, which made it seem like the Caps might actually select a player despite McPhee’s hesitation. Yet, when asked about the trade afterwards, McPhee admitted that it was done before the Edmonton Oilers selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the No. 1 overall pick. Long before, as in earlier this week. McPhee’s response to why he waited so long to announce Brouwer’s acquisition? “Just a little drama, I guess.”
The consummate poker player strikes again.
“Even if this was a better draft, this the kind of guy you would’ve liked to insert into our lineup,” McPhee said to the media. “By 20, 21 all the guys we had interest in were gone, so it played out beautifully for us.”
Indeed it did. Brouwer is the kind of player that the Caps needed: a two-way player that can score (39 goals in his last two seasons with the Blackhawks) as well as he can throw his body around (he was fifth in the NHL with 262 hits last season). He can play with or without the puck and will certainly wreak havoc in front of the opposing team’s net. He can play both wings and knows what it is like to play on the top line, having complimented the finesse of Chicago’s top superstars, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
(Editor’s note: not to mention that he is also a FORMER ADMIRAL. I’m sorry. It had to be done)
Brouwer is set to become a restricted free agent next Friday, July 1, but the Caps would not have traded for him if they were not planning to sign him. He just completed a two-year,$2.05 million contract; his current cap hit is $$1,025,000 and it should not get much higher than that.
With Brouwer’s impending arrival, the Caps’ roster is about to shaken up even more so. Brouwer now gives Washington nine free agents to negotiate with that can be considered “regulars.” Matt Bradley’s days as a Cap are now surely numbered and Brouwer might be a “Plan B” if the Caps cannot re-sign Brooks Laich.
Of course, the biggest intangible that Brouwer brings to Washington is Stanley Cup experience; he is now the third current Cap (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble) to have won a Stanley Cup. But what makes Brouwer different (and possibly better) when it comes to this experience is that his is fresh. Arnott won the Cup in 2000, while Knuble only played in three playoff games for the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. Brouwer won the Cup a year ago and had four goals and eight points in 19 playoff games. Brouwer knows what it is like to win a Stanley Cup in today’s NHL, which cannot be said about the rest of the Caps’ current roster.
With their general manager not sold on any talent, the Caps decided to get a player that can make an impact now. Instead of selecting a prospect that probably would not have appeared in a game for Washington for at least a year, the Caps got a player that is a year removed from a Stanley Cup.