If there is one thing that sports fans cannot live without, it is speculation. That being said, the NHL trade deadline is fast approaching – February 27 at 3 p.m. ET – so ’tis the season to start speculating. The Washington Capitals, as they have been in recent seasons, are sure to be active at the deadline, so over the next month, KOL will examine some of the marquee names available as well as some surprises. The second installment is below and the first can be found here. Share your thoughts down there as well.
Hal Gill (D), Montreal Canadiens
- Contract status: expiring one-year, $2.25 million contract; $2.25 million annual salary cap hit.
As a member of both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Canadiens, Gill has shut down the Caps twice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. What is the opposite of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?”
Gill has proven to Washington and other teams throughout his career that he is a reliable veteran shutdown defenseman with a championship pedigree. The Caps have struggled to find such a player, so Gill is a cheap option.
Do not expect the 36-year-old Gill to score (he has 36 career goals in 1,038 career games), but expect him to log significant minutes during even strength (17:08 ES TOI/G) and on the penalty kill (3:53 SH TOI/G, fourth in the NHL). He is also a premier shot blocker (109, 14th in the NHL). Statistics aside, Gill is huge, standing at 6’7″ and weighing over 240 pounds. Add everything together and Gill (who lines up on the left side) is essentially everything that Caps fans wish Jeff Schultz was.
Derek Roy (C), Buffalo Sabres
- Contract status: one year remaining on a six-year, $24 million contract: $4 million annual salary cap hit.
The Sabres, considered favorites in the Eastern Conference at the start of the season, are floundering in 14th place with 45 points. Major shakeups are likely in Buffalo and rumors have swirled that the team is shopping around Roy. Though he said that he is not really paying attention to said rumors, if is Roy is indeed available, he would not be a bad option for Washington.
As Die By The Blade astutely points out, the Sabres have not necessarily struggled without Roy, who has missed time recently with an arm injury, but he is a skilled playmaker when healthy. The consensus in Buffalo seems to be that Roy is playing up as a No. 1 center and is more suited as a No. 2 center. That 2C happens to be exactly what the Caps have been looking for.
In Buffalo, Roy centers a line with Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek. Stafford and Vanek’s production actually took off after Roy left the lineup last season after quadriceps surgery, but according to Die By The Blade, “Stafford has always come on stronger in the second half of the season, and Vanek’s inflated assist numbers came from his taking over the playmaking void left by Roy, while his goals increased only marginally.” What is clear, however, is that Roy could be the perfect complement to Nicklas Backstrom as a second-line playmaking center.
Yet, the caveat would be if Backstrom, who is currently suffering from a head injury and has not played since January 3, is out for a considerable amount of time. Roy might be tasked with centering the top line and the aforementioned problems may come to the forefront once again. That being said, Backstrom’s health should come into play if the Caps consider acquiring Roy.
Last season, Alexander Semin saw an offensive boost playing with Jason Arnott, but Arnott, while a scoring center, is not the playmaking center that Roy is. While skating on the second line, Semin has not been consistently paired with a playmaker. Roy had four consecutive seasons of 40-plus assists from 2006-10, so perhaps Roy could get one more good run out of Semin if the team decides not to retain him after this season.
Roy is also capable of scoring; he has two 30-goal seasons on his resume. Having a first line centered by Backstrom (assuming he is healthy) and a second line centered by Roy would create matchup problems for Washington’s opposition.
Check back throughout the month for more trade deadline analysis.