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 fourth installment is below and the first three can be found here, here and here. Share your thoughts down there as well.
Steve Ott (RW/C), Dallas Stars
- Contract status: two years remaining on a four-year, $11.8 million contract; $2.950 annual salary cap hit.
Without Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps’ lack of skill down the middle of the ice can no longer be hidden. As of now, Washington’s depth chart at center boasts a glorified second-line center who might actually be better on the wing (Marcus Johansson) and three fourth-line centers (Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Perreault and Keith Aucoin), two of which – Perreault and Aucoin – should be in the AHL.
Washington is woefully weak at center without Backstrom, but that does not necessarily mean that the Caps need to find a 1C to replace him. The Caps would be fine acquiring a competent 3C that can fill in at 2C if need be. Ott is that player.
Ott is arguably one of the most versatile players in the NHL. His natural position is right wing, but he is just as comfortable playing at center. Look no further than his 56.9% success rate on faceoffs, eighth in the league. By placing Ott on the Caps as of Friday, they would boast two of the league’s top 10 faceoff men (Halpern currently ranks third at 59.4%).
Ott can also provide a boost on the penalty kill and score as well; he has three consecutive seasons of 30-plus points, a total he will likely add to as he currently has 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists). Despite being undersized (6’0″, 190 pounds), Ott possesses great strength on his skates and would be an ideal fit for head coach Dale Hunter’s style of play along the boards.
Even with his impressive two-way game, Ott could provide an edge and air of toughness that almost none of the current Caps possess. Ott is at his best when striking a balance between generating offense and stirring the pot. He does have the propensity to go overboard (his 105 penalty minutes are ninth-highest in the NHL), but Ott also puts his team on the power play (he drew 39 minor penalties in 2010-11, second-most in the NHL). Ott is the kind of player that keeps his opponents’ heads on a swivel and his wrath is not just limited to his fellow players, either.
ESPN Dallas’ Richard Durrett sheds some light on Ott’s value:
Ott is being paid as if he’s a top-six forward, and he just isn’t quite at that level. He’s a gritty player willing to pay the price to make plays. But his strength is as an irritant on a third line. There’s bound to be a team hoping for a Stanley Cup push that would love to have Ott — even at $3.2 million each of the next two seasons — making life difficult on the opponent.
According to Durrett, “Ott is good enough that if included in a nice package, he should net an elite prospect and maybe some additional depth help.” While discussing the trade value of Ott’s teammate, Brenden Morrow, the Stars were reportedly looking to get younger, so perhaps Cody Eakin would be the centerpiece of such a deal.
Of course, to bring in a $3.2 million cap hit would require the Caps to make that kind of room. Backstrom said in a recent Swedish interview that he does not know when he will return, but hopes to do so by the playoffs. If the Caps were to place Backstrom on long-term injured reserve to relieve his $6.7 million cap hit, they could acquire Ott. Also, the cap disappears during the playoffs, so if Backstrom does indeed return in time for the postseason, then the Caps could carry him as well as Ott.
Washington does not need Ott to play a substantial role in the top six. He is a versatile player who can contribute both offensively and defensively, give the Caps a shift-disturber of the highest degree and balance out their depth chart at center. These are all things that Washington needs, with or without Backstrom.
Check back throughout the month for more trade deadline analysis.