Ever since the Washington Capitals gut wrenching 2-1 loss in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Montreal Canadiens, one of the main questions that has followed the team is when was General Manager George McPhee going to address the teams need for a proven two-way second line center?
On Monday afternoon, McPhee finally addressed that need by trading for veteran center Jason Arnott of the New Jersey Devils. In return for Arnott, the Capitals send fourth line center David Steckel, and a second round pick in 2012 to the Devils.
In Arnott, the Capitals get a two-way center who can immediately step in and center the Capitals second line with Alexander Semin and either Brooks Laich, who has played on the second line with Semin the majority of the last two seasons, or the newly acquired Marco Sturm whom the Capitals acquired off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
The Capitals also acquired Dennis Wideman from the Florida Panthers for a prospect Jake Hauswirth and a third round pick in 2011. The puck moving defensemen will most likely be asked to quarterback the Capitals top power play unit while defensemen Mike Green continues to recover from a blow to head suffered in Friday night’s 6-0 loss to the New York Rangers.
After constant criticism from fans, and on occasion the local media, George McPhee pulled off three moves in the last two days that on paper, at least, have addressed weaknesses the Capitals have ignored all season long.
The question now is did McPhee make the right moves?
Do Arnott, 36, and Sturm, 32, have enough left to improve the lack of consistent scoring that has plagued the Capitals since December?
In four seasons with the Nashville Predators, Arnott was unable to get the Predators passed the first round of the playoffs, and in 62 games with the Devils this season only produced 24 points, and Sturm is less than a year removed from tearing his ACL and MCL in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
However, Arnott averaged nearly 28 goals a season in the first five seasons after the lockout, and Sturm did manage four goals and five assists in the 17 games he played with the Kings this season from December 21 to February 24. Giving both veterans a fresh start in Washington playing with the likes of Semin, Laich, Marcus Johannson and Jason Chimera could help both produce at the level they are used to.
Today’s moves brought back memories of the deals McPhee made on deadline day in 2008 when he acquired goalie Cristobal Huet and forwards Sergei Federov and Matt Cooke. All three were key contributors in the Capitals winning their first Southeast Division title since 2001 as they provided the veteran leadership the Capitals young core so desperately needed.
Federov even hung around for another year, and proved huge in the Capitals first round matchup with the New Rangers in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as he sent the Verizon Center into a frenzy with his late third period goal in Game 7 that gave the Capitals a 2-1 win and their first trip to the second round since 1998.
These moves have a bit of the same feel. Arnott, too, has scored big goals in the playoffs, none bigger than his goal in double overtime in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. The Capitals have struggled since December 1 going just 15-14-6 while being shut out seven times in falling to fifth in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals needed some fresh blood, and McPhee got that in Arnott, Sturm, and Wideman. The question now is will these three provide the Capitals the spark they need to get over the hump come April and May?
If the results are anything like they were in the spring of 2009, the answer just might be yes.