As a verb, it can mean:
1. to repair, esp. to dismantle and reassemble with new parts
2. to replace, restrengthen, or reinforce
3. to revise, reshape, or reorganize
4. to build again or afresh
With reference to the Caps, it is used as much as a noun, a reference to the “rebuild” that commenced with the 2003-2004 season. Three years down the road, where do the Caps stand? Let’s look at the deals that tore down the Caps and started the rebuild, and the returns.
Steve Konowalchuk – traded to
Konowalchuk was, from reports at the time, not happy with the direction of the club and was interested in moving west. He was accommodated in this trade. Battaglia spent one season with the Caps (66 games, 4-6-10, -23) before departing as a free agent. Johansson, who will be 23 in March, has struggled to make an impression at the minor league level.
Robert Lang – traded to
Lang was an echo of the Jaromir Jagr trade – a center of some familiarity to Jagr who would complement him and help justify his salary. Between the two, they were earning $16 million/year, but the Caps were struggling in the standings. Fleischmann has put up fine numbers in the AHL but has not yet demonstrated an ability to stick at the NHL level. Further, he is a left wing – a position the Caps already have filled with Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin. He might at some point become a trading asset. Green is in his first full year with the Caps after splitting time with Hershey last year. Green is a “Young Stars Game” selection for NHL’s all star celebration and is second on the Caps among defensemen in +/-; he should develop into a solid top-four defenseman. Lynes is a long term project.
Sergei Gonchar – traded to
Gonchar was/is the prototypical offensive defenseman – an all-star caliber player annually among the leaders in scoring among defensemen. He also can be a liability in his own end. Morrisonn shows promise as a top-four defenseman (he is getting top-pair minutes for the moment). He is the closest thing the Caps have to a defensive stopper, which is not to say this should – or will be – his long term role. Schultz has played decently, if unspectacularly, in his rookie season at Hershey. He’s also had a couple of call-ups to the big club. Yunkov is a long term project.
Jaromir Jagr – traded to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter, January 23, 2004 (Caps also liable for a substantial share of remaining value of Jagr’s contract)
Playing “The Seven Degrees of Jaromir Jagr” is always fun. He was obtained for three prospects (Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, and Michal Sivek) and $4.9 million on July 11, 2001. It was, and remains, the single biggest transaction in the club’s history for impact (the selection of Alexander Ovechkin was a given the moment the Caps won the 2004 draft lottery, so the impact there wasn’t as greatly felt). After disappointing results, Jagr was moved for Carter, who was moved for Jared Aulin. Aulin was not resigned by the Caps. He hooked up with the Springfield Falcons on a PTO deal, but was released after 13 games.
Peter Bondra – traded to Ottawa for Brooks Laich and a 2nd round draft pick in 2005 (parlayed with another pick via trade with Colorado into the 27th overall pick – defenseman Joe Finley), February 18, 2004
Speculation on whether Bondra would be a victim of the purge lasted for weeks leading up to his eventual trade. The lack of return was somewhat suprising at the time. Laich is a checking forward whose long-term value to the club is debatable (the Caps have many of his type of player, and the Caps should be upgrading their skill as time passes and other youngsters develop). The jury on Finley is still out; he is in his second year at the University of North Dakota.
Mike Grier – traded to
Grier was a well-liked member of the club, and his trade was a bit of a surprise (although Klepis was reported to be a favorite of General Managere George McPhee going back to Klepis’ draft by
Michael Nylander – traded to
Nylander moved on to the New York Rangers. Bouchard and McNeill are still with their teams in juniors (Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL, and
Brendan Witt – traded to
This is a special case, the last of the 1990’s core of the Capitals to be moved. Witt, who almost certainly would not have returned to the Caps as a free agent at the end of the 2005-2006 season, ended up with the Islanders; Beech returned to where he was originally drafted. Beech has not been the answer at center on the second line, despite repeated opportunities given to him to take that position by the throat. It would appear that Caps fans will have to settle for dreams of Nicklas Backstrom next year insofar as that issue is concerned. The selection of Varlamov is curious, given the long lead time for goalie development, lower free agency age thresholds, and the notorious problems in picking winners among goaltenders high in the draft (see: Brian Finley, Mathieu Chouinard, Maxime Ouellet, Brent Krahn, among others).
So there you have it . . . the Caps moved:
…and received in return:
…and nothing for Jaromir Jagr
Some might argue that the Adam Oates deal in 2002 should be included – this netted goaltender Maxime Ouellet, and a 1st (ultimately a
Indirectly, the biggest prize of all wasn’t obtained in trade. Absent these 2003-2004 deals, the Caps probably do not finish 28th in the league, putting them in position to win the draft lottery for first overall selection. The Caps did, they did win the lottery, and Alexander Ovechkin was the result.