Feb 12, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Washington Capitals center Mike Ribeiro (9) in the first period of a game against the Florida Panthers at the BB

Which Capitals Would Be Most Likely To Leave At The Trade Deadline?

Thinking about the Washington Capitals becoming sellers at the NHL trade deadline is something no fan really wants to do. The deadline isn’t until April 3 in this shortened season, leaving plenty of time for the team to get back into the playoff hunt.

The Caps are just six points out of the final playoff spot in the East, with 21 games remaining before they’d have to make any decisions about shipping guys out. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re still in the conference basement and have six teams to leap. It’s an unpleasant reality, but George McPhee could end up choosing to try to get young players or draft picks if it doesn’t look like the postseason is going to happen–especially with this year’s draft getting raves for its deep pool of talent.

With that in mind, and avoiding discussing anything strictly for the same of sensationalism (like, say, an Alex Ovechkin trade… oops), it’s as good a time as any to start thinking about which players might make good trade chips for the Caps come deadline time. After a quick run through the roster and a peek at NHLNumbers.com to see how the salaries stack up, here are four names that come to mind:

I know, this is somewhat sacrilegious since we are all-in on the “Ribeiro4Hart” campaign that was suggested by the Sick, Unbelievable blog. The facts are the facts though: Ribeiro is 33, he’s an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he’s played well this year. That makes him almost the textbook definition of a deadline day trade chip.

Just about any playoff-bound team who needs help down the middle could use Ribeiro as a rental. He appears to have enough left in the tank to be worth resigning, too, which may actually add to the interest in him. Ribeiro has limited no-trade protection, but if Washington wasn’t going to the playoffs, why wouldn’t he choose to go for a ring? We’d hate to see him leave after seeing what he’s done this year, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he did.

The same reasoning for Ribeiro applies to Wolski, except the team taking him would be getting a lot less help. But he’s cheap, he’s also an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he would at least give a contender some forward depth. Maybe he’d even score a goal or two. No more than that, though.

There aren’t many trade-worthy blueliners on the Caps. Erskine is one, as he’s old enough to not necessarily be part of the future in Washington but still enough of a player to add something to a team headed to the postseason. In other words, he’s not Roman Hamrlik or Tom Poti, though if someone wanted to give the Caps something for one of them, I’m sure they’d listen.

Would Erskine be a top-four defenseman on a Cup contender? Probably not, but he’d add some toughness and stability to a third pairing. It’s not hard to imagine teams asking about him.

Here’s where things might pivot from “players the Caps wouldn’t mind letting go” to “players teams may have to sweet talk Washington into trading.” Both goalies are young enough that the Caps could keep both of them around, even if the playoffs aren’t in the picture.

And yet… If one of them ends up seizing control of the number one spot in net, it could very easily make the other one expendable. Both are restricted free agents after the season, and Philipp Grubauer is waiting in the wings. A team looking for a backup who could actually fill in during a Cup run if needed could do worse than one of the Caps’ goalies.

The gut says Neuvirth would go and Holtby would stay, but there’s a lot of hockey to be played to sort that out. Enough hockey that if the Caps can step it up, we might not have to revisit this subject again come April. Here’s hoping.

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Tags: John Erskine Michal Neuvirth Mike Ribeiro Wojtek Wolski

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