As the Washington Capitals head to Edmonton to play the Oilers, it bears watching that this is a potential landing spot for Michael Neuvirth.
Oilers’ GM Craig McTavish has lent credence to the rumors and established that the Oilers are looking for a goaltender. He told the Edmonton Sun that: ”We’re lacking at the position in our organization, there’s no dancing around it. It’s a positional weakness as an organization. It’s important to understand where we’re at and to do something about it”
What would the Caps be looking for in return for Neuvirth? If the assets for Varlamov are any indication, they are looking for draft picks or young talent.
Given that George McPhee’s job is likely on the line if the Caps do not succeed, I would be surprised if they deal for draft picks and expect GMGM to focus on young talent that can contribute right away.
Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News writes: “The Oilers are desperate for goaltending and view Yakupov as an expendable young player. They already have a collection of young forwards, and progress with him has been slow. Losing him is worth the risk.”
It’s interesting to ask the question why the Oilers are willing to deal a player who was the number one overall pick. While they definitely have a lot of young talent, what are the concerns with him that make him expendable.
To start, he hasn’t impressed first year coach Dallas Eakins. The Russian Olympic scout Igor Kravchuk summarizes Yakupov saying, “Obviously, from what I see, his team game is really, really poor. He tries to do a lot of things by himself and he has absolutely no defense and that’s what really concerns [me] as a scout. But if he’s going to listen to what the coach says, if he’s going to change his game, then he’s got a future.”
Hmm, while I have a lot of faith in Adam Oates’ abilities to work with talented offensive players (see Ovechkin, Alex), is another enigmatic winger something that will put us over the top? Don’t get me wrong, I love Yakupov and would love to see him rocking the red. But sadly GM Cyril Handal has to go in a different direction.
Chuck Gormley of CSN answers this question. He says that the answer is to trade Neuvirth to the Oilers but not for Yakupov. He proposes a deal for Ladislav Smid.
Smid is a 27 year old veteran who has spent the last seven seasons with the Oilers. He is a traditional shut-down defenseman who is a consistent player.
He has been in the top ten for blocked shots for the past three years. Now, obviously contributing to that is that the Oilers were not the best team. However, that grit and willingness to sacrifice is a needed addition to the Caps.
Smid would slot in as Mike Green’s partner which would properly align the defensive pairings. Likely, Erskine and Olesky would be the third pairing (not my favorite defense pairing—would much rather have Urbom and Schmidt/ Orlov). The Capitals would again have a logjam of useless third defensemen but that’s a problem for another day.
Goaltending is one of the few positions that the Caps are good at drafting and developing. They have more talent in the pipeline that can replace Neuvirth.
The Capitals need help right now on the defense and Neuvirth is our best trade asset. Let’s go get a top four defenseman!