Do you guys remember who that is? He's like, literally, one of the current players in the league that is the Capitals arch-nemesis. In the 2010 playoffs for Montreal, he was an absolute stud against the President Trophy winning Capitals, stealing away the series. And we vowed to never, ever root for Halak.
Except for today. Now we like him. The 28-year-old goaltender comes to a D.C. team that already has a solid goaltender in Braden Holtby. But adding Halak could work out very well for the Capitals. He was a stud for the St. Louis Blue's earlier this year, winning 24 games, posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average. While those were played in front of a stellar St. Louis Blues defensive unit, he should be able to have similar numbers in Washington. I imagine that Holtby and Halak will split the remainder of the season pretty equally, as Halak did in his time in St. Louis with Brian Elliot. As far as the playoffs go, we'll just have to wait and see.
You may be asking yourself, why did McPhee bring him in? That should be everyone's initial thought. Wasn't the problem defense? Don't we trust Holtby? Here's what I think happened.
It was no secret that Neuvirth wanted out. He publicly stated he wanted out. Neuvirth was also expendable, as we had a viable backup in Philipp Grubauer. I'm willing to bet that McPhee initially contacted Buffalo, knowing that they are in a rebuilding phase, looking to find stability in the goaltending position, and willing to trade away pieces. I don't think McPhee originally went in wanting a goalie swap. While Buffalo acquired Halak purely to use him as trade bait, McPhee was not originally interested. I truly believe that McPhee went in wanting one of Buffalo's better defensemen. Maybe Henrik Tallinder, kicking the tires on Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers. Somebody. But, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray was most likely asking McPhee for too much. McPhee knew that they wanted Halak out for whatever they could get. And he obviously made the decision to trade what he did.
But why? Why bring in a goaltender for a goaltender?
Because we come out on top for virtually no cost.
While Halak costs the Capitals $3.75 million this year, and Neuvirth is a $2.5 million dollar cap hit, Halak is an unrestricted free agent after this, while Neuvirth is after next season. The move added an extra $2.5 million cap space to our projected amount of money to play with. Combined that with the fact that newly acquired Dustin Penner is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and adding the extra $4.5 million cap space in trading away Martin Erat, McPhee has upgraded our goalie situation and brought in a second line winger while adding an extra $7 million dollars to play with next year. Also, considering he cleaned out $7 million this year as well, and bringing in Penner's salary of $2 million and Halak's salary of $3.75 million, we have gained $1.25 million in cap space for this season according to math. That is more than enough to bring in Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is rumored to be coming here within a week:
Just had a short conversation with Evgeny Kuznetsov. He will indeed be coming soon. Likely within the next 4 or 5 days. #Caps
— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) March 5, 2014
Kuznetsov is eligible to sign a two-year entry level contract. The maximum base salary an entry level contract can be? $900,000.
So, with the addition of Jack Hillen, who will come back from injury against the Flyers, the shedding of expensive contract this year, bringing in better, cheaper players this year, freeing up even more cap space and freeing up enough money to bring in your prize prospect equals to a pretty successful trade deadline for the Washington Capitals.