Analyzing the Caps’ trade bait:

With the lockout officially over, the Washington Capitals opened up training camp with a total of fifteen forwards, nine defenseman, and two goaltenders on the ice. Well, sort of. Brooks Laich remains hampered with a groin injury, while Tom Poti has traded in his red, white, and blue jersey yellow jersey whatever he wore to rehab in favor of some chocolate and white for a conditioning stint.

With Tom Wilson and Cam Schilling possibly bidding for roster spots in the near future, along with Filip Forsberg seemingly poised to claim a spot of his own next fall, one has to wonder what current roster players could be on the move. With that in mind, here are some potential bargaining chips for George McPhee to utilize over the next few months.

Highest probability:

Mathieu Perreault: Center, Age 25, Cap-Hit $1,050,000 through 2013-‘14

Perreault brings a lot of assets to the table that many teams seek on a consistent basis for their rosters. Perreault’s best assets are his speed, creativity, hockey IQ and on-ice vision. His primary … ahem … “shortcoming” is his lack of size. Does this description remind you of any of his younger, highly touted teammates? A Swedish guy? Wears number 90?

Marcus Johansson could very well be the reason Mathieu Perreault’s stock drops within the Caps’ organization. Johansson is entering the last year of his entry-level contract, which paid $900,000 a year for three years. Having a younger, more highly anticipated version of yourself is never a good thing in any line of work.

The good news for Perreault is that he is a high-skill player, and has proven his ability to contribute at the NHL level, putting up 16 goals and 14 assists alongside a +9 rating in his first full season with the Caps. There would likely be several teams interested in Perreault’s services should he become available, and most all of them would probably allow him to play a more prominent role within their team’s line ups.

Jeff Schultz: Defenseman, Age 26, Cap-Hit $2,750,000 through 2013-‘14

Jeff Schultz has been with the Capitals organization since his draft year, joining the club in 2004 alongside the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green. Standing in at 6’6”, 230 pounds, the left-handed defenseman brings an imposing frame to the blue line, playing a “stay at home” type of game. Schultz has often been paired with a more offensive minded partner, such as Mike Green or Dmitry Orlov. However, for all of his size, Schultz is far from the gritty, rugged defenseman George McPhee had hoped to develop him into when he called his number in 2004.

While there is still hope of turning Schultz into a physically imposing, hard-nosed blue-liner, time is running out to turn the 26 year-old into the type of player that simply doesn’t seem to match his personality. Over the past couple of years there have been rumors of multiple teams expressing interest in the defenseman. If Tom Poti is able to compete throughout the season, Schultz could become a very intriguing bargaining chip come the trade deadline.

Possible:

Joel Ward: Right Wing, Age 32, Cap-Hit $3,000,000 through 2014-‘15

When the Caps signed Joel Ward last summer, people inside the organization admitted that the team overpaid by about 15-20 percent in order to get one of the most sought-after free agents onto their roster. Ward, a gritty winger, had made a name for himself in Nashville with his big time playoff performances, an asset the Caps seemed to have been missing over their past playoff disappointments. Ward was brought in with the vision of him filling that void, but his performance this past spring was quite underwhelming for a guy getting paid $3 million a year.

With the cap falling from $70.2 million to $64.3 million next season, many analysts have circled Ward as a high potential buyout candidate for the upcoming summer. Should that be in the Caps plans anyway, getting some value for their sizeable investment would possibly be the smart play, depending on their roster and playoff situation come deadline day.

Tom Poti: Defenseman, Age 35, Cap-Hit $2,875,000 through 2012-‘13

Yes, that Tom Poti. The player who could barely tie his own skates without ending up on injured reserve for months at a time. So why would anyone want him?

Poti carries a reasonable salary at $2,750,000, and a slightly higher cap hit. Should Poti prove himself to be a serviceable NHL defenseman throughout this season, there will likely be a number of playoff-bound teams that could use an NHL veteran. Poti comes with veteran leadership, 51 games of NHL playoff experience, and a high hockey IQ. Should the Caps decide to put him on the trading block, George McPhee might be able to convince a team to overpay for his services if he can develop a bidding war.

Unlikely, but never say never:

Eric Fehr and Joey Crabb

Why are these two players grouped together here? Because they’re both skating on the fourth line at training camp, both set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and both on very, very cheap deals. Fehr signed for $600,000 just this past Sunday, while Crabb inked a $950,000 deal earlier in the summer.

The fourth line is currently comprised of Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault, Eric Fehr and Joey Crabb. However, when Brooks Laich returns to the lineup, he will likely push Jay Beagle from third line center to fourth, creating a competition amongst the other four for playing time.

It would make sense to move either Fehr or Crabb at the deadline to a team in need should the price be right. The Caps are unlikely to resign both players come off-season, and with Tom Wilson pushing to earn a spot on the roster either this year or next, that will only worsen both players’ chances of remaining on the roster. It’s not typical to sign a player to a one year deal only to move them before season’s end, but that just may be the case with one of these two wingers.

Should the Caps decide to move one of the two wingers, smart money would say that GMGM would prefer to keep former first round draft pick Eric Fehr on the roster over the newcomer, Joey Crabb. If Fehr can regain his health and goal-scoring touch we saw just two years ago, he should end up being the better of the two players offensively. But unless Crabb improves his stock significantly between now and deadline day, Fehr will also likely fetch the higher return. Heads or tails, anyone?

*Credit to CapGeek.com on salary cap numbers

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