The day after Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals teammates once again failed to get over the second round hump in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing Game 7 2-0 to their bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, I tweeted the suggestion that former Capitals General Manager and current Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee should find a way to acquire the embattled Capitals captain.
As expected, that idea was laughed off by the Twitterverse, as many understandably asked how the NHL’s newest team could pull of such a trade with limited assets? Solid point. But based on two infamous trades I was able to cover as a Bruins beat reporter with NHL.com in 2005 and then with ESPNBoston in 2013, you don’t necessarily need prime assets to acquire a superstar, do you Boston Bruins fans?
On November 30, 2005, with a lost faceoff that led to the Devils’ winning goal in New Jersey the previous night reportedly the final nail in the coffin, the Bruins shocked the hockey world and traded away their superstar captain Joe Thornton for forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, and defenseman Brad Stuart. With the exception of Bruins fans or those that covered the NHL then, not many can even remember that return package for the the 1997 first pick overall, 2006 Hart Trophy winner and future hall of famer. Sharks GM Doug Wilson took advantage of the impatient and emotional decision-making by then Bruins GM Mike O’Connell and an owner in Jeremy Jacobs, who will always choose the bottom line over success on the ice. Wilson absolutely fleeced O’Connell for one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history, sending average at best assets for a player that would become a cornerstone of his franchise.
Ironically, seven years later, the Bruins were once again on the wrong side of a blockbuster trade and once again for the wrong reasons. Under the guise of the Fourth of July, while their superstar center Tyler Seguin, that they drafted second overall in 2010, was partying on Cape Cod, then Bruins Peter Chiarelli followed his predecessor O’Connell and shocked the hockey world. Seguin, forward Rich Peverely and defenseman Ryan Button were dealt to the Dallas Stars for forward Loui Eriksson and prospects Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser. Just like the Thornton deal, this trade also was based on impatience, but more so for off-ice issues. Whether they’ll admit it or not, Jacobs also once again played a role, fearing the bonuses he’d have to pay the budding superstar Seguin as his contract carried out.
Circling back to Ovechkin though, these two trades showed that if you truly want to unload a superstar and a contract (yes at $9.5 million per season for four more seasons, Ovechkin is making more than Seguin and Thornton), you can. It also proved that if you’re a smart GM and can sense emotions and money heavily influencing a fellow GM’s decision making, you can pounce and steal away a franchise player.
To say emotions and money are dominating the decision makers for the Capitals right now, would be an understatement. Caps Brian MacLellan was so emotional after the Caps’ loss, he still hadn’t faced the media six days after the loss.
GM Brian MacLellan is taking his time to do a “thorough evaluation” of the Caps. That includes Barry Trotz. https://t.co/dlXrews4EH
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) May 15, 2017
Owner Ted Leonis addressed the subject in his blog three days later but to date, neither MacLellan, Leonsis or head coach Barry Trotz have directly come to defense of Ovechkin who has taken the blunt of the criticism in the aftermath of the loss.
You know who did come to the defense of Ovechkin though? McPhee. Speaking on TSN 690 last week, McPhee made a point to defend the player he drafted first overall in 2004.
“I’m disappointed that people are pointing fingers at Alex because Alex does nothing but show up every year,” McPhee told legendary radio host Mitch Melnick of TSN 690. “He produces at an elite level in the regular season and the playoffs; hits like a truck and doesn’t miss games, plays through everything.”
That sounds like a GM that would be more than happy to take Ovechkin off the Capitals’ hands and allow them to finally make the culture change that as longtime Russian hockey scribe Slava Malamud made clear in an epic rant, they so desperately need.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 11, 2017
While many think this Ovechkin to Vegas idea could never happen, an NHL exec texted me after my tweets and said this:
“Your Ovechkin to Vegas idea probably won’t happen but it’s not as crazy as some think. Could actually work!”
That same exec anticipates that Leonsis and MacLellan will indeed listen, more than ever, to offers for Ovechkin and it won’t be the least bit surprising if McPhee makes one of those inquiries. The question is, can he pounce as Wilson and Nill did on the Bruins?
Are Habs Shopping Galchenyuk & Beaulieu?
My former colleagues at MontrealHockeyTalk reported Tuesday that the Montreal Canadiens are actively shopping forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. They cited off-ice issues combined with on ice struggles for both players likely reaching the end of their time in Montreal. I’ve heard the same chatter regarding both players and trust this report. In fact, after seeing these tweets, I did some digging and got this back from a longtime NHL scout:
“Not surprised at all. I haven’t heard many good things about those kids off the ice and when given the chance, they’ve squandered it away.”
There’s a very good chance both won’t be on Claude Julien’s roster next season as GM Marc Bergevin could finally land that top center in a package centered around Galchenyuk, and Beaulieu could even be exposed in the expansion draft.
Watching Hockey With My Knitting Lady, My Mom
I fell in love with hockey because from ages 10-21, I was lucky enough to attend probably 30-40 Boston Bruins games per season at the old Boston Garden thanks to my grandfather’s season tickets. A quarter of the games I’d go to with him, a quarter with my sister, a quarter with friends and then the remaining games with my mother. She would knit through most of the games but apparently as I found after all these years since the old barn on Causeway St. closed down, she was paying attention.
Two days after Mother’s Day, Mom and I watched USA beat Russia 5-3 at the World Championships to win their preliminary group and Mom was reckoning back days of yore sitting in Loge 7, seats 11 and 12.
“Look at those Russians! Still dirty with their sticks!” she exclaimed during some after the whistles encounters between the bitter rivals.
She also started referencing some American-born and Massachusetts natives that played for the Bruins over the years, like Bobby Carpenter or Dave Silk, who of course was part of the most famous game in and origin of the storied rivalry between the Soviet Union/Russia and Unites States.
She’s not quite the knitting lady in Pittsburgh but I’m proud to say my Mom knows her hockey and she’s a major reason I was able to cover this great game for the last 17 years! Happy Mother’s Day Mom! It wasn’t quite the Miracle On Ice — which we watched together as well — but it was a pleasure watching with you today! This one’s for you!