The Zubrus Trade: My Reaction

Sitting in the stands tonight at Verizon Center, one would have thought the Capitals had just traded away Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Griere and Robert Lang. There was a lot of vitriol, in Section 110 at least, being directed towards Ted Leonsis and George McPhee. Several people in the vicinity were hear to utter some permutation of the phrase "Looks like I won't be renewing my season tickets!" and/or "Oh great, another rebuild." (That second one is real. Nevermind that this is all just part of the first rebuild which is just two years old.) Most of the backlash seems to be a result of the Zubrus trade. Zubrus was something of a fan favorite around these parts, and he was also the team's top line center. So I understand and respect the frustration a lot of fans are feeling. Especially since it is exactly the way I would feel if the Caps hadn't traded Zubrus.

Lost in all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments is one important fact: Dainius Zubrus really isn't all that good. And by "good" I mean "good at hockey". Sure, he has had career years playing alongside Alex Ovechkin, but if Zubrus' play is any indication, a reasonably well-trained monkey could probably pot 10-15 goals a season playing alongside #8. Most of Dainius' goals are scored almost by accident off of good plays by Ovechkin. Sure, he's shown occasional flashes of brilliance, such as his skate-backwards-from-behind-the-net-and-roof-it goal several weeks back. But for every highlight reel goal he's scored, I can point to five or six instances where the puck came to him with nothing between him and a yawning goal mouth but a whole lot of empty space and he managed to whiff/shank/fall down and embarrass himself. Add to his frighteningly bad finishing skills a rather uninspiring ability to pass the puck and the more I think about it, the more I find myself wondering what he was doing on the top line at all. (Okay, not really. He's really good along the boards and quite responsible in his own end.) There is a reason why when I hypothesized about the potential 2008-09 opening night roster, Zubrus was not on the team.

Then there's the contract situation. Truthfully, I think Zubrus will be back next season for one reason: The Caps will be the only team willing to give him a contract anywhere close to what he is looking for. I think he'll find when he tests the free agent waters that other teams are fully aware that he is nothing more than the player that was lucky enough to get dropped onto a line right next to one of the best players the league has seen in a decade. Think about it. If you were an NHL GM, how much would you be willing to pay a third line winger who will probably chip in 10-15 goals? And how long would the contract be? (If you said "$3.5 million for five years" then I have some bad news: You are probably fired. Or working for the New York Islanders.) What's worse it, I would rather George McPhee not bother. It seems a waste of cap space to sign Dainius Zubrus when you already have several players (chief among them Brian Sutherby, who has officially moved out of the KHFC doghouse, his presence on the PP in Zubrus' place being one of the key reasons for their impressive 3-5 showing, in my opinion) who can do pretty much the same things as Zubrus, but for less money. Because even if the Caps do sign him, they will hopefully be doing so as part of a wave of UFA signings that will relegate him to the third line winger position he so richly deserves.

Of course, most of my accepting/embracing of this trade is contingent upon the Capitals actually being extremely active in the free agent market over the summer. Let it be known that I have officially gotten it into my head that Sheldon Souray needs to be wearing a Capitals sweater next season. Also, Brad Stuart.


Defdude said...

The real question, though, is where is Hrdina?

Smitty said...

I've always admired Souray... glad someone else is thinking it too. Briere is another one I'd kill to see at the next Caps training camp.

I'm pretty sure that guy in 110 was the one sitting right behind me. He seemed nice enough, just misguided and a bit intoxicated.

Anonymous said...

Don't expect any new faces on the back line next season. The caps are pretty set back there with:
Erskine as your likely top 6
Briere would be VERY nice and help reduce the pressure on backstrom to be a # 1 center his first NHL game

Capital Fanatic said...

Stuart has repeatedly stated that he would only go to a west coast team. I'd love for the Caps to get Souray, but he will command more in free agency than he is worth. Probably the same type of contract that Gonchar got with the Penguins.

Biff said...

Now hold on just a minute there CF. Please understand that I make it a point not to let reality or rational thought get in the way of what I'm trying to say.

Seriously though, I am well aware of what Souray is going to cost and I think he would be worth every penny. As for Stuart, I had not heard that.

smitty said...

Mr Anonymous,

Oh, I think we can find room in there somewhere for Sheldon Souray. I'd love to see him paired with Green.

P.S. - You forgot Jurcina.

jeekside said...

lol... Souray will not sign with the capitals he is looking for a contract in california to be with his wife and his new baby. But for the moment he is still saying that he wants to play with Montreal. Brière will probably re-sign with Buffalo because they won't sign Drury or if he doesn't he will probably join his good friend Martin Biron with the flyers. There is no chance that a guy that went two years in a row in the Conference finals will want to join a team like Washington that in under reconstruction.