In the days leading up to the NHL's entry draft, Washington Capitals GM George McPhee indicated on several occasions he didn't think much of this draft class. Friday night, his actions confirmed that his words were not meant as subterfuge, as he traded the Caps first round pick, No. 26 overall, to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for 25-year old right wing Troy Brouwer.
Brouwer is a Restricted Free Agent and arbitration eligible, so the Caps' first priority is to get the player signed.
From the team:
Brouwer, 25, recorded 17 goals and a career-high 19 assists for 36 points in 79 regular-season games in 2010-11. He led the Blackhawks and ranked fifth in the NHL with 262 hits and finished third on the team with five game-winning goals. Brouwer appeared in all seven playoff games with Chicago, collecting 11 penalty minutes and finishing with a plus-two rating.
The 6’3", 215-pound forward helped lead the Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup while tallying eight points (four goals, four assists) in 19 playoff contests.
During the 2009-10 campaign, Brouwer registered a career-high 22 goals and 40 points in 69 games with the Blackhawks. In 238 career NHL games with Chicago, Brouwer has recorded 103 points (49 goals, 54 assists).
Brouwer is a physical, tough player, evidenced by his ranking on the NHL Hits leaderboard, and is willing to fight if the situation calls for it, but he can also play with the puck, with 39 goals combined the last two seasons.
The move is somewhat of a departure from the draft and develop mold that Capitals have taken the last several seasons. But McPhee had already departed with the Caps second and third round picks in trades last season, so there must have been somewhat of an "all-in" mentality, willing to exchange the first round pick for an already developed player.
If McPhee and his scouts didn't see a top-six forward being available to them with the 26th overall pick, then this move benefits the team by acquiring a player that is already that type, especially with the added toughness Brouwer will bring. The dividends will be immediate to a team that is already a strong contender, instead of having to wait on another draft pick to develop through the system.
It's a tough decision to essentially pass on a draft class (the Caps first pick wasn't until late in the fourth round), but McPhee knows that his team is built to compete right now, and adding pieces to the parent club this season is more important than adding another prospect to the system. The Capitals have been very protective of their picks and young players in the recent past. Now is the time to reap the benefits of that patience and hard work of drafting and developing.
This trade was a "win now" move. It probably will not be the only one before training camp starts.