PITTSBURGH — George McPhee had conversations, but the NHL draft wasn’t quite the trade bonanza many expected. Jordan Staal joined his brother with the Carolina Hurricanes, and naturally the Washington Capitals weren’t consulted by the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
“They wouldn’t talk to us,” the Caps’ GM said with a smile.
Even though the Caps weren’t involved in a blockbuster deal over the weekend, McPhee was satisfied with the trade for second-line center Mike Ribeiro and the selection of Filip Forsberg with the 11th overall pick.
“I thought we had a great weekend. We’re really delighted with the way things went,” he said. “We got an elite talent [Friday] in Forsberg, and picking up Ribeiro makes us a much better team.”
The Caps filled a void at center that has existed since the departure of Sergei Fedorov three years ago. And while McPhee’s retooling project may not be complete, he indicated he’s not planning on doing much.
“I don’t mind where we are,” he said Saturday at the conclusion of the draft at Consol Energy Center. “We’ll explore some things in free agency, but I don’t think we’re desperate to do anything.”
Of course, there’s the possibility McPhee simply is not showing his hand with unrestricted free agency starting July 1. But with veteran forwards Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern leaving and right wing Alexander Semin and defenseman Dennis Wideman likely departing as well, the roster appears to have holes.
Ribeiro filled one, with Cody Eakin and a second-round pick going to the Dallas Stars.
“I’ve been after this player for a while, so we got it done. We gave up a real good kid in Cody, who’s going to play a long time in this league. But obviously, Ribeiro will come in and play much higher in our lineup right away,” McPhee said. “He’s got skill and makes plays, 60, 70 points a year and a pretty good shootout player, too.”
That was the Caps’ biggest splash of the weekend, and McPhee said he didn’t have any trades in the works for this week. As far as improving through free agent signings, he said “there’s no urgency to have to do anything.”
Part of that might be the long-term realization of buyer’s remorse from some good deals gone bad.
“I prefer to make a trade than sign free agents. That other process is expensive and usually more term than you want,” McPhee said after trading for Ribeiro. “Sometimes you get it done and then by the end of November you’re asking yourself, ‘What’d I do here?’ You win the battle for the player and then you’re trying to trade him two months later. Somehow, this is a better way to do it.”
Even factoring in Ribeiro’s $5 million cap hit and what it will cost to lock up restricted free agents Mike Green, John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perreault, the Caps should have in the neighborhood of $10 million to spend. But free agency is a crapshoot.
What shouldn’t be is the search for a coach, something that McPhee said “might” be wrapped up this week though he refused to promise a speedy resolution to the process. Ex-Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, Norfolk Admirals coach Jon Cooper and New Jersey Devils assistant Adam Oates seem to be the finalists.
“I might be leaning one way, but we’ll see,” said McPhee, who has not discussed candidates’ names but has interviewed at least seven. “I’ve got a few more questions to ask next week, not of these people but of people who know them.”
Getting a coach in place, whether it’s this week or in July, is arguably the biggest piece of the offseason puzzle, and hiring someone for that job is of the biggest decisions any general manager has to make. But McPhee doesn’t see that as pressure, considering the quality of candidates available.
“No,” he said, “because, you know what, I could pick any one of them and I think we’ll be in good shape.”