In a typical NHL season, each team plays roughly 60 games by the time the trade deadline rolls around. It’s possible to draw an invisible line in the standings and designate some buyers and sellers.
Not this year. In this lockout-shortened, 48-game season, only a handful of teams are out of it, making an already uncertain trading environment even murkier.
Count the Washington Capitals among a swath of teams in the middle ground between buying and selling, as they are just three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but also find themselves in 11th place.
“I think we’re close enough into the playoffs that it’s not going to be a fire sale around here,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “I think we have too many good players, too many assets right now to try and get rid of players and build for the future. We’re very bent on making the playoffs, very focused on making the playoffs and you can’t really worry about those things.”

Because of a desire to make the playoffs and protect the future, the Caps could be quiet as the deadline of 3 p.m. Wednesday looms. It would be difficult to envision general manager George McPhee trading any of his top prospects, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, forward Filip Forsberg or right wing Tom Wilson. And it seems unlikely he’ll deal center Mike Ribeiro, even if the team and the unrestricted free agent cannot come to terms on a contract extension.
“You have to balance these things. And I simply make decisions based on what’s best for the organization,” McPhee said. “That’s how we approach things. That’s how we approach the deadline.”
If the Caps shop Ribeiro, they could get a haul for their leading scorer, who’s in the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract. Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli pointed out that rental players are more valuable than in years past because the salary cap is going down to $64.3 million next season from the current $70.3 million.