The Washington Capitals were a frontrunner for T.J. Oshie a week ago. It was public knowledge the St. Louis Blues were shopping the right winger and that the Capitals were in the market for a top-six winger who could score.
But after the Caps went out and got right winger Justin Williams July 1 as an unrestricted free agent, it comes as a bit of a surprise to see them land Oshie as well. They acquired him from the Blues Thursday for right winger Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in 2016.
We know Washington wanted to add some skill to its top six or nine forwards. But losing Brouwer complicates things, especially if the Caps don't re-sign UFA Joel Ward. What if they're tipping the scale too far the other way?
In Oshie, 28, the Caps get a talented player who seems to teeter between first-line skill and second-line skill game in and game out. We know Oshie has great hands and creativity, as he showcased with his shootout magic for Team USA at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He has a first-round draft pedigree. The Blues chose him 24th overall in 2005. He can play on the power play, and he produced reasonably well over the years as David Backes' regular right winger, scoring 18 or more goals and amassing 48 or more points in four of his past six seasons. The other two campaigns over that stretch were shortened by injury and lockout and, added together, give him 19 goals and 54 points in 79 games.
There's also reason to believe Oshie has some untapped offensive potential left over. He's been a 50-point guy in a Ken Hitchcock system. Yes, he goes from Hitchcock to Barry Trotz, so it's one disciplined coach to another, but Trotz didn't hold his best offensive players back in his first season with Washington. Oshie can fit nicely on a line with Alex Ovechkin at left wing and Nicklas Backstrom at center. Oshie's five years younger than Williams and a better skater, so Oshie might keep pace with the Caps' elite duo a bit easier.
Oshie's a year younger than Brouwer, too, and he costs less than $500,000 more than Brouwer. This is all good news. It's not a bad chance for Caps GM Brian MacLellan to take, especially when Oshie only has two years left on his deal.
But the fact Brouwer was the player going the other way should raise some eyebrows. Washington has added two right wingers to the depth chart in Oshie and Williams, with a top six projecting as something like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Williams. Gone is the 6-foot-3, 213-pound right winger Brouwer, a power play specialist who could also take faceoffs. And given what right winger Ward should command as a UFA, and that he doesn't fit into the top six, it stands to reason he's gone too, which means subtracting a 6-foot-1, 226-pound bulldozer.
The Caps have added some skill in the past 24 hours, but have they made themselves too much smaller and easier to play against in the process? Part of what made them so dangerous in the post-season was their blend of skill and blunt force. Did they need to add Williams and Oshie? Will they sustain a forecheck as well without Brouwer and Ward stapling opposing defensemen to the boards?
The optimistic viewpoint is that grit is much easier to find than skill. Tom Wilson should keep maturing, and he showed in the playoffs he's ready to be a difference maker in the top nine with his brutish physicality. The Caps retained Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera brings plenty of sandpaper and Michael Latta stuck as a full-time NHLer this past season. The question is whether there's a point at which one too many tweaks tilts the team balance. How much more finesse does a team with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Johansson, Williams and Andre Burakovsky need up front?.
Caps fans, would you have rather landed just one of Williams and Oshie as opposed to both? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin