When Tom Gilbert was traded from Los Angeles to the Washington Capitals just over a week ago, it was a step in the right direction for the veteran defenseman. Gilbert had played just 18 games for the Kings and was clearly not in their plans after sending him through waivers to the AHL. He told Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post as much and admitted that coming to Washington was very exciting for him. The Capitals acquired him mostly as injury depth, as he is still playing at the AHL level. But perhaps his coming East will pay off already.
Matt Niskanen was taken out of last night’s game with a lower-body injury, and though it doesn’t seem to be serious it is a sign of how close Gilbert is to having to play a vital role on the best team in the NHL. The Capitals already have just two right-handed defensemen—Niskanen and John Carlson—and use Nate Schmidt on his off-side with Brooks Orpik. If either of Niskanen or Carlson went down it would open a gaping hole on the Caps back end, one that Gilbert would gladly step into. Remember that though it was a long time ago, Gilbert was once a 45 point defenseman, capable of moving the puck with the best of them. It’s nice to have depth.
- It’s a dream come true for Chicago Blackhawks winger Nick Schmaltz as he plays alongside Jonathan Toews. Schmaltz had three points last night and looks to be finding a nice groove on the wing of the resurgent Toews. In his rookie season Schmaltz has just 14 points in 41 games, but six of those have come in the last five as he’s gotten a nice icetime bump. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times writes in his latest column that the Blackhawks may have found an answer long-term on the captain’s wing. It doesn’t hurt that both are from the University of North Dakota and have taken a very similar path to the NHL.
- If you consider Schmaltz a long-term piece on the top line, then how do you fill the other side? Is Richard Panik really the answer beside Toews? Craig Morgan of FanRag Sports has his doubts, and suggests a former Hawk should make his way back to the Windy City. Radim Vrbata is available at the deadline, and with his ridiculously low cap-hit of just $1MM, Chicago could likely afford him for the final part of the season. The veteran winger has 41 points this season and has rebounded well from the worst year of his career.