The Washington Times - February 27, 2012, 06:46PM

George McPhee talked about not wanting to mortgage the future and chase a “bad deal.” Not making a trade was better to the Washington Capitals general manager than making a “mistake” that hurt beyond this year.

But what about this year? This season began with sharp Stanley Cup aspirations. A well-received offseason coupled with a strong, young core made the Caps one of the front-runners to win it all. The Hockey News picked Washington to do just that.

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Now, with just 20 games left and the Caps on the outside of the playoff picture and three back of first place in the Southeast Division, the expectations might be just to get in. Nicklas Backstrom has missed 24 games with a concussion and has no time frame to return.

So McPhee was asked Monday, after making no moves at the deadline, if he thought this team was good enough to win the Cup.

“Well I certainly think we’re capable of making the playoffs with this team right now,” he said. “If Nicky Backstrom came back, it certainly would improve our chances of being able to win a Cup. We can make the playoffs with this team. And if he comes back, we can beat anybody in this conference.”

The Caps’ record against the rest of the Eastern Conference, even before Backstrom was concussed: 10-8-3.