- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. — One of the most exciting things to hear at the NHL Entry Draft is commissioner Gary Bettman stepping up and saying, “We have a trade to announce.” When he did that a little over halfway through the first round, Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee had already known for a while what he was doing.

Before the draft got underway at Xcel Energy Center, McPhee agreed to send Washington’s first-rounder, 26th overall, to the Chicago Blackhawks for gritty right wing Troy Brouwer. It was a combination of a weak draft and free agency class and a desire to pick up a versatile piece to help right away.

“This couldn’t have worked out better for us. We drafted really well; we have some good young players coming in,” McPhee said. “We really wanted to insert this kind of player into our lineup; he was available at this draft. And this was the kind of draft to do it in.”

So why not announce it right away?

“Just a little drama, I guess,” McPhee said, “and not to tip other clubs off as to what we had done.”

What the Caps did was trade out of a first round that McPhee considered weak. He has made it clear he doesn’t think much of this draft (the Caps don’t have another pick until the fourth round, No. 117 overall), and this acquisition gives coach Bruce Boudreau some size on the wing.

But even if this was a good draft, McPhee insisted, he and his staff were all too happy to bring Brouwer to Washington.

“When that player’s available, you listen,” he said. “You always welcome a guy who plays hard and plays physical.”

Brouwer had right shoulder surgery to repair a tear and is a restricted free agent July 1. But McPhee said he wasn’t worried about Brouwer’s status; the Caps will go to arbitration if they have to in order to keep him.

“We have a couple years of rights here and we can get to work on things and figure out what kind of deal is right,” McPhee said. “It’s a nice situation for us.”

Brouwer scored 17 goals and added 19 assists last season with the Blackhawks and helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup the previous year. It was a conscious decision to get a guy with a Cup ring, McPhee said, but not necessarily an attempt to trade specifically for more grit.

In a statement released by the club, the 25-year-old Brouwer said: “I’m very excited to join the Washington Capitals organization. They are consistently one of the top teams in the NHL and I look forward to helping them reach the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

From the Blackhawks’ end, the move was made to clear room for some younger prospects like Kyle Beach and Jeremy Morin. Brouwer is set to earn a nice raise from the $1.05 million he earned the past two seasons, and now that becomes McPhee’s job to fit him in.

“We’re fortunate in our situation — we’ve got a lot of young players who we need to find spots for,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “We certainly wish him well; he’s been a great Blackhawk. But we’re excited that we added a first-round pick and I think it’s not easy to do that these days the way those are valued around the league.”

Brouwer’s value to the Caps is still unknown, but it’ll manifest itself well before 26th pick Phillip Danault ever puts on a Chicago sweater. Because of that, McPhee was thrilled to be able to deal for an immediate asset.

“He’s a power forward who can get us 20 goals a year and play physical, just won a Stanley Cup a year ago and is supposed to be a real good leader,” McPhee said. “We’re delighted to be able to add him to our lineup.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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