Barry Trotz has seen the way trades can affect the culture of a locker room before. Three years ago, the Nashville Predators made a flurry of deals in an attempt to improve their team for a playoff run, leading to the acquisition of three players and the departure of three others in the two weeks before the deadline.
The strategy didn’t work so well. The Predators made the playoffs, yes, but the gains were marginal: Personalities didn’t mesh and roles weren’t very well defined, leading to a five-game loss in the conference semifinals in the team’s most recent postseason appearance.
One benefit, then, of the two deals the Washington Capitals made over the weekend is that they required just a moderate investment. Left wing Curtis Glencross and defenseman Tim Gleason were acquired in exchange for defenseman Jack Hillen and three draft picks, allowing the Capitals to move forward through the final six weeks of the season with little disruption to team chemistry.
“We were, on paper, a better team, but I’m not so sure we were a better team when all the dust settled because there were so many people that it affected,” Trotz said Sunday, referring to the Predators’ trade. “You bring people in to put on your roster and make you better, and that’s sort of — sometimes you can tinker too much.”
The additions of Glencross and Gleason will bolster the Capitals’ depth as they navigate the path leading to the postseason. Glencross, acquired Sunday, was obtained from the Calgary Flames in exchange for second- and third-round draft picks. Gleason, added the day before, was picked up in exchange for Hillen and a fourth-round pick.
Gleason was in the lineup for the Capitals on Sunday night, filling in alongside Mike Green as part of the team’s third defensive pairing. Glencross, meanwhile, spent the evening driving to Washington from Philadelphia, where the Flames were scheduled to face the Flyers.
And while Gleason joined the Capitals the day after they lost, 3-0, at Carolina, the timing of Glencross’ trade was even more bizarre. He was pulled off the ice just 10 minutes into the Flames’ morning skate at the University of Pennsylvania, informed of the trade and asked to gather his belongings.
Glencross, 32, has nine goals and 19 assists in 55 games and had spent much of the season bouncing between the Flames’ second and third lines. Scheduled to count for $2.55 million against the salary cap in the final season of a four-year, $10.2 million contract, Glencross’ future role remains uncertain.
He should fill in as a top-six forward in Washington, permitting the Capitals to finally plug one player into the void that has been their top-line right wing. All told, the Capitals have slotted eight different players alongside left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, with Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and, most recently, Marcus Johansson and rookie Andre Burakovsky drawing that assignment.
“Anything’s an option, but at the same time, I have to give [Glencross] the best chance to do what he does best,” Trotz said. “We’ll get him in, we’ll talk to him, we’ll see how comfortable he is on either side and then we’ll go from there.”
Gleason, 32, was owed $1.2 million this season and is also set to become an unrestricted free agent when it ends. A left-handed shot, he played in 55 of 60 games for the Hurricanes this season, scoring one goal with six assists while also recording 44 penalty minutes.
He played just over 17 minutes in the Hurricanes’ 3-0 home victory on the Capitals on Friday night, taking one shot. On the ice Sunday, he skated alongside Mike Green as part of Washington’s third defensive pairing.
“For myself, I think it’s more or less simple — just play my game and don’t change really anything,” Gleason said. “I’m here for a reason and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so and be in the playoff hunt.”
Hillen, 29, played in 35 games for the Capitals this season, almost exclusively alongside Green, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He had five assists while playing approximately 12 minutes a game, practically all of it at even strength.
To make room for Glencross and Gleason on the roster, the Capitals sent left wing Aaron Volpatti, who cleared waivers Sunday afternoon, and defenseman Cameron Schilling to Hershey.
As to whether the team was done dealing in advance of the deadline on Monday at 2 p.m., Trotz couldn’t say, joking only that general manager Brian MacLellan had stopped making phone calls to watch the game.
“He came down for a little bit, took a breather from working the phones,” Trotz said. “I know he’s going to be working at it. If we do anything else, that’s really a question for Mac.”