How COVID could hamper the Caps' typical trade deadline strategy

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Coming off a brutish four-game losing streak, the Capitals were finally able to get off the schneid with a 3-1 win in regulation over the Penguins on Tuesday night.

Currently in fourth place in the East Division, if GM Brian MacLellan wants to make one of his signature splashy moves ahead of this year's trade deadline, he could find it a little trickier than he otherwise would in a normal season.

Caps analyst Craig Laughlin explained in his weekly 106.7 The Fan segment, presented by American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning.

"What happens is, and this trade deadline I think is gonna be dicey, because you start making moves and the way the COVID protocols are now, you get a player and it's gonna be a 14-day quarantine in most places and most jurisdictions," he said. "So now you're trading for a player that you hope can fit in, and now he's got to sit in the hotel for 14 days. Now you can't use him probably until after three weeks, when he gets on the ice and starts to skate."

Asked if he sees the Capitals making any moves, specifically at goaltender, Laughlin believes that could prove challenging for those same reasons.

"When it comes down to the goalie situation, I think there's gonna be a lot of goaltenders of age available probably by waivers," he said. "And to me, that means you would have to drop one of the guys to pick up another goalie and put, for example, a Craig Anderson through waivers to bring in another goalie that you picked up on waivers."

"I see that as the biggest opportunity for the Caps," he said. "But then again, we're in a gray area here. How good is Samsonov gonna be when he comes back from his conditioning stint in Hershey? Is he gonna be the Samsonov that we saw play lights-out at the end of last season, when he had a real good, first freshman year."

Samsonov, after missing nearly a month on the COVID-related absences list, was assigned to Hersey on Sunday. And the first start of his rehab assignment did not go well, with the 23-year-old netminder allowing five goal on 29 shots, casting real doubt about how long it could take to get him back up to NHL speed.

"To me there's some doubts in the air," Laughlin said. "I think if they have Samsonov playing as well as we expect him to and [Vitek] Vanecek, who's showed me that he can play at a consistent level here in the NHL, then maybe they don't need one, guys. Maybe Craig Anderson can be that mentor, can be that tutor, and run with the two guys who you said at the start of the season you were gonna run with."

Fortunately for the Caps, time is on their side, as the NHL trade deadline doesn't arrive until April 12 this year. Their goaltender issue could sort itself out by then.