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As trade deadline approaches, capital attempts to ‘thread a needle’

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With less than a week until the NHL trade deadline, the Washington Capitals are still within reach. After Friday’s uplifting victory against the Philadelphia FlyersThe Capitals enter Sunday just six points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand over the Flyers, who are third in the Metropolitan Division.

This puts Washington general manager Brian MacLellan in a difficult position. The only thing that’s clear at this point is that the Capitals are no longer in the business of chasing rented players at the deadline, leveraging their futures in hopes of pushing for another league title. Stanley Cup.

Beyond that, MacLellan walk the tightrope as long as he can. Washington has two games left before Friday’s trade deadline — at home against Arizona on Sunday afternoon and at Pittsburgh on Thursday. The results of those games – perhaps even Sunday’s – will likely be the final factors in MacLellan’s decisions.

“I think we are in the same situation,” he said Saturday. “I see it’s unlikely, but you could get help from other teams as well. We have a week left to make some decisions. I think our priority would be the future of our club. All decisions will be based on (this). It’s not, “Hey, we’re going to hire a guy for the playoffs.” We’re not in this game. We’re here to look for opportunities to find more young players, add more young players to our roster and compete – always compete.

Last year, MacLellan traded defenseman Dmitry Orlov and winger Garnet Hathaway to the Boston Bruins, then flipped the first-round pick the Capitals received in that deal and defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for young defender Rasmus Sandin. In a perfect world, this is the kind of deal Washington would make again.

“That would be ideal,” MacLellan said. “That would be the kind of thing we’re looking to do.”

With Evgeny Kuznetsov on waivers, the Caps see an opportunity for a “fresh start”

What makes things more difficult for MacLellan is the fact that a variety of other teams – including the Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders – also remain in the mix and are all waiting to see what their competitors will do.

“We’re trying to thread the needle to be competitive and make good deals,” MacLellan said, “and it could go either way for us.”

MacLellan acknowledged the challenge of trying to thread that needle.

“It’s hard to do, but that’s where we are,” he said. “We want to remain competitive, but we also want to integrate and develop young people and have an eye on the future of our organization. Then we have older guys who are finishing their careers who we remain respectful of.

Capitals launch furious rally, pummel Flyers to boost playoff hopes

MacLellan met with captain Alex Ovechkin in recent days to discuss the team’s approach as the deadline approaches. MacLellan made it clear that Ovechkin was not thrilled that Washington was more likely to be a seller than a buyer.

“Ovi wants to win,” MacLellan said. “He puts pressure on us – ‘I want to win’ – which is a good thing. I understand.”

Washington’s commitment to keeping the team competitive around Ovechkin as he approaches Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goals record is in the background of every decision. As the deadline draws closer, MacLellan has many decisions to make as he keeps one eye on the future and the other on a possible playoff run.

“We’re not going to sit here and let players down at the deadline,” he said. “I think if something makes sense for us, if it’s a good trade and I think it has good value or helps our organization, we should consider it. But going in blindly and saying we’re just going to get rid of all these guys, we’re not going to do that.

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