The thrills and angst of awaking early yesterday morning, wondering which outlets of media were best suited for following the trade deadline flurry, clearing our schedules to affix our hands to TV remote and/or mouse, names like Pronger, Bouwmeester, and Morris dancing in our heads, all faded out slowly as dusk descended on Kettler Capitals Iceplex last evening.

To paraphrase McPhee, “we just didn’t feel it” this time around.  And the price of making a truly meaningful acquisition was way too high.

Fred Chartrand, AP

Fred Chartrand, AP

Getty Images

Getty Images

But following on the heels of yesterday’s non-news — a tumbleweed blown across an empty, quiet frontier town main street — this weekend promises to be a tremendously compelling one for Capitals faithful.

For one, we’ve got the Penguins in town on Sunday, which is always such a joy in and of itself, and a chance to both sweep the Rust City team and quash their post-coaching change momentum and hamper their playoff positioning.  I couldn’t imagine a better set up for continuing the course re-direction of the long prevailing tides of history between the two clubs.

Or provide a platform for new frustration from Pittsburgh, depending upon how you look at it.

Secondly, the Hershey Bears face off in their next game at 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon in the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies.  It may be the first chance to follow Brian Pothier in his first pro action in 13 months.  He’s set to practice with the Bears today, and the situation, well, bears very close watch.

I wonder if, despite the public reports about not yet obtaining full, and multiple, medical clearances until now, Potsy has been ready to go for a while.  Sure is curious that he was assigned immediately following the conclusion of the trade business for the season.  I suppose — why let the cat out of the bag that Pothier is in the team’s future plans, not to mention burn available cap room, until it’s certain that a deal to improve the D corps cannot be reached?

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One other thought on the lack of major deals yesterday:  The concern amongst most GMs (including, I’m sure McPhee) that a dreadful economy will constrain the NHL salary cap for the 2010-11 season ultimately chilled any major deal involving players who are still very much valuable, but nevertheless performing at or below the perceived level of their long-term dollars earned.  Making “hockey deals” to improve clubs seemed completely unworkable, despite best intentions from McPhee and likely many other GMs in the Cup hunt this year.

Today, the Dow is below 6,700, the TSX is below 7,700 (both dropping considerably again today), and the current USD to CAD exchange rate is US$1 to C$ 1.29.  Ouch.

Uncle Ted has more on that point, including mention of the 50-contract limit, which the organization has already reached:

There are only 50 contracts that a team can take on. There is a hard cap and as folks have noticed, the cap will be flat to down over the next few years. Hence there was a lot of trading player for player and salary for salary. It reminds me a bit of the NBA trading dollar for dollar and contract for contract.

The economic landscape has changed too. Teams aren’t looking to add to payroll. They want to shed payroll. Many teams that had high-priced veteran players were looking to exchange those contracts for younger players with lower-priced contracts. And banks won’t allow teams to increase their losses by tucking older players in the minors or doing magical contract buyouts. Cash is king in business today and the big spending teams don’t have the money to spend like they used to and can’t cover lots of payroll mistakes.

Paul Chiasson, AP

Paul Chiasson, AP

Speaking of which, and hindsight is 20/20 of course, it seems awfully likely that Michael Nylander, regardless of any no movement clause, is going to have to be bought out if he is to be taken (partially) off the ledger after 2008-09, as my blogging colleagues already astutely surmised.  No one wanted anywhere near that contract in November, nor yesterday, nor will any GM bite over the summer.

But that’s but one blemish on an otherwise impeccable record of McPhee’s recent personnel moves to position the team for the coming salary cap storm.