Note: This article was meant to be posted on June 30th, but I lost power on Friday night and just had it restored today. Therefore, some of the information might be outdated.
George McPhee and the Washington Capitals were the champions of the off-season last year but the moves they made didn’t quite have the on ice results most were hoping for. Whether you want to blame injuries or the coaching change, one thing that is certain is that the Caps looked like they took a few steps back in the regular season last year. It got so bad that there was a point where a lot of fans wondered if this team would even make the playoffs, but the Caps were able to make it in and they had a decent run before losing to the Rangers in seven games.
With a new coach in place and a few former key player set to leave, the Caps are ready to don somewhat of a new look and are hoping to get themselves back on top of the Southeast. They have a couple of prospects who are another year or two from making it to the NHL so McPhee will likely hold off on any long-term deals but he always seems make a splash in free agency every year and I’m sure this season will be no different.
Roster Size: 17
$ on Forwards: $34,563,462
$ on Defense: $12,810,000
$ on Goaltending: $1,787,777
Cap Space: $21,138,761
Tom Poti (IR)
Restricted Free Agents
Mike Green, defense – After being a finalist for the Norris in two consecutive years, Mike Green has gone through a couple down, injury-filled seasons. There is no doubt that Green is one of the Caps’ most valuable players so he will likely be back next year. He is a key part to Washington’s breakout game and powerplay as both struggled mightily while he was injured. Green will likely be taking a paycut after the last couple of seasons, though.
John Carlson, defense – Carlson is only 22 years old and he has already emerged as one of Washington’s best defensemen. Last year, it seemed like he regressed a bit from his rookie season but the future is still bright for him. He and Karl Alzner regularly faced the opposing team’s best forwards and I would expect for them to continue that role into next season. What I want to know is what kind of deal he plans to give Carlson. Does he want to long him up long-term now or sign him to a cheap deal while he still can? He managed to do the latter with Alzner last year but that was mostly due to cap issues. This won’t be as big of a problem for Washington this year.
Jay Beagle, center/wing – After becoming known in the playoffs as “the faceoff master” and “that guy who played more minutes than Ovechkin,” Beagle seems to have found his place in Washington and will likely return next year. He isn’t that special of a player but he is a good penalty killer and a reliable defensive forward who can find spots on most teams.
Mathieu Perreault, center - Before last year, Perreault was known for the most part as a tweener who had a questionable future in the NHL. He managed to stick on the Caps’ roster full-time last year but mostly as a fourth liner before the injury to Nicklas Backstrom occurred. This forced Perrault into a bigger role and he performed decently. The Caps already have four natural centers on the roster next season so I’m not sure if there’s room for Perreault but he is probably good enough to at least make the team.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Alexander Semin, right winger – Some say that Semin’s days in the NHL are close to being done because no team is going to give him the contract he supposedly wants but I respectfully disagree. Semin may not be worth a long-term risk, but there are going to be a lot of teams willing to take a chance on this guy. He can get you at least 20 goals in a season, possesses a lethal slap shot, is capable of holding his own against tough competition and can be explosive offensively. Character issues aside, there is just too much talent and potential there for teams to not at least consider him.
Mike Knuble, right winger – Knuble endured one of the worst seasons of his career this past year. After serving on the top line for so long, he was soon banished to the fourth line and soon the press box after the arrival of Dale Hunter and it was clear that his days in Washington were numbered. The worst part of it is that his underlying numbers are actually a lot uglier than his counting stats if you can imagine. Some team looking for a veteran presence and some secondary scoring might be interested in acquiring him.
Jeff Halpern, center – There are a lot of things to like about Jeff Halpern. He’s a terrific face-off guy, solid penalty killer and a very good defensive forward. Despite being 35 years old, he is coming off a nice season with Washington and will likely be available for a low cost this summer.
Keith Aucoin, forward – Aucoin was apparently one of Dale Hunter’s favorite players because he constantly used him in important situations in the playoffs last year over more talented forwards like Alex Semin. I’m not sure what the deal with that is but Aucoin played well in the 27 games he was with Washington last year, not including the playoffs. He likely isn’t much more than an AHL call-up but a team who needs forward depth could be interested in giving him a shot.
Stanislav Galiev – Seeing how he has blown away almost everything the QMJHL has thrown at him, it’s possible that Galiev could have an outside shot at earning a spot on the Caps this year. He’s still very young but the guy has straight-up killed it in juniors for two years in a row and I’m wondering when he will get the big promotion.
Tomas Kundratek, defense – Kundratek got to play a handful of games with the Caps last year and wasn’t terribly impressive in sheltered minutes and I’m not sure if there are enough open spots on the blue line for him to make the team out of camp.
Scoring Right Winger: There’s going to be a vacant hole in the top-six where Alex Semin and Mike Knuble used to be. How the Caps will go about filling this hole is an interesting question but there are a few things they can do in free agency to acquire a scoring winger for this season. They might want to hold off on any long-term deals with Galiev, Kuznetsov and Forsberg in the system, though. There are also some grumblings about Marcus Johansson moving to wing next year but that isn’t a certainty yet.
Possible Targets: PA Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, Shane Doan, Ryan Smyth, Andrei Kostitsyn
Secondary Scoring/Second line winger: Basically the same as the above only they don’t need to find a top-line player here. Since whoever they sign for the second line will likely play with Brouwer and Ribiero, the Caps have the option of finding someone who can succeed in protected minutes and that could possibly broaden their scope a little bit.
Possible Targets: Kyle Wellwood, Petr Sykora, Mikael Samuelsson, Dustin Penner,
Penalty killing forward: There has been talk of giving less defensive responsibilities to the Caps’ top players and if they want to follow that method, they could look to sign more depth forwards to play on the penalty kill. Re-signing Beagle might take care of this but they could always add another if needed.
Possible Targets: Danniel Winnik, Tom Kostopoulos, Joey Crabb, Brandon Prust, Radek Dvorak, Jesse Winchester
Defensive Center: The addition of Mike Ribiero likely means that they will have to protect him since he isn’t good at all defensively. The Caps already have a good two-way center in Brooks Laich but they can make their lives easier but adding another one for the fourth line. This need could possibly be filled by Jay Beagle but I could see them signing another player.
Possible Targets: Jay McClement, Jesse Winchester, Paul Gaustad
What have they done so far?
Traded Cody Eakin & a 2nd round pick to Dallas for Mike Ribiero
The door is still open for the Caps to win now and they have needed a true center line center for as long as I can remember, Ribiero should be able to give them that. He is someone who can thrive in protected minutes which is more than can be said for his predecessor, Marcus Johansson. They gave up a solid player in Eakin but the Caps needed more up front and Ribiero could perform will if Washington is able to get him into situations that he can succeed in. They also need someone to play on his wing.
Traded Dennis Wideman to Calgary for a fifth round pick and a prospect
Wideman wasn’t coming back and he had a good season, so this is a solid move by the Caps to get something out of him. This is essentially the same package they sent to Florida to get Wideman a couple years ago, which makes it almost hilarious that Jay Feaster decided to give him over $5 mil. per year after the trade.
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