August 31, 2015

Capitals’ Marcus Johansson awarded $3.75 million in arbitration, re-signs with team

A Toronto arbitrator has awarded Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson $3.75 million as a result of Wednesday’s hearing, and the team announced late Friday that he has re-signed with the club for the 2015-16 season.

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OPINION: Capitals’ Brian MacLellan making championship-caliber moves this offseason

Once the raw emotion of another difficult ending to the season passed, Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan made his priorities clear. A winger to bring regularity to the Capitals’ top forward line was in high demand, so as to slam shut the revolving door that had been so active in the 2014-15 season. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom played with a total of nine forwards over the course of the year, but any worries about seeing similar inconsistency when this season arrives were extinguished on July 2.

MacLellan engineered a blockbuster trade, sending longtime Capital Troy Brouwer, along with goalie prospect Phoenix Copley and a third-round pick, to St. Louis in exchange for T.J. Oshie of 2014 Sochi Olympics fame.

Joel Ward proved a worthy linemate to Ovechkin and Backstrom in the playoffs, with nine points in 14 games — including a pair of goals that bridged the team’s series against the Islanders and Rangers — but it’s hard to argue that Oshie isn’t an upgrade to the team’s most valuable offensive unit. Just look at this highlight video if you need to get an idea of his hockey sense and the way he works on the ice.

Those pessimistic about the potential that Oshie has to make a positive impact might point to his relatively paltry playoff numbers (5g, 4a in 30 career postseason contests), and that would be a fair critique. But on the flip side of that, the Blues have generally underachieved in the playoffs, with a series record of 1-5 since 2009. Moreover, Oshie has never had linemates of Ovechkin’s and Backstrom’s quality. While that’s not intended a slight to guys like David Backes and Alexander Steen, Ovechkin is the best goal scorer of his generation and Backstrom is hockey’s equivalent of an elite five-tool baseball player.

Personally, I think the Williams signing is the strongest addition of the offseason because it adds an edge to the team that might not have existed before. Brouwer’s leadership in the room will be missed, but there is absolutely no void with a guy like Williams coming to town. His seven career Game 7 wins are nearly double the amount the team has (four), and he’s never lost one. I see him, as does MacLellan, in the second-line right winger role on a completely healthy Capitals squad, serving as a highly effective mentor to Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The latter of those two appears to have finally solved Washington’s second-line center puzzle that took years to complete, and the flashes of brilliance he showed in the playoffs were highlighted by the series-winning goal in Game 7 against the Islanders. In the teleconference the day after he signed, Williams called his Game 7 successes “a product of the teams [he’s] been on,” but his 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy confirms, in my opinion, his ability to succeed as a pressure player on his own. He had the overtime goal in Game 1 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final and the first in their title-winning Game 5. Did I mention that he has an NHL-record 14 points in Game 7s?

He spoke to Caps head coach Barry Trotz the night he signed, and he told the media the next day that it was that conversation that pushed him over the edge. Even before that, the nation’s capital had been high on the list for him, his agent and his family, so much so that he took a pay cut to come to the Capitals. He believes that the ingredients are in place for a championship in Washington; he said so a couple weeks back. I happen to agree with him.

I won’t go so far as to say that 2016 will see Lord Stanley’s Cup lifted by Ovechkin & Co., but the window is wide open for that to happen. Two bona fide top-six forward lines are there, with a balance of snipers, playmakers, heavy hitters and speed. The bottom six forwards — Marcus Johansson (yes, I do think he’ll be re-signed), Brooks Laich, Tom Wilson, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Michael Latta — are all more than capable of stepping up into their roles as needed, whatever they may be.

Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov can hold down the fort on the blue line, while generating clean breakouts and even directly creating offense when asked to. Last but certainly not least, Braden Holtby has been locked up as the team’s franchise netminder for the foreseeable future. His steady presence helped guide the Caps to within a goal of their first Eastern Conference Final since 1998, and with a good bounce here or correct officiating call there, they would have reached that point and matched up well with Tampa Bay (to be fair, surviving the final two minutes of Game 5 or simply showing up in Game 6 against the Rangers would have gotten the job done).

For longtime Caps fans, it might feel like just yesterday the organization was fading fast under the direction of former GM George McPhee and coach Adam Oates. MacLellan and Trotz have quickly revived them back into Stanley Cup contention, and this observer has no qualms about pegging the current iteration of the roster as the best of the Alex Ovechkin Era. Time will tell how much this summer’s transactions help the team come playoff time, but don’t be surprised if the barn on the corner of 7th and F is rocking in late May – and even into June.

Washington Capitals sign Braden Holtby to long-term extension

Braden Holtby will call D.C. home for a long time.

Braden Holtby, pictured at a practice last October, will call D.C. home for a long time. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Capitals have re-signed goalie Braden Holtby to a five-year contract extension worth $30.5 million, the team announced Friday afternoon.

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Reports: Capitals’ Braden Holtby asking for $8 million in arbitration filing

Washington Capitals restricted free agent goaltender Braden Holtby has asked for $8 million in his arbitration filing, according to Tim Wharnsby of Reuters.

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Washington Capitals acquire T.J. Oshie from Blues

In an absolute coup, the Washington Capitals acquired right wing T.J. Oshie in exchange for RW Troy Brouwer, goalie prospect Phoenix Copley and a third round pick in the 2016 draft.

Oshie will immediately slide into the right wing spot next to Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom, making an already stellar first line perhaps the best in the game.

It further bolsters the Caps forward lines in addition to the free agent pick-up of RW Justin Williams late Wednesday.

Oshie had 19 goals and 36 assists for the Blues last season. Oshie helped the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi beat the host Russians, scoring on four of six shootout attempts.

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have acquired right wing T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for right wing Troy Brouwer, goaltender Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.

“T.J. is an outstanding skater with a tremendous skill set,” said MacLellan. “He is a powerful player and has consistent track record of production throughout his career in the NHL. We feel that he complements our core group nicely and can help us get to the next level in achieving our ultimate goal. We also want to thank Troy for his contributions to our organization on and off the ice and wish him well in St. Louis.”

Oshie, 28, registered 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) and 51 penalty minutes in 72 games with St. Louis last season. The 5’11”, 194-pound right wing posted three three-assist games in 2014-15 and registered his second career hat trick and matched his career high with four points (three goals, one assist) on Jan. 3 at San Jose. Oshie was named the NHL’s First Star of the week ending Jan. 4. He finished the season ranked tied for third among Blues skaters in assists, fourth in plus/minus (+17), tied for fourth in game-winning goals (4) and fifth on the team in points and goals.

In 2013-14, Oshie set career highs in goals (21), assists (39), points (60), game-winning goals (5) and plus/minus (+19). He logged his first career hat trick on March 27, 2014, against Minnesota and tallied four assists on Nov. 14, 2013, against Colorado. During the 2010-11 season, Oshie was one of two NHL players (Jarret Stoll) with a perfect shootout conversion rate on home ice (3 for 3) among players with at least three attempts. Oshie led the Blues and ranked third in the NHL in shootout shooting percentage (62.5%) in 2009-10. Oshie has registered 310 points (110 goals, 200 assists) and 239 penalty minutes in 443 career NHL games with St. Louis. He was selected by the Blues in the first round, 24th overall, in the 2005 NHL Draft.

The Everett, Wash., native represented the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, at three World Championships (2009, 2010, 2013) and at the 2006 World Junior Championship. Oshie helped lead the United States to a shootout win over host Russia at the 2014 Olympics, scoring on four of six shootout attempts.

Oshie registered 142 points (59 goals, 83 assists) and 120 penalty minutes in 129 games at the University of North Dakota (2005-08). In his three seasons at North Dakota, Oshie earned First Team West All-American Honors, was a two-time NCAA All-Tournament Team selection, was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team and received North Dakota’s Cliff “Fido” Purpur Award for demonstrating hard work, determination and excitement on the ice.

Brouwer, 29, earned 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists) and 53 penalty minutes during the 2014-15 season. Brouwer has registered 255 points (132 goals, 123 assists) and 395 penalty minutes in 531 career NHL games with Chicago and Washington.

Copley, 23, posted a 17-4-3 record with three shutouts, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 26 games with Hershey (AHL) last season. The 6’4”, 196-pound goaltender won his AHL debut on Oct. 13 at Norfolk and earned his first career shutout on Oct. 19 at Hartford. The Capitals signed Copley as a free agent on March 19, 2014.

Washington Capitals sign Justin Williams to two-year deal

The Washington Capitals have agreed to terms with 33-year-old free agent right winger Justin Williams, according to TSN’s Aaron Ward.

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“Young Guns” no more, Green signs with Wings

MIKE GREEN SIGNS THREE-YEAR DEAL WITH DETROIT

Mike Green Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Bruce Boudreau and Alexander Semin have been gone for a while, but the death knell for the Washington Capitals renown “Young Guns” was sounded on Wednesday, the first day of free agency in the NHL.

Mike Green is officially an ex-Capital.

Green, 29, signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings. Of course, it’s the Wings. That organization has long-coveted Green’s play-making ability, and they’re expected to give him top-four minutes, as well as power play quarterbacking responsibilities.

The loss in Washington is palpable.

Green was one of the most popular players in Capitals history. Perhaps no other player — other than his captain, of course — symbolized the free-wheeling era of the “Young Guns” than Green. His sometimes outrageous off-ice life was the perfect accompaniment for his skills on the ice.

Time and injury have reduced those skills. Green is no longer a threat for a 30-goal season as he was during back-to-back Norris Trophy nominated seasons. But he’s still an adept puck-mover and an elite passer on the power play, both traits that the Red Wings will no doubt take advantage of with their new blueliner.

The Caps, meanwhile, lose skill on their backline and will have to depend on younger players — notably Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt — to pick up the slack. But neither player will “replace” Green’s singular passing talent on the power play.

It seems every move Caps GM Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz make, it’s with the mindset of making the Caps “tougher to play against.” In many instances, those types of moves make the team less skilled.

With the departure of Green, the Caps lose one of their most-skilled players.

It’s also interesting to note that Green’s current deal will expire with him entering his age 33 season, the same in which the Caps gave Brooks Orpik a five-year deal.

Green has his limitations. His defensive gaffes can be extraordinarily obvious and destructive, and his injury history is as long as his scoring history.

For years, the Capitals have been unable to protect Green from sustaining the devastating hits he often put himself in the way of. They have similarly been unable to pair him with a player that minimized his defensive shortcomings.

Here’s thinking the Red Wings come up with a better solution in both regards.

Regardless, an era is officially over. The “Young Guns” are no more. It’s hard to come up with an identifier for the current collection. MacLellan’s Mushers? Trotz’ Trotters?

One thing’s for certain; the team’s hand-tattoos per player ratio dropped significantly.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Caps Mike Green got some new ink over the summer - Washington Capitals and So Kids Can partnered with KaBOOM! and ARHA to replace the playground at S.T.A.R.S. Playground at Hopkins-Tancil Court in Old Town Alexandria, September 13, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Mike Green got some new ink over the summer – Washington Capitals and So Kids Can partnered with KaBOOM! and ARHA to replace the playground at S.T.A.R.S. Playground at Hopkins-Tancil Court in Old Town Alexandria, September 13, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Volunteers with Capitals Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green - Washington Capitals and So Kids Can partnered with KaBOOM! and ARHA to replace the playground at S.T.A.R.S. Playground at Hopkins-Tancil Court in Old Town Alexandria, September 13, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Volunteers with Capitals Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green – Washington Capitals and So Kids Can partnered with KaBOOM! and ARHA to replace the playground at S.T.A.R.S. Playground at Hopkins-Tancil Court in Old Town Alexandria, September 13, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green stepping back onto the ice at Verizon Center on Jan. 3 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Mike Green stepping back onto the ice at Verizon Center on Jan. 3 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Washington Capitals free agency and post draft notes

CAPS SAY GOODBYE TO UFAS GREEN, FEHR AND MOST LIKELY WARD AS WELL

The NHL free agent signing period starts July 1, and the Washington Capitals find themselves in a potentially franchise-altering position. They have several unrestricted free agents that will leave sizable holes in the roster, several more restricted free agents that potentially move as well, and after last week’s draft, still need to find a right winger to play on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom.

First, the Caps free agents: Mike Green and Eric Fehr are both gone. The team has expressed that they will not make an offer to keep them in D.C and allow them to make their best deal on the open market. Green’s departure means that the only “Young Guns” left are 8 and 19, and that era is officially over, without so much as a Conference Finals to boast on.

Fehr’s utility as a center and winger, depth scoring, and defensive responsibility will be a tough combo to replace, though his injury history makes it easier to swallow to let him go.

As for the other significant UFA, the Caps have expressed interest in retaining Joel Ward, and they may very well make him an offer if they can work out the money. Ward has said he’d like to stay in D.C., but this is probably his “last best” contract and won’t settle for a hometown discount.

The Caps have several RFAs as well, most notably Braden Holtby. The goalie’s breakout year should garner him a multi-year deal worth $5 million annually, and the Caps first priority is to lock him up. Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are RFAs as well. The team has acknowledged they have approached Kuznetsov’s representatives, but have not started negotiations with Johansson’s.

One development has already occurred. The team re-signed center Jay Beagle to a three-year, $5.25 million deal. It’s hard to imagine the offensively-challenged beagle commanding a $1.75M annual price tag, but the organization praises his hard work, defensive ability and face off prowess.

As for acquiring a running mate on the right side of the top line, the Caps will probably have to look on the trading market as opposed to a free agent. They will once again be tight against the cap despite allowing Green, Ward and Fehr walk, and the market for scoring right wingers isn’t particularly impressive.

At the recently concluded NHL Draft, the Caps surprisingly selected Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov at the No. 22 overall pick, then traded up in the second round to pick add Swiss defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler at No. 57, before taking Regina Pats defensive teammates Connor Hobbs and Colby Williams in the fifth and sixth rounds.

The four picks are the fewest the Caps have ever made in a single draft.

All in all, the 2015-16 Caps could look significantly different than the team that got booted in the second round this season. GM Brian MacLellan will have his hands full the next few weeks bringing everything into shape.

What we did and did not learn from this year’s playoffs

What we learned:

Clutch matters

In this age of analytics this is a phrase you may hear a lot: “There’s no such thing as clutch.” (For example, you can see that here, here and here).

The math may say it doesn’t exist, but there’s just no mathematical formula for players like Joel Ward or Jonathan Toews. [Read more…]

Mike Green won’t be back and that’s a good thing for him and the Caps

Mike Green (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The pending list of free agents for the Washington Capitals includes several big names, but while there is little question that players like Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov will be re-signed, the future remains much more cloudy for defenseman Mike Green.

Green was selected 29th overall by the Caps in the 2004 draft and has spent his entire NHL career with the organization. He will turn 30 in October so while his 30-plus goal seasons are likely behind him, he still has plenty of good years left in his career.

Yet, the final year of Green’s contract has now come and gone with no extension in place. While there remains time between now and the start of free agency for the team to work out a deal, the chances of that happening seem unlikely.

But why? [Read more…]

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