November 25, 2015

Washington Capitals free agency and post draft notes


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.

Washington Capitals Practice Update: Fehr out, Johansson iffy

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz addressed the media Monday about the Caps’ newest injuries. Trotz announced forward Eric Fehr will be out at lest two games [ed. There are currently just two games scheduled] with an upper-body injury sustained in Sunday’s Game 3 when Islanders forward Kyle Okposo checked Fehr hard into the boards.

Trotz also said this injury is not related to the injury that forced Fehr out of three games at the end of the regular season.

Forward Marcus Johansson was limited in practice due to a lower-body injury, reportedly a cut o n his lower leg sustained after colliding with Cal Clutterbuck in Game 3. Johansson played through the injury Sunday but is iffy for Game 4.

The Caps have forwards Michael Latta and Andre Burakovsky in reserve. Latta seems to be the more logical fill-in for Fehr and the rookie Burakovsky could get the call should Johansson’s leg be deemed not fit for Game 4.

The Caps trail the Islanders 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Washington Capitals Game 74 Recap: Caps blow lead, win in OT

Matt Niskanen saved the Washington Capitals from adding insult to injury, scoring quickly in overtime to lift the Caps to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, to whom the home team surrendered the game-tying goal with an even 30 seconds left in regulation.

The Caps (40-24-10) pulled to within one point of Metropolitan Division third-place Pittsburgh, who fell to Carolina 5-2 and put themselves five point clear of eighth-place Ottawa, which also lost, 5-1, to the division-leading New York Rangers and Boston, 3-2 losers to Anaheim. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 65 Recap: Caps win penalty-filled game in Columbus

In an absolute mess of a game, the Washington Capitals proved –yet again — that the best way to counter a team trying to thug it up is to score on them on the resulting power play.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice — including a power play goal in the third period that eventually became the game-winner — and the Caps knocked off the also-ran Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on Tuesday night in Columbus. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 60 Recap: Holtby stymies Islanders in shootout as Caps win 3-2

In arguably their biggest win of the regular season, the Washington Capitals lost a one-goal lead late in the third period, only to see Braden Holtby stop all three shots he faced in the shootout and secure a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday at Verizon Center.

The Caps got the lead from Eric Fehr with 5:34 to go in regulation. Fehr got the puck in the Washington zone via an errant New York pass, and fed Brooks Laich near the center line. Laich gave it right back to Fehr, who put a blistering snap shot past Johnson from the slot.

The Islanders forced overtime with 48 seconds left after Washington played a conservative game for the final few minutes, as Ryan Strome put a tight-angle shot behind Holtby as the Islanders skated 6-on-5 with the goalie pulled.
[Read more…]

Plugging the right wing hole on the Caps’ top line

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

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

The Washington Capitals may still have 28 games remaining in the regular season, but make no mistake, head coach Barry Trotz is already thinking about line combinations for the postseason.

It would be premature to call the Caps a ‘lock’ to make the playoffs, but at the very least they will be playing some meaningful games down the stretch of the regular season. Trotz needs to have his best line combinations set for when the team really needs to pick up points.

The problem, however, is that there is a big gaping hole on the right side of his top line as the Caps don’t currently employ a top-line right wing.

As the trade deadline approaches, Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan will have to determine if that right wing is even on the roster, and if he is, who will it be. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 51 Recap: Caps stymie Kings, Holtby picks up sixth shutout

In one of their most impressive victories of the season on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-0, keeping the defending champs from lighting the lamp even once at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 1/28/15

First star: Braden Holtby. He backstopped the Capitals to a 4-0 win and plugged the holes for three penalty kills. He got his 23rd win, fifth shutout of the year, and second shutout of the season versus Pittsburgh.

Second star: Mike Green. Green is a polarizing character amongst fans, but it is undeniable that when he plays well, the team does well.  He added a lovely goal and an assist in an overall dominating performance Wednesday, his 10th multipoint game of the season.

Third star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom logged two assists in the win, his 10th multi-assist game of the year. He’s collected 25 points in his last 22 games. This guy has 35 assists through 48 games.

Honorable mention: Eric Fehr, who’s playing his first real season at center, for his beastly performance in the dot, winning  17 of 22 faceoffs. That’s 77.3%. Word.



Free agent decisions loom large for Caps as trade deadline approaches

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As the teams return from the All-Star Break and meaningful hockey starts again, the next big day on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline.

The NHL trade deadline is on March 2 at 3 pm, just over a month away. The task for each team over the next few weeks is to determine what their realistic goals are for this season and going forward so that they can determine if they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.

On an individual level, general managers need to determine the future of their pending free agents, i.e. who they will seek to re-sign and who already has one foot out of the door.

The Washington Capitals are no exception. There are currently 10 players on the roster who are in the final year of their contract and General Manager Brian MacLellan has to determine now who he wants to see back in Washington next season. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars 1/17/15

For the second night in a row, the Capitals battled back from a multiple goal deficit, but fell short of a comeback. Justin Peters got his first start since the end of November and it wasn’t a great outing. Rust, maybe. The loss was they Caps’ second loss in as many night,s but they’ll bounce back. Regression happens.

First star: Nicklas Backstrom. He added two points in the 5-4 loss, a goal and an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s third period breakaway.

Second star: Alex Ovechkin. He has four points in Washington’s last two games (both losses), but scored his 25th goal against Dallas and assisted on Backstrom’s third period goal, his 16th assist of the season.

Third star: Eric Fehr. Since the Winter Classic, Fehr has notched six points in seven games, including a two-goal performance in Toronto. His second period goal in Dallas, his 14th of the year, got Washington’s comeback started. He also won 15 of 16 faceoffs. Not bad for a guy who didn’t play at center until last season.

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