The Washington Capitals entered the 2014 offseason with glaring deficiencies on their roster at center and defense. One big opportunity to address those deficiencies — for the long-term — is the NHL Draft, concluded over the weekend.
Unfortunately, and somewhat head-scratchingly, the Caps failed to address either position in the draft, opting once again to draft smallish wingers and trade away picks to move up five spots to draft an unheralded European goalie, who — not coincidentally — played with their first round pick on the Czech national team.
Considering new GM Brian MacLellan’s recent comments about “drafting your centers” and free agent Mikhail Grabovski’s contract demands being “prohibitive,” it’s puzzling that the new boss didn’t select a single true center in the draft.
Granted, players drafted over the weekend won’t contribute to NHL rosters for several seasons — if at all — it’s still hard to imagine the team not picking any true centermen or defensemen.
The Capitals new boss has made several public statements that have segments of the Caps fan base edgy. At his introductory press conference, he said he felt the organization needed a “refresh”, not a rebuild, comments echoed by the owner, Ted Leonsis.
He intimated that the current roster underperformed last season and that new coach Barry Trotz would most certainly be able to get more out of the players on hand than former coach Adam Oates.
Leading up to the draft, he revealed the team has no plans to buyout either Brooks Laich ($4.5 million) or Mike Green ($6.083 million) for the upcoming season. Then just prior to the draft, he made his remarks concerning Grabovski.
MacLellan then followed all that up with drafting six wingers (none bigger than 6’1″ or weighing more than 190 lbs.) and trading away a pick to move up five spots to select the eighth-ranked European goalie available (not eighth overall available) in the middle of the second round.
Later in the draft, they traded up again to select Nathan Walker, a winger that played in Hershey last season with middling statistics (5 g, 6 a) in 43 games. Granted, Walker’s story is great, as he tries to become the first Australian to play in the NHL, but his story is better than his prospect status.
But really, what says status quo more than drafting a player that played in your organization last season?
For a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years last season, so far there doesn’t seem to be much change in the air.
MacLellan certainly has plenty of time, and over $12 million in cap space, this offseason to address needs of the big league club. With the start of free agency opening July 1, we may get a better handle on how he’s leaning.
But from everything he’s said and what’s transpired thus far, Caps fans might want to prepare themselves for being underwhelmed.