Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What to do with the UFAs?

Before, we looked at the Capitals upcoming restricted free agents. The restricted free agent situation is fairly easy...virtually every player should get re-signed, barring some sort of absurd offer from an opposing team, a refusal to play for the Capitals, or Marcus Johansson starts robbing banks during the offseason or something.

But now this is where the contract situations get a bit interesting. As we look at the unrestricted free agents, there are quite a few different variables that could come into play with each free agent.

 For the first time in a while, I think the Capitals are better off just re-signing virtually every player they used for the entire season. Virtually every player we could potentially re-sign is a better option/fit than any upcoming free agent this offseason. The upcoming free agents list is a little weak this year.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt the Capitals manage to re-sign every player.

If the restricted free agents end up signing with the Caps for the terms I predicted, the Capitals will have about $10.48 million in cap space for the remaining open spots on their roster (this is assuming the cap ceiling is going to be at $72 million, which could obviously change come July 1).

Now remember, I assumed every player would sign a contract, and which was more than just about every contract I settled with in that RFA post. So, in my opinion, that $10.48 million is essentially the worst case scenario as far as cap space. I'd like to think that's an accurate prediction, but take it for what it's worth, it's just my guesstimate. Feel free to point and laugh at me when it ends up being a vastly different number.

In total, the Capitals have 17 total upcoming unrestricted free agents within the system. Of those 17, four played for the Capitals for the entire season, two for a chunk, two played a decent amount in the past and a couple others were on the roster for a handful of days.

Let's take a look at each upcoming unrestricted free agents situation, and whether or not the Caps would re-sign them, and at what cost.

Mike Green

Mike Green has had a really fun career in Washington. He had quite a few remarkable offensive season, scoring 31 goals in the 2008-09 season and recording 76 points in the 2009-10 season. He's had a few critical goals in critical moments, earning the nickname Game Over for ending games in overtime seemingly every time he had the opportunity to do so.

Green's probably never going to score 30 goals ever game. He probably won't even score 20 goals ever again. He's never going to get 70 points, and he probably won't even get 60 in a season. But what can't be denied is that Green still possesses an offensive touch that few defensemen have.

Green finished with 10 goals and 35 assists on the season, finishing seventh in the league among players that played at least 10 games in points per 60 minutes of play at even strength five on five with 1.29. He always seems to be able to find the open man, knows exactly when to step up and take a shot, and is always dangerous when he's on the ice.

Photo By Bridget Samuels
This season, Green found his minutes reduced, playing on the third pairing primarily alongside Jack Hillen and Tim Gleason. He was also replaced on the top power play unit by John Carlson, but tended to play on the second unit.

Green wants to stay in Washington, and Washington would love to have Green back, but it just doesn't seem likely. With already $20,016,666 in cap space already allocated to the blue line, there just simply isn't any room to add Green back at the terms he would like to see, unless he takes a pay cut.

Green's last contract was a three-year, $18.25 million deal that started in the 2012-13 season. Now, Green may not be worth $6 million per year anymore. In fact, no third line defenseman should be worth that much. But, we can all agree that Green is much, much better than your typical third line defenseman, and if it wasn't for such a deep group of right-handed defensemen in John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, Green could have quite easily played top four minutes.

Green could go ahead and talk about how he wants to play for the Capitals, but he'd be nuts to sign with Washington. I mean, after what we have seen in virtually every offseason, why wouldn't every free agent at least test the waters during free agency? We've seen Tanner Glass get a three-year, $4.35 million contract from the New York Rangers, Dave Bolland get a five-year, $27.5 million from the Florida Panthers and *cough* *cough* Brooks Orpik get a five-year, $27.5 million contract just last offseason! We aren't even talking about the grandaddy of them all in the seven-year $36.75 million contract the Toronto Maple Leafs gave to David Clarkson! You think guys like Mike Green wouldn't want to at least try to cash in on that consistent overpay?

This is Green's moment to cash in on the big bucks. He's 29-years-old, and he could quite easily fetch $5-6.5 million per year for a long extended period of time. A team like the Detroit Red Wings have been itching for a right-handed defenseman for years. Other teams have money to spend. The Caps don't.

Maybe the money isn't important to Green. Maybe he really, really, really wants to stay. Maybe he likes the area. Maybe he doesn't want to leave his friends and teammates. Maybe his wife, Courtney Parrie wants to stay in the DC area more than anything. Hey, you think she doesn't have a say? You are obviously wrong if you think she doesn't, and history would tend to disagree with you.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not 100 percent counting Mike Green out. Maybe he's perfectly fine with accepting he is now a third pairing defenseman for a good team, and he believes it is only fair that he is paid as such. I find it highly unlikely he'd be willing to accept a contract that is around 50 percent of what he could fetch from other teams, but I guess crazier things have happened.

Contract I'd Like to See: Sigh.....two years, $3.5 million per year (only two years because I highly doubt he'd take a longterm deal that saw his income drop by nearly 50 percent), plus his own personal masseuse, butler, maid and whatever other perk he would like that doesn't count against the cap.

Joel Ward

Much like Green, Joel Ward could cash in this offseason. Over the past two seasons, Ward has been nothing short of excellent, especially when you consider he is basically a third line player with a scoring touch. Ward finished with 19 goals and 34 points this season, a slight decrease in production from last season, when he finished with a career high in both goals (24) and points (49).

Ward was utilized as a first line right wing during the playoffs, and it appeared to work. Ward finished his playoffs with three goals and six assists, making him the co-leader on the team in points during the playoffs alongside Alex Ovechkin.

Also, much like Green, Ward would like to stay in Washington. Unlike Green, it is a little bit easier to fit in a guy like Ward. We simply don't have the forward depth to allow guys like Ward to walk away, so a contract for a third line guy, with first line potential that can play in virtually any game situation and can be counted on for big time plays only makes sense.

Ward came from the Nashville Predators four years ago when he signed a four year, $12 million contract. He could very well get a similar contract, despite being 34-years-old. What makes him different from your average 34-year-old player? Ward made his NHL debut at 26, and has shown no sign of wear and tear on that big ass.

Ward is a quite guy, but when he does speak, he is always full of wise cracks and hilarious quotes. He's a good guy to have on your team, and it's quite obvious that the guys in the locker room love having him around.

Ward has a lot of familiarity with Barry Trotz, finishing up his fourth season under the Capitals first-year coach. Trotz seems to know exactly how to get the best out of Ward, and the winger is playing his best hockey at the tail end of his career.

The Caps would be crazy not to try to sign him, but, again, much like Green, Ward would also be crazy not to at least test free agency. Ward is at the top of many lists of upcoming free agent forwards, and at 34, this could very well be his last big contract. But the difference between he and Green is that the Caps should be willing to give Ward want he wants as far as a contract goes. So if he's satisfied with the number, we should expect to see 42 back in a red sweater next season.

Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $3.5 million per year.

Eric Fehr

In my opinion, this was one of Eric Fehr's most complete seasons as a Washington Capital. Sure, he didn't set a career high in goals or points, but he got pretty close. His career high came in the high octane offensive years of the Capitals during the 2009-10 season when he finished with 21 goals and 39 points. This year, Fehr had 19 goals and 33 points, playing primarily as a third line center responsible for defensive hockey.

Fehr really stepped up this year. The Capitals had a pretty odd situation when it came to centers on the team, and Fehr was cast in as a candidate for the third line position. He did well, buddying up with Ward and giving the Caps that offensive punch on the third line.

Photo By Bridget Samuels
Fehr was desperately missed during the playoffs with that "upper body" injury that ended up being a third-degree AC sprain in his right shoulder. He was able to play in Game 7 against the Rangers, but it was just his fourth game of the playoffs. The shoulder injury is a bit scary, as Fehr has dealt with shoulder issues throughout his career, especially with his brief time with the Winnipeg Jets. According to the Washington Post's Alex Prewitt, Fehr wasn't aware of whether or not the AC injury would need surgery or not, and that Fehr also battled an elbow injury during the season.

Giving a contract to a player that could potentially be injured often is obviously a bit risky, but Fehr has proven to be a very valuable player when he's on the ice. He's also not going to come at too high of a price, and the Caps surely would like him back.

Fehr is going to turn 30 at the beginning of the season. I would have to imagine at this point in his career, Fehr would be more eager to sign a longer-term contract than a short-term. In fact, Fehr hasn't received a contract from the Capitals that was at least three-years since his three-year entry level contract, consistently playing on just a two-year or one-year deal. Fehr isn't going to warrant too much money...and even though Fehr would probably like a three or four year deal, another two year deal is in the best interest for Washington.

Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $2.25 million per year. I'd give him three if that was the deal breaker.

Jay Beagle

Jay Beagle had a surprisingly good year, setting career highs in both goals and assists with 10 apiece. I don't know where he found that offensive flair, but what I do know is that we are probably not going to see Beagle score off of 11.9 percent of his total shots ever again, meaning I highly doubt we ever see 10 goals out of Beagle ever again.

I of course hope I'm wrong, and Beagle continues to kick butt on the fourth line. He is pretty much the golden standard of fourth line centers at this point in his career, playing a defensive role while finishing with positive possession numbers. On top of that, Beagle is a man possessed when it comes to the face off dot. In fact, Beagle is still leading the league in face off percentage (of players who took at least 15 face offs) during the playoffs, winning 120 of his 188 face off attempts, good for 63.8 percent. That was only slightly better than his regular season percentage of 56.5.

That's pretty much what Beagle brings to the table. He's a defensive-minded guy who can kill penalties and win you some face offs.

This should be a pretty easy signing for the Capitals. Of the upcoming free agents, this is far and away the easiest signing. It shouldn't cost the Capitals too much, and whatever the term may be, the Caps will more than likely be satisfied with Beagles production.

Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $1.8 million per year

Curtis Glencross/Tim Gleason

I decided to lump these two together because they are essentially in the same boat. And that boat is drifting incredibly far from Washington.

I made it quite clear that I was originally upset with the trade for Curtis Glencross, as I simply saw no reason to force a third line player to play top six minutes. I simply do not want to live in a world where a team sends a second and a third round pick in exchange for a player who will end up being healthy scratched during the playoffs. Yet this is the world I live in. Glencross needs to leave.

I was relatively indifferent during the Tim Gleason trade. In fact, I'm like 40 percent sure I had zero reaction at all to the trade. I simply shrugged and moved on with my day. We essentially moved a fourth round pick that we previously received from the Arizona Coyotes for a guy who appeared to be very slow and rode the bench in critical game situations. As I grow older and older, I fail to see the point in trade deadline acquisitions. I won't be too terribly shocked if no one decides to sign Gleason ever again, but he should be satisfied to know that the Toronto Maple leafs will pay him will make $4.5 million over the next three years regardless of whether he plays hockey or not. That's right, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who literally need to suit up virtually anyone that wants to play hockey for them, would rather pay a man $4.5 million to not play for them than actually pay them to play. This is the situation Gleason is in.

Other Upcoming UFAs

You probably forgot that Aaron Volpatti was even in the Capitals organization at all anymore. Believe it or not, he actually is, and I can guarantee you he won't be come next year. John Erskine is  also set to become a free agent this year. His health has become a concern and we simply have better options than him at this point. I have my doubts a team will sign Erskine, but if he's healthy and he wants to play, I really hope a team signs him. He served the Caps well, and I will never in my entire life forget this fight. There are two guys that are in really interesting free agent positions for the Capitals, and that's Cameron Schilling and Tomas Kundratek. Both become UFA-VI's this offseason (definition of that here). I like both of these guys, especially Schilling, but I have to imagine that both these guys would like to look to see if they can get some professional ice time elsewhere, because it doesn't look like they will crack this NHL lineup any time soon, and if they both truly believe they can play in the NHL, then they should look elsewhere for the sake of their careers. The same goes with Steve Oleksy, who is loved by virtually everyone within the Caps fan base, but simply won't ever see consistent time in a red uniform. Much like Schilling and Kundratek, Oleksy could potentially find himself with a better opportunity on a different roster. Casey Wellman and Chris Connor find themselves in similar situations. Wellman played in a handful of games last season, and Connor found himself in the lineup this season. Neither of these guys are consistent NHL players, but both served the Hershey Bears well. I'm especially a fan of Connor, and hopefully both of these guys decide to stick within the organization. Kris Newbury, Jon Landry, Tim Kennedy and Mike Moore will also become become free agents.

So....if you add up all of the ideal contracts I came up with for both the RFAs and the UFAs, the Capitals are about $1.3 million over the cap using a $72 million cap ceiling. Now, obviously these are just my predictions, and a ton of different variables could be added between now and July 1, but the only way the Capitals could keep every player on the roster is if two things happened: 1) The RFAs stay on the team after accepting a qualifying offer and 2) Mike Green takes a pay cut.

Do you think that happens?

Yeah, me neither.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What to do with the RFAs?

With the season coming to heartbreaking close, we now have to look towards next season.

We just have to, because that is obviously the year the Capitals will win it all.

This certainly wasn't the year. This team didn't even qualify for the playoffs just a season ago! We saw a massive improvement after several key additions to the team, but there is no denying that we weren't the favorites heading into this postseason. It would have been pretty awesome....but let's be a little honest here.

There is, however, no denying that our future looks bright. With young guys playing critical roles (including a rookie second line center) now all of a sudden gaining NHL experience, our better years appear to be ahead of us. The question is...who will be a part of it?

We are first going to start with the restricted free agents. In total, the Capitals have 11 guys who become restricted free agents this offseason. Four of those guys (Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt) saw a lot of time this season in the NHL. So let's take a look and see what exactly the game plan should be for each of our upcoming restricted free agents.

Actually, wait a second. Before we get into the juicy stuff, we should know how much money we can play with. According to General Fanager, the Capitals have $21,234,041 in cap space to work with this offseason, and already have $47,765,959 cap hit this upcoming year.

Okay, ready? Now let's get into the juicy stuff.

Actually, no, wait a second again. Last time, I promise. Before we start, we should also know what exactly the qualifying offers are for our four primary restricted free agents.

A qualifying offer is essentially an offer the Capitals must make to each of their RFAs to maintain negotiating rights to that player. It is a minimum salary calculated based on the previous year's salary for that individual player. A player who made less than $660,000 last season has a minimum qualifying offer of 110 percent of their salary. Players making anywhere between $660,000 and $1 million have a minimum qualifying offer of 105 percent of their salary. And finally, players making over $1 million must have a qualifying offer of 100 percent of their salary.

The Capitals will surely submit qualifying offers to virtually every one of those four players. If they could get as many guys as they could for a bargain price, why wouldn't they? But what they obviously have to worry about is if players will sign offer sheets elsewhere, and if opposing teams try to drive up the price, the Capitals could end up shooting themselves in the foot. In some particular cases, it may be wise for the Caps to just go ahead an try to give these guys an actual contract. For this particular article, we are going to assume that the Caps are going to offer the main four RFAs a contract, but having the players settle for a qualifying contract could very well be the case.

Here are the qualifying offers for the four main RFAs.

Ok, now let's get into the juicy stuff.

Restricted Free Agents

Ok, restricted free agents re-sign with their team virtually every single time. I mean, sure, teams can decide they just don't want that guy anymore, and sure, players can sign offer sheets for contracts for other teams. But even when that happens, the team that has the rights to the player matches it the vast majority of the time. Is this confusing? Remember when Shea Weber signed with the Flyers? He could have been a Flyer, and the Nashville Predators could have decided to allow that to happen, and in return, they would have received a boatload of draft picks. But they simply decided to match the offer, and when that happens, the player must sign with that team. A restricted free agent has signed an offer sheet just three times in the last five years, and the last time a team decided to actually accept the offer sheet was in 2007, when the Anaheim Ducks allowed Dustin Penner to head to the Edmonton Oilers.

The four restricted free agents I'm referring to are Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson and Nate Schmidt. Could they sign offer sheets with other teams? Sure, it's entirely possible. But, should that happen, I'd be willing to bet money that the Caps would match any offer thrown at Holtby and Kuznetsov, and I'd be willing to bet slightly less money they'd do the same for Johansson. So here's the plan for each.

Braden Holtby

This season marked Holtby's coming out year, where he was finally fully entrusted as the Capitals starting goaltender, and he shone brightly, finishing with a .923 save percentage, a 2.22 goals against average in 73 total games. He didn't finish as a Vezina candidate, and as of today, the official voting hasn't been released, but he was surely in the top five in votes. On top of all of this wonderfulness, Holtby played like a man possessed in the playoffs, and more than proved the Caps can rely on him as a goaltender in virtually every cup run.

Holtby made $2 million this year, which is pretty cheap when you look at how great he was. Out of all of the free agents, Holtby is quite easily the top priority in re-signing. And it's the one you should keep your eye on the most, because how much or how little the Caps can sign him for can make or break the team.

Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels

The top five highest paid goaltenders with the largest cap hit next season are Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million), Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425 million), Pekka Rinne ($7 million), Tuukka Rask ($7 million) and Carey Price ($6.5 million). I would be absolutely shocked if Holtby's next contract is within the top five contracts. In fact, there is almost no way Holtby's contract is more than Price's who will more than certainly win the Vezina Trophy this year, and quite possibly the Hart Trophy.

The key in this signing is to get the correct amount of term. The Caps are fortunate enough to be in this situation when Holtby is just 25. So giving him a relatively lengthy contract won't be the end of the world, as the maximum length a team can offer a player they previously had under contract is just eight years. I don't think the Caps will offer him the max length. Teams are quickly learning that offering long term contracts to goaltenders can kind of stab you directly in your wallet and your soul. You know, just do a quick google search of the contract the Flyers offered Ilya Bryzgalov. Or how about what the Blackhawks have given Corey Crawford. Or maybe check out Lundqvist's contract situation in four years. The key is to give Holtby the right money at the right term, which, as I type that out, sounds really, really obvious. I'm leaving it there.

Contract I'd like to see: Four/five years, $5.5 million per year

Evgeny Kuznetsov

The Wizard had high expectations head into his rookie year, and he kind of reached them. The young Russian stepped right into the second line center role, and fortunately for himself and Caps fans, it appeared to work out pretty well. Kuznetsov finished with 11 goals and 26 assists, both solid for a rookie. He even began to see an increased role on the power play, and will more than likely continue to do so next season.

I lied. This is probably the most interesting contract situation for the Capitals. Kuznetsov made just $900,000 guaranteed this season (he had a $2.85 million in performance bonuses to make, I have no idea if he got them or not). What makes this so interesting? It will be interesting to see if the Caps just decide, 'sure, lets give him a decently-long contract to secure that second line center spot for a few years' or they instead decide 'you know what? What if he doesn't quite pan out?' I'm of course referring to a bridge contract.

A bridge contract is essentially a safety net for teams after an entry-level contract (like Kuznetsov's) expires. Basically, Kuznetsov is going to want a contract with a longer term, as he's no longer an entry-level player, according to his contract. The Capitals, however, see him more as an entry-level player, and wouldn't want to commit to a long term contract. A bridge contract meets the two parties in the middle. A bridge contract offers a player just a couple of million dollars or so for two years. This allows the team to get a better understanding of just how well a player can perform without getting too screwed by term or cap. Look at it from this point. We have essentially seen Kuznetsov play for one full year. Now his contract is expiring. Do you think the Caps are 100 percent certain Kuznetsov is the answer for the second line center position? Probably not. So why would they give him a long term contract when, you know, he may not perform at the level the Caps had hoped for? Instead, let's give him a short term contract that allows the Caps to give him a little less than he's probably worth, which allows the Caps to utilize money in other areas. This is a similar situation to what Marcus Johansson was in just a couple of years ago.

What's the risk of a bridge contract? Well, if Kuznetsov turns into the next Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals may regret it. Basically, the Caps have an opportunity to sign Kuznetsov for four or five years now at, just for a reference, say $4 million. That's a risky contract, but if he performs like, say, Backstrom, that's a fantastic value. But let's say the Caps give Kuznetsov a bridge contract, for two years and $2 million. Then say he performs like Backstrom. After his two year contract runs up, Kuznetsov might be worth $6 million. This is kind of what happened to the Montreal Canadiens with P.K. Subban. Had the Canadiens simply given Subban what he wanted to begin with, they wouldn't have had to pay him that monster contract.

I think Kuznetsov is good, but I think a bridge contract is a pretty safe bet. I don't think we are going to get burned like the Canadiens were with Subban. A bridge contract at this point is definitely the smartest thing for the Capitals.

Contract I'd like to see: Two years, $2.25 million per year

Marcus Johansson

Johansson started off the year hot, and finished with a career year in goals (20) and points (47). He became a second line scoring threat, with first line potential. In the playoffs, he didn't quite perform as well, with just a goal and three assists, but he had spurts where he played strong along the boards and looked like a legitimate threat.

Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels
I've voiced my opinion on Johansson a few times. I think he's an ok option to have on the second line, but I just don't think he's serious second line scoring winger for a contending team. A guy like Johansson would thrive on a team with a ton of scoring depth, and Johansson would succeed mightily playing as a third line scoring threat for a team like, say, the Anaheim Ducks or the Chicago Blackhawks. A team with a lot of depth up top would love to have a guy like Johansson.

I don't think the Caps are quite there yet, though I they are getting close. With guys like Andre Burakovsky showing a lot of promise, and Jakub Vrana waiting behind the scenes, they may just be one or two guys away from being a team just like the Ducks or Blackhawks. But if the Capitals realistically think they can get to that point, then why not sign Johansson for a couple more seasons?

My fear is that the Caps go ahead and sign Johansson for a lengthy amount of time, paying him like a second line player when he may get replaced by other left-handed wings in the future. I just believe at this point in their careers, Burakovsky's ceiling is higher than Johansson's.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly think the Capitals should sign Johansson to a contract. But I also think if Johansson signs an offer sheet elsewhere, and it is for the wrong price and length for the Caps, they should accept it. Here's a link to the latest offer sheet compensation, found on page 38, Article 10.4.

Now, I find it unlikely that Johansson would sign an offer sheet unless the offer was too good to be true, and I also doubt any team would offer him a contract the Capitals wouldn't be willing to pay. But if a team gets him to sign for somewhere between $3,364,391 and $5,046,585, and the Caps choose to accept, they are compensated with a first and a third round pick.

Again, I doubt a team would sign Johansson to an offer the Caps would refuse to match, but crazier things have happened.

Contract I'd like to see: Two years, $4.5 million per year

Nate Schmidt

In his 39 games this season, Schmidt looked pretty outstanding. But an injury appeared to keep him on the outside looking in for the latter half of the season, and the addition of Gleason all but killed his chances at playing after the deadline.

I, as well as many, many others thought Schmidt should be playing alongside Mike Green through the playoffs, as Schmidt more than proved he could hang in the NHL on the third pair.

Schmidt has simply been a tweener, bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL. He is an NHL player. I know it, he knows it, and I think Barry Trotz knows it as well. However, despite playing two different seasons in the NHL, Schmidt has even less NHL experience than Kuznetsov. So, much like Kuznetsov, how could realistically expect the Capitals to shell out money for a guy they may not be completely sold on?

Schmidt made $625,000 over the past two seasons. Why not offer a little bit of a bump for another two years?

Contract I'd like to see: Two years, $1.5 million per year

Other Upcoming RFAs

The other seven upcoming restricted free agents either saw a very little amount of time this season with the Capitals, or no time at all. The most important one is obviously Philipp Grubauer, the promising young goaltender who played in two total games for the Capitals this year, earning two wins, including one crucial win in the playoffs. It is hard to judge a goaltender on just two NHL games, but what we have seen from the past in Grubauer is at the very least promising. Grubauer also performed very well for the Hershey Bears, finishing his season with a 2.30 goals against average and  a .921 save percentage in 49 games. There's not doubt he is a good backup goaltender, and, as evident in the playoffs, Trotz clearly trusts him over Justin Peters. So we will see how his situation plays out this offseason.

Chris Brown and Stanislav Galiev become RFAs as well. Brown saw a little bit of time, and looked like a prototypical 4th line player. He's a good guy to have in your system to give yourself a little depth. Galiev finally got the call up to play in the NHL, and managed to score his first NHL goal in just his second game. It's unclear whether or not he can be a consistent NHL player for the Capitals, but he definitely had his best professional year yet with the Bears, scoring 25 goals over the course of the season. Patrick Wey is another guy set to become an RFA. He's seen a bit of time in the NHL, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career, and he may never be able become a consistent NHL player. Garrett Mitchell, Edward Pasquale and Brandon Anderson join the list as well. Their chances of making the NHL are extremely low at this point.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bring a Sharpie

That is such a crappy title. I legitimately could not think of any other title that involved a clever way to talk about Patrick Sharp, and I came up with "Bring a Sharpie." Just turn around now. Do you seriously think I have anything of value to say after coming up with that title? No, probably not.

Well if you are still reading, I have been avoiding updating about the trade deadline like the plague. I hate it. Well, I love it, but I also hate it. I cannot stand the never ending supply of rumors and trade scenarios. It is maddening to hear, because they are wrong 99 percent of the time.

But dammit, I can't leave this one alone.

That is Chris Kuc, the Chicago Blackhawks beat writer, a respectable beat writer, for the Chicago Tribune. If it was Eklund, HockeyyInsiderr or however many extra y's and r's that guy tends to have, I could just close down my laptop and carry on with my day without a care in the world. But this one actually kind of means something. I cannot leave this one alone. Because if this happens, it will be awesome.

But could it actually happen?

I initially brushed it off, because no, I don't think it could happen. Here's why.

That's exactly right. As soon as that injury happened, and the Blackhawks learned they were going to be without their best offensive player, the collective understanding was that the Blackhawks got a bit more aggressive in trade talks, specifically looking for a forward along the lines of Antoine Vermette. A lot of teams would just pack it in after losing their best player, but not Chicago. They are still quite easily good enough to make it to the Stanley Cup again, as they seem to make a deep run each and every year. Why would they actively shop for forwards, and still plan on shipping out one of their best offensive forwards? It just doesn't make sense.

Ok, fine. Sharp is having a pretty bad year as far as Sharp goes. The guy has 10 goals and 32 points, which is actually still respectable. What is troubling is that he is scoring on just 5.9 percent of his shots, which is uncharacteristically low for him. In fact, his career average is 11.4 percent. Even worse, he's scoring on just 1.8 percent of his shots at even strength, which is unfathomably low.

But even still, Sharp poses a scoring threat every time he is on the ice. And the fact that he still has 32 points when he is shooting uncharacteristically low is pretty mind-boggling. It just doesn't make sense for the Blackhawks to trade him right now.

The whole reason why they want to trade him is because of his cap hit. Sharp has a $5.9 million cap hit over the next two seasons. The Blackhawks would like to part with him to free up some cap space, especially with the start of the two mega deals with Kane and Jonathan Toews, where each will have a $10.5 million cap hit. That's huge.

But again, that issue wouldn't affect the Blackhawks until next year. It makes so much more sense to just keep him now, and look to deal him at the draft. This is especially true with the Kane injury. If the Blackhawks trade him away, it will essentially look like they are giving up on the season, which is pretty odd. There is just no way they wheel and deal at the deadline and bring in multiple guys that could fill the holes left by Kane and Sharp.

So is there any possible reason why they would trade him at the deadline? Well, maybe.

They may want rid of him for other reasons beyond money.

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy wrote an article on Thursday about the possibility of a Blackhawks locker room confrontation. Two different Chicago-related sports analysts have come out and said that there are plenty of locker room problems within the Blackhawks organization, and one hinted at a possible fist fight in the locker room after the Kane injury. Whether or not that particular rumor is true, this is not the first time there have been rumors of issues within the Chicago locker room. In fact, they may be revolving around Sharp. In Wyshynski's article, he sites The Committed Indian, who had this to say about Sharp after receiving numerous reports from people he claimed could be trusted sources this past Summer.

"There are of-ice issues with Sharp. There may have been a physical altercation with a teammate (and a very important one). Let's just say the image of Sharp as a wholesome family man with his two daughters is not an accurate picture. There may be other problems."

That is an extremely interesting accusation. And we've recently seen instances in sports of guys being traded away from a team simply for being a nuisance. You probably thought that was going to be about this, didn't you?

So maybe they truly do just want rid of him. And there's really no way of knowing whether or not Sharp could potentially be a locker room problem for the Caps. So it's just a risk they'd have to be willing to take. But, I think everyone can collectively admit that's probably a low risk, high reward-type situation.

Via Flickr User calmstorm
So let's say that the Blackhawks decide that the best possible move is to move him at the deadline (which, I still think is insane, unless Sharp is, like, literally stabbing Duncan Keith on a consistent basis or something).

What would they want? 

The Blackhawks would head into this deal with two goals in mind. They would first want to get a player they can still use on the team for a Stanley Cup run, and considering they just traded for Kimmo Timonen and they would be trading away a forward themselves, they will probably want a forward. And secondly, the whole point of trading Sharp in the first place would be to free up money for next season, so ideally that player would either be an upcoming unrestricted  free agent (simply because I don't think the Caps would ship out the restricted player options).

So if we are basing the trade off of that criteria, they would be looking at Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle or Aaron Volpatti.

There is absolutely no way Chicago wants Volpatti. The Capitals don't even want Aaron Volpatti. There is also absolutely no way the Blackhawks would want Jay Beagle. He's just not the player they are looking for.

That leaves Fehr and Ward as the only realistic options.

I don't think the Caps would part with Fehr. He has been one of the most important pieces for the Capitals this year. He's fourth on the team in goals with 17. Plus, he's been playing as a center for the entire year. The Caps desperately need centers, and on top of that, the Blackhawks don't really need a center.

I think Joel Ward is the best option in this instance for both teams. Ward is realistically a third line guy with second line potential. The Blackhawks would be satisfied with Ward as the roster player in that deal. And that would work out nicely for the Capitals because they can quite easily fill that third line right wing spot with any number of guys.

But the Capitals certainly need to sweeten the pot a bit. A straight up Ward for Sharp trade is just not fair for the Blackhawks.

The Capitals could throw in a combination of mid-round draft picks. But that's boring and pretty unpredictable. I'll be the first to admit I have absolutely no idea how general managers find the balance between a current roster player and any number of draft picks. I mean, Sean Bergenheim went for a third round pick. Jaromir Jagr went for a second and third round pick. The Blackhawks traded traded a second and a conditional pick for Timonen. I have absolutely no idea what the going rate of draft picks is for your standard NHL player. I can't find any sort of definitive pattern.

So let's pretend the Capitals need to send a prospect along as well. I first took a look at what exactly the Blackhawks would need as far as prospects go. According to Hockey's Future, the Blackhawks lack an elite goaltending prospect and depth at right wing.

The Capitals have respectable depth at goaltending between Vitek Vanecek and Philipp Grubauer. I think the ideal situation for the Capitals would be to part with either goaltender as opposed to their right wing options. Grubauer is obviously more NHL ready than Vanecek, but overall, Vanecek has the most potential. The Blackhawks may be looking for someone to push Antti Raanta (who has been pretty solid in his few games) and Corey Crawford (who has been average over the course of the season). Or, maybe the Blackhawks pressure the Capitals into parting with a right wing, in which case their best option would be Riley Barber (I would be really, really unhappy about parting with him).

My guess is the Capitals could get away with giving the Blackhawks Ward, a forward prospect like Chandler Stephenson or Stanislav Galiev and a second or third round draft pick. Both sides essentially get what they want in that deal. The Capitals get a the top six scoring threat they desperately need, the Blackhawks get cap relief, a beneficial roster player and a respectable prospect and draft pick. This is, of course, entirely banking on whether or not Sharp chooses to waive his no movement clause, which he has in his contract. It's also worth noting that while the Caps would be bringing on a $5.9 million contract while only shipping away a $3 million contract in this particular instance, Sharps cap hit this year would only be around $1.475 million , so despite being a cap team, this would work.

Do I think it's possible? Yes. Do I think it's likely? Probably not. But this would definitely be a pretty good move for the Capitals. They are not going to win the Stanley Cup if they chase after guys like Antoine Vermette or Curtis Glencross. If they truly want to win this year, they have to go big. And acquiring a guy like Sharp would definitely be a big move.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Capitals Valentines Day

Valentines Day is a day of love and relationships. So, naturally, we need to find the Caps' their perfect Valentines.

I asked random people on Twitter to come up with a Valentines Day matchup for a lucky Capital. Or, they could come up with the Capital who would be the best Valentine.

Overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly, the responses were mostly about Tom Wilson.

Surprisingly, Wilson has been underwhelming this year. When he was selected with the 16th overall pick in 2012, he was fully expected to become a battering ram with the puck, and a guy who can physically will himself to the net and score. He would be Washington's version of Milan Lucic.

He's not, at least not yet. He just can't seem to find that offensive touch that he had in his third year of junior hockey, where he had 23 goals and 58 points in 48 games. He's still getting primarily fourth line minutes, and he has yet to do anything that has been super impressive offensively.

Instead, he's become the irresponsible agitator that just senselessly gets penalties. His latest decision cost the Caps dearly. In by far their worst game of the year against the Philadelphia Flyers, Wilson found himself on the ice on the 6 on 5 as the Caps were down one goal. Why was Wilson on the ice in the final minute of a game down by one, I don't know. But anyways, the puck goes to the corner, and Wilson goes racing after it. What happens? He cross-checks someone in the corner and BAM, he's in the box. Caps on the penalty kill down by one with a minute left. Completely killed all momentum. Wilson found himself understandably scratched the next game.

And did it make a difference? Nope. What team sees a difference whenever their fourth line winger is out of the lineup?

I know, I know, I know. He's only 20 years and 322 days old. He still has plenty of time to develop into the offensive role we hope he can get into. But forgive me when I look at his 125 games, five goals and seven assists, and compare that to Andre Burakovsky's 19 points already this year, and I begin to lose hope.

Hey look! Someone mentioned Liam O'Brien! I miss that guy. He was the feel-good story of the Capitals season this year, the undrafted winger who came into the Capitals on a tryout. He was extremely impressive all through the pre-season, and found himself on the opening night roster. He filled into that fourth line role perfectly as a gritty player who was afraid of no one. He was the one that stepped in to fill in for Wilson while Wilson was repairing his offseason injury.

So, why not bring him back up, and swap Wilson down to Hershey? Look, O'Brien's ceiling is probably an NHL fourth line player. There is nothing wrong with that. But, we look at a guy like Wilson, and his ceiling is a bit higher. We see him more as the second line power forward. So, why not send Wilson down to Hershey so he can play top line minutes on a consistent basis, and bring up O'Brien on the Caps' fourth line? Both players would benefit from this move.

But back to that O'Brien-John Scott relationship. The two would obviously be a perfect pair. O'Brien would need to take the relationship a little slower, considering he's already giving Scott a little tongue action.

Yeah....I guess that would make them a good pair. Bassett is from E.R., American Horror Story, Alias, Olympus Has Fallen, and a bunch of other terrible movies.

Jay Beagle is married, with a kid, so I doubt this matchup would ever work out. But, let's talk more about Beagle, and significantly less about Angela Bassett. In fact, I can almost guarantee Angela Bassett's name will never appear on this blog ever again. Almost.

Beagle has been a dog on fire this year. A hot dog. His 9 goals and 8 assists are already career highs for him. We still have, like, 30 games left! He has been pretty much your ideal fourth liner. A guy who works hard in the corners, and occasionally scores goals.

Beagle is also in his final year under contract. I am certain that there is some in depth analysis on performance compared to a players final year under contract, and I am certain that players play their best hockey in their final year of their contract. Beagle can certainly guarantee himself a pay raise over his $1 million salary. Will it be with the Caps? Possibly. They will definitely want to bring him back for the right price. But there is certainly a team out there that sees Beagle as their third line center,  and will pay him third line center money. If Beagle wishes to enter free agency, he will see a larger sum of money than what the Caps will throw at him, but also don't be surprised if Beagle reaches a contract extension before June 1st.

What is with you guys and Alias actresses?

I have no idea why JerDavids the executive producer thinks that deep down Jack Hillen is a secret agent. I see him more as a third line defenseman filler-inner.

Hillen has played about as acceptable as a third line defenseman can play. He was obviously healthy-scratched on a regular basis at the start of the season, as the Caps favored Nate Schmidt in that role. Hiller will never wow you with anything. Not defensively, not physically, not offensively, nothing. But he is also certainly not absolutely killing the Capitals. He is being out possessed and out shot by his opponents on a regular basis, but I can't think of too many glaring mistakes that have cost the Caps games.

Hillen is a journeyman defenseman. This is his final year under contract. With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and the emerging play of Schmidt and hopefully the eventually healthy Dmitry Orlov, there's just no need for Hillen next season. I for one hope he does get signed by someone in the offseason, and I'd like to imagine he will.

Blaine Forsythe is one of my favorite people to make jokes about on the Capitals. He looks like an angry Mr. Clean, Professor X from X-men, and has the personality and emotional stature of a psychopath.

He also helps coach the power play, which has been the Caps' bread and butter for about 250 years. He's once again got them clicking this year, scoring on 23.5 percent of their chances, good for fourth in the league.

But I have one complaint. The only person on this power play that really shoots the puck consistently is Alex Ovechkin. How defenses don't know this and try to stop it every time is beyond me. I can only assume Forsythe is using his telepathic powers to mentally stun the opposing penalty kill.

But seriously, why not have other outlets try to shoot the puck? Could you imagine a power play that had four realistic threats of shooting the puck on a consistent basis instead of just one? Let Green rip some, have Backstrom take them from the half wall. Feed Brouwer more often. Let Johansson carry it into the goal mouth. If they are scoring on 23.5 percent of their power plays by allowing Ovechkin to feed one timers, I can't imagine what would happen if a goalie had to focus on a shot coming from every point of the ice.

Never give up on your dreams.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trade Talk All Around

Within the past couple of days, there have been quite a few quotes and articles published by significant names in hockey that have suggested that the Capitals are shopping for a top six forward.

This is all a bit odd. Under the previous general manager reign of George McPhee, we rarely, if ever, heard of any sort of trade rumor involving the Capitals. Now, under Brian MacLellan, we've heard quite a few. In my opinion, that could be because of several different reasons. It could be because he's new, and hasn't learned the ins and outs on how to keep things quiet. It could be because he's aggressive, at least more aggressive than McPhee was. Or it could be that he just doesn't care, and if general managers know what he wants, then they will start coming to them. Doesn't really matter anyway.

But, what is interesting, is that Barry Trotz literally just said this about the Caps' needs at the trade deadline, like, two days ago:

“I would tell you all of our needs but I’m not going to because then everybody will know and hold us hostage, so I will not tell you.”

Because if he did, he'd have to kill us all.

I mean, it's not all that shocking that, yes, the Caps need a top six forward. I mean, if delusional fan and po-dunk writer me can blatantly see that this team probably needs a top six forward, than I imagine literally everyone in the Oilers front office can probably see that as well, and that's a team that is driving an entire franchise not just straight into the ground, but all the way to the Earth's mantle (I googled that, it is a part of the Earth).

But who cares about a little coach-general manager differ of philosophy. Let's get to the meat and potatoes.

Who are the Caps actually looking for?

Now, I read a metric shit ton of hockey articles, but I am fully aware that there are probably other musings that I have missed. But, here is the articles I have stumbled across that have mentioned the Caps' and their declassified top secret mission to acquire a top six winger.

From Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News:

"The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson claims the Washington Capitals are “desperate” for a first-line right wing, having tried seven different players at that spot this season. Affordable options could include Buffalo’s Chris Stewart or Drew Stafford and New Jersey’s (Michael) Ryder. Matheson claims Arizona’s Shane Doan is the one they crave but the Coyotes aren’t moving.

Matheson also wonders if Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis called the Capitals to see if they might take back right wing Alexander Semin, who’s been an expensive dud for the Hurricanes. He suggests the ‘Canes pick up part of Semin’s remaining $21 million while offering to take back a contract the Capitals want to shed.

If the Capitals opt to pursue a scoring right winger it won’t be Semin, who proved an expensive headache for former GM George McPhee. Current GM Brian MacLellan was McPhee’s assistant and undoubtedly has no desire for a Semin redux in Washington."

I'm not exactly sure where exactly Matheson got all of that information from, but what I do know is that Matheson has been covering the Oilers since they first became a team, and he does an excellent job in doing so. Plus, everything that the is credited in saying makes sense.

First, Alexander Semin. Semin is having a horrid year with the Hurricanes. He currently has two goals. Two. He's gone from a twenty goal scorer in his Washington days to a $7 million healthy scratch. Do the Hurricanes want rid of him? Of course they do. He's signed until 2018 and he is a shell of his former self. But can he produce on a different team? Yes. He would be an excellent second line option for a contending team. 

 As Matheson suggested, Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis would certainly have to be willing to retain a percentage of the contract (which would be their third, and final possible, retained contract). Ideally, the Hurricanes would say 'sure, we'll take the retain the max amount on Semin's salary,' which is 50%, meaning the Caps would take Semin at $3.5 million a year until 2018. But, I doubt the Hurricanes would be willing to take 50 percent of that contract. I ultimately agree with Matheson's conclusion: MacLellan has no desire to bring back Semin. That ship has sailed.

 The other mentioned players mentioned are all intriguing in different ways. Michael Ryder of the New Jersey Devils is 34, has an expiring contract at $3.5 million, and six goals. I mean, he is worth it if the Caps trade away a late round pick? But if the Caps acquire him, do you seriously sit back and say to yourself 'That was the move. That was the move that puts the Caps over the top. Let's Ryde the Ryder train!' But seriously, if you can find one respectable hockey analyst that talks about Ryder and says that whatever team acquires him at the trade deadline is now a bonafide Cup contender, I will eat a hat. I mean, the Caps are periodically scratching Andre Burakovsky, and we are supposed to believe that Ryder is the solution? Nope.
Photo by Bridget Samuels
Drew Stafford is 29, has an expiring contract at $4 million and has nine goals. He would definitely be a better option than Ryder, but again, in my opinion, acquiring him just does not scream success. He's certainly a good hockey player playing for a bad team, but I just don't see how getting Stafford is a huge benefit for the Capitals. I have absolutely no idea what it would even take to acquire him, but I got to imagine a trade for him would ultimately be underwhelming.

 Chris Stewart is another intriguing player. Stewart is a tenacious power forward with great size and strength. Like Stafford, he only has nine goals, but also like Stafford, he is playing for a historically terrible Buffalo Sabres team. So if you look at the surface of these two players, you'll see that Stafford has actually performed better than Stewart this season. I believe that fits that gritty power forward role that the Capitals are looking for. Again, I have no clue what it would possibly take to acquire a guy like Stewart, but if I had to guess, he probably costs more than Stafford.

 Of the mentioned players by Matheson, Doan is by far the best acquisition of the group, and it's really not all that surprising that of the mentioned players, MacLellan appears to be gunning for Doan the most. Doan is a veteran forward that can still produce, and plays with an attitude. He fits that Trotz mindset, a guy who is just an all around leader on and off the ice. But what surprises me is that the Caps would be willing to acquire Doan when he is also signed through 2016. He'd be a fantastic rental, but he's not really a rental. On top of all of this, the Coyotes have made it clear Doan will not be traded. The tradeist player on the Coyotes is not available. Weird.

 But that's not the only piece that came out and mentioned that Washington would be interested in getting a top six forward. Bob McKenzie's column mentioned an entirely different player:

"It is also true non-playoff teams – Buffalo and Arizona, for example, to name only two – have interest in Kane and don't give a fig he won't be able to play until next season. But where it really gets interesting is there are three current playoff teams – Vancouver, Calgary and to a far lesser extent Washington -- who have legitimate, if varying, levels of interest in Kane as a pre-deadline acquisition.
Yes, it's counter intuitive. A playoff bound team potentially giving up player or players off its roster now for a player who can't play until the fall. But the Canucks, Flames and Capitals have thought about it or would at least like to explore that possibility; Kane intrigues them that much."

Now, it does not make any sense whatsoever for the Winnipeg Jets to trade Evander Kane at the trade deadline. Are they going to trade him? Yes. He has 1 billion percent played his last game as a Jet. But why would they trade an injured Kane at the deadline? When that whole tracksuit/shower thing happened, there had to have been 20 plus teams calling about a trade. He would be an ideal addition for a playoff-bound team. But once he had shoulder surgery, ending his season, many teams dropped out. Why would you force a trade to happen at the deadline, when only five or six teams make you an offer, when you can see 20 or more trades at the draft? It just wouldn't make sense.

 I love that the Caps are trying there, but from the Jets' point of view, it's just not the right move. I would absolutely love to know what they are offering. Kane is signed through 2018, is more than capable of scoring 20 goals, and he's only 23. He would be a force for the Capitals. 

Evander Kane - From his Instagram
But, what would they offer? It is collectively believed that the Jets want a player, prospect, and a pick, but because of this entire saga, others believe the Jets no longer have trade leverage, and might have to settle for a player and a pick. I think that later part is nuts. You're telling me that many teams will be making an offer to the Jets, and the Jets won't have leverage? You're telling me after seeing teams get into absurd bidding wars for players during free agency, Team A won't give the Jets whatever they want so Team B loses out on the Kane sweepstakes? No way. If the Jets want a player, prospect and a pick, they'll get that.

 Here's the offer I would consider making. This can be at the trade deadline or after, though it will almost certainly be after. I would package together Marcus Johansson, either Madison Bowey or Philipp Grubauer, and a pick. I believe that Johansson is the most expendable of the Caps' current players, with guys like Burakovsky and soon to be Jakub Vrana waiting their turn. It would be tough to see either Bowey or Grubauer go, but having Kane come in would be worth it.

 That's all of the trade talk I've seen involving the Caps. They are all intriguing options in their own little unique way. Some beneficial, some "meh" at best. Ultimately, someone will become a new Capital soon. And it will probably be someone who hasn't even been mentioned officially yet. Hell, it will probably be Jaromir Jagr.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mike Green Musings

During the broadcast of last nights Capitals-Flyers game, the Twittersphere erupted in pure sadness when hockey insider and truther Bob McKenzie started talking about Capitals defenseman Mike
Mike Green
Green, who becomes a free agent after this season.

I was at the game. I didn't hear what he said, and I have failed in finding a video to see what exactly he said about Green.

Fortunately, a ton of people happen to tune into "Rivalry Night." So I asked on Twitter what exactly Bob McKenzie said. Justin Trudel saw it, and offered his explanation:

I wanted to clarify:

Like I said, whatever Bob McKenzie says is pretty much the truth. But that doesn't mean it isn't really sad to hear.

Green is a third line defenseman. Green gets paid a lot of money to be a third line defenseman.

In fact, here's how much the Capitals defensemen get paid:

Green is obviously at the top. In fact, Green has the 11th highest cap hit among defensemen, sitting behind Erik Karlsson of Ottawa ($6.5 million) and in front of Brent Seabrook of Chicago ($5.8 million). Every single player in the top ten of that is a top line defenseman.

At the time Green's extension was signed, after the 2011-2012 season, he was coming off a 32 game season where he had just three goals and four assists. The contract represented more of what could be, and not what he had accomplished his last two seasons (in his 2010-2011 season, Green had 49 games, eight goals and 16 assists). This is a guy who was churning out 70 point seasons. In the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 season, Green had 149 points. Since he signed that contract extension, the one he is currently in, he has played in 140 games.

Green will never produce that point rate that he accomplished in those two seasons ever again. No one that is still on this team from those seasons will ever accomplish that amount of points ever again. But at the time, he was worth the money simply because he was a pretty good defenseman. He just hasn't played much since that contract.

What I'm saying is, that while it appears to be a pretty crazy contract from the beginning, it really wasn't too bad. But, that's not the point. My point is, do we have a chance at re-signing him.

Do we? I have no idea. Maybe he really loves hanging out with his teammates. Maybe he doesn't. I don't know, I'm not Mike Green. Maybe his wife Courtney loves the DC area and wants to start a family there. Maybe she doesn't. I don't know, I'm not Mike Green's wife.

What I can realistically guess is that Mike Green does love money.

As the Caps stand at this moment, Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, John Erskine and Jack Hillen are set to become unrestricted free agents. Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nate Schmidt and Braden Holtby are set to become restricted free agents. The cap is currently projected to be at $73 million next season. The Capitals have already spent $49,735,128 in contracts for next year, meaning they will have $23,264,872 to work with (obviously this number could drastically change before the Capitals begin the offseason). Regardless on who they plan on re-signing, (I see six or seven guys, I'll let you guess away) money will be kind of tight. 

I think the only way it is even realistically possible for the Caps to re-sign Green is if he truly wants to stay here, and he's willing to go no more than $6.2 million.

To me, Mike Green benefits the Caps (more on that later), but I don't think he's worth that price. He's only worth that price because it will keep him away from other teams.

I don't see that happening. He'd be insane to not test out free agency. Because while I don't think he's worth much over $6.2 million, some team out there thinks he's worth $7 million.

Think that's not true? Excuse me while I proceed to laugh in your face as I look at every top free agent signing of defensemen since the absurd 13 year, $98 million signing for Ryan Suter. The game has changed. When a team signs a player to a contract, they aren't just giving him money for how much his talents are worth. They are paying him that extra million so they can call him "mine" and wave him off to all the other teams. They are paying an extra million so that the enemy doesn't get him. And Mike Green can command that attention. He and Marc Staal are by far the big UFA defenseman prize this upcoming offseason.

How valuable is Mike Green? Very. J.P. of Japer'sRink showed how awesome he and Dmitry Orlov were last year. And he is still kicking ass this year at possession:

Is he a little sheltered defensively? Yeah, but he is deployed in offensive situations because he is an offensive-minded defenseman. He has 23 points in 35 games this season, well on pace for his highest totals since 2010. He is the top power play guy on the point. As far as I know, there is no way to statically point this out, but if you watch a Caps power play, and you see Green compared to Matt Niskanen and John Carlson (it's far more evident with Carlson), Green dominates out there. He has the ability to put the puck exactly where Ovechkin wants it 99 percent of the time, and Green is not afraid to shoot. He quarterbacks that offense. He makes one of the best power plays that much better with his presence.

I can go on a rant about how Green is the third most valuable player on this team, but I'm like 40 percent sure I've done that in the past. Do I think he should get more ice time? Yes! And I think he could easily prove his value if he did. But, I also don't think Carlson or Niskanen should be demoted. It's just a really odd situation.

I've come to terms with the fact that it is highly unlikely that Green re-signs with the Caps (though I would be pretty happy if he did). So, what exactly should we do with him, and who could possible be his replacement?

There are two options for what we could do with Green. We could trade him at the deadline, or we could just let him walk.

The Caps should not trade him at the deadline.

First of all, he has a modified no trade clause, so while I don't know why exactly it's modified, it's a reasonable guess to say that he can't be traded without his permission in the last year of his contract. But even still, this team is very much a contender in the wide open Eastern Conference. Why on earth would the Caps be willing to trade away such a valuable player on their way to a playoff run? They would only trade him to another contender, definitely in the Western Conference, and no matter who they get in return, it won't be worth it. Trading Green for a bunch of prospects would just hurt the Caps chances, and I don't see any team trading away a $6 million man straight up for Green. It would just hurt both teams. Keeping him allows the Caps to work with their best defensive unit they've had in years, and it gives them a respectable chance in for a playoff run.

So I'd be cool with letting him walk if that were the case. Maybe they could continue feeling him out and seeing if he'd be willing to re-sign. Maybe they can ship his rights to a team for a draft pick, like they did with Tomas Vokoun and Jaroslav Halak, but would a team be willing to do that with a relatively high profile free agent? It has a chance of backfiring. But they don't have to get someone in return. It's really not the end of the world.

But who could possibly replace a guy like Mike Green, a great, puck moving, right-handed defenseman?

If they look towards free agents, the pickings are slim, as I showed you earlier. If they aren't willing to go big on a free agent signing, like they did this past offseason, then they will probably be looking for a $2-$3 million man. I would have said Toronto's Cody Franson at the beginning of the year. He will have gone through three straight one year deals after this season, but he is kicking butt this year as one of Toronto's top defensemen. He's averaging 21:07 minutes a game, second highest on Toronto, and he has 27 points, good for first among defensemen on the Maple Leafs. And even though Toronto is laughably bad, Franson is definitely not the reason:

 I highly doubt he will be available to the Caps. I also would have said Johnny Boychuck, who is also killing it for the Islanders, the Islanders have money to spend, and they are already talking about extending him 

So the options for a third line replacement include a very slim number of decent defensemen. And of the ones that are set to become free agents, there is a solid chance that a good percentage of those will just be extended anyway.

I think the Caps best option is to look from within.

I know Trotz likes left-handed players on the left, and right handed players on the right. I kinda dig that too, but the Caps best defenseman that hasn't played for the Caps yet this year happens to left-handed, and that's Orlov. Contrary to what you may believe, he's not dead. I actually saw him yesterday. He does in fact still have a hand. In fact, it looks like a standard hand. It's not deformed or green or anything. I'm not a doctor, much like I'm not Mike Green or Mike Green's wife, so I have no idea what is going on with him. But hopefully he comes back, especially next year, because the Caps might need him.

If Trotz wants to go with a right-handed defenseman, and he wants to stay consistent with puck movers on the right side, he could go potentially go with Connor Carrick, or even rookie Madison Bowey. When Carrick was up in the NHL, he was compared to Mike Green. I can't remember who it was exactly that made the comparison, though I think it was either Craig Laughlin or Alan May, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, Carrick was terrible when he was in the NHL. But the guy was just 19, playing with a bad coach and sub-par defensive partners. He's doing alright in Hershey this year, with four goals and 16 assists in 36 games. He definitely still has potential to be solid in the NHL, despite poor play as a 19. I can't stress it enough. He was 19. Bowey is probably a bit more promising, though I'm not convinced he is ready for the NHL. Bowey will be 20 next season, and while he has a 60 point season with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, and has already 33 points in 28 games this year as Kelowna's captain, and was one of Team Canada's top defensemen in the World Junior Tournament earlier this month, producing a goal and three assists in seven games, is Trotz really going to give him time next season? Maybe. Wouldn't surprise me.

Again, my hope is that Green some how extends with the Capitals. The Capitals are awesome, D.C.'s awesome, and Green's awesome. Then again, maybe the Caps don't think he's awesome. At least, Braden Holtby might not:

It's a perfect fit. I don't know what his options are, and I don't know what he's planning, because I'm not a fortune teller. Did you get all that? I'm not Mike Green, I'm not Mike Green's wife, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a fortune teller.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Game Recap: Caps Vs. Blackhawks (3-2 Win)

To kick off the new year, the Caps had the honor of hosting the Winter Classic. The biggest regular season game of all regular season games didn't disappoint, and the Caps walked into the dugout (yes, a dugout) with a 3-2 win after a late Troy Brouwer heroic.


Eric Fehr - He is Mr. Winter Classic. The guy has played in two Winter Classics, thankfully both times for the Caps, and has three goals, which makes him the all-time leading goal scorer in Winter Classics, which will win you virtually every bar bet you will ever make. Much like his second goal in his first Winter Classic, Fehr got a clean breakaway, gave a little shoulder fake, and slipped it right by Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. This guy has become one of the Capitals most valuable players. And to think we traded him to make space for a Roman Hamrlik signing. Ok, it wasn't just Roman Hamrlik, but pretend it was because that makes the Caps sound like the bad guy in that situation. I never want to part ways with Eric Fehr ever again...actually no, ask me that again in a couple more years.

Alex Ovechkin - That man played like his hair was on fire. I don't even know if that's the right expression, but even if it's not, Ovechkin was acting like his hair was on fire. He was flying out there. His excitement was so evident the second he took the ice, further cemented when he scored, even further cemented when he hit the post and cross bar, and even more further cemented when Brouwer scored the game winner. That excitement is fun for everyone to watch, and it will get everyone on his team going. More importantly, that excitement and his furious play was able to convince virtually every media member that he has "bought in" to Trotz's system, whatever the hell that means. Oh well, if it took an outdoor game for the media to be convinced at that, at least we won't have to hear about it anymore.

Brooks Orpik - With each game that I get to see him out on the ice, the more I love the signing, which crushes me because it's almost certain that he will drive me insane in his later years with the Capitals. Thank every Hockey God imaginable that he somehow did not get hurt in the previous game against the Islanders, because losing him for an extended period time would have been a disaster. He has played decent hockey of late, and while he's not the best defenseman on the team, he certainly makes this team better. We were able to see glimpses of just how important he is to this team after this game. His team was so happy to have him on the ice, and it was expressed in this video when he was given the Honest Abe award. It was further expressed in his postgame interview, where you could tell he felt so bad for taking Nate Schmidt's spot, and that Schmidt was one of his bros on the team. I don't feel like the Caps have had a veteran defenseman like Orpik in a very long time, and I think he is helping these guys immensely.

The NHL, The Washington Capitals, The Washington Nationals, NBC and the many, many others who helped put on this event - I wasn't actually there, but I could tell that this was one of the better Winter Classic's. The Capitol dome and the "reflecting pool" opening ceremony accompanied by a fly over looked pretty amazing. The stadium looked amazing. The game itself was awesome. Even though I wasn't there, what made it special for me was the camera angles NBC provided, with the birds eye view and everything, it was truly unbelievable to see the game that way. I can't imagine the Winter Classic going any better in the nations capital. Also, I have one suggestion....put that Capitol dome right behind the center field wall in that grassy area!


This win put me in far too good of a mood to point out any areas of improvement.

Posession (via

Top Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Nicklas Backstrom - 67% (53% offensive zone start)
  • Alex Ovechkin - 66% (60% offensive zone start)
  • Tom Wilson - 64% (83% offensive zone start)
  • Jay Beagle - 63% (58% offensive zone start)
  • Michael Latta - 63% (83% offensive zone start)
Bottom Five Corsi Percentage at Even Strength
  • Joel Ward - 36% (27% offensive zone start)
  • Eric Fehr - 42% (25% offensive zone start)
  • Brooks Laich - 42% (27% offensive zone start)
  • Jason Chimera - 45% (71% offensive zone start)
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov - 45% (50% offensive zone start)


Goal - Eric Fehr (11)
- Unassisted

Goal - Alex Ovechkin (18)
- Assist - Mike Green (15), Jack Hillen (3)

Goal - Troy Brouwer (11) (PP)
- Assist - Alex Ovechkin (14), Mike Green (16)


Braden Holtby - 33 saves on 35 shots, .943 save percentage

Quote of the Night

"I think it's just the whole day was unbelievable. This event was outstanding, you know. The atmosphere, on the ice, was like since first second unreal. It's going to be for all our lives, and I'm pretty sure we're going to watch this hockey game and we're gonna enjoy it. So, 100% I think. It is what it is." - Alex Ovechkin.