Now that the season is over, attention is turned to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and the beginning of free agency. For Washington Capitals fans, all eyes are on George McPhee – and what he will, or most likely won’t do.
McPhee is less fond of making bold and potentially risky moves during free agency and at the trade deadline, but historically, GMGM has drafted well and is known for bringing players he’s drafted up through the Capitals’ system. This time of year, you hear words like “potential,” “promise” and “prospect” thrown carelessly about, but it’s hard to predict the future success of a raw 18-year-old [Editor’s Note: That also explains several of our college boyfriends].
Prospects are just that – prospects. Sure, one may be dominant in whatever obscure Canadian junior league he played in, but it’s difficult to predict how that will translate to the NHL level; some just aren’t cut out for the bigs. Take Filip Forsberg, whom the Capitals drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, for example. NHL teams have scouts that keep an eye on how prospects are developing (George McPhee is not omnipresent, no matter what you may have heard), simply because owners, general managers, and coaches cannot be in all places at once.
Back to Forsberg. While that trade with Nashville was, and still is unpopular, there was no guarantee that Forsberg (No relation to Peter), would end up being something special in the NHL. McPhee said he spoke with several team scouts prior to the trade and they agreed to go forward with trading Forsberg to Nashville for forward Martin Erat. They saw something in his development they didn’t like and gave the okay to set him loose. It was speculated that Forsberg was not a strong skater among other things. Nashville is hoping he’ll end up being a stud in more ways than one, but that remains to be seen.
The Capitals have the 23rd pick in the first round of the draft and eight picks overall. All seven rounds will be taking place on the same day, beginning at 3PM Eastern time, which means I’ll probably be asleep sometime during the 5th round (don’t judge, we all need our beauty sleep, even me). Here’s the breakdown:
- 1st round: 23rd pick
- 2nd round: 53rd pick
- 3rd round: 84th pick
- 4th round: 114th pick
- 5th round: 127th and 144th pick
- 6th round: 174th pick
- 7th round: 204th pick
The draft class this year has been touted as the deepest since 2003, when Marc-Andre Fleury was the number one selection that year. Other members of the 2003 draft class were Patrice Bergeron the Martyr, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (because you can’t mention one without mentioning the other), Ryan Getzlaf, and Zach Parise, to name a few.
Expect McPhee to draft shrewdly, addressing future franchise needs as well as possibly trading a pick or two for something better. He’s GMGM, the ninja. Have faith. And do check out the NHL Central Scouting report to learn more about this year’s draft class (there are quite a few of them).
After the jump, we get down to brass tacks…
The free agent market looked to be pretty slim pickings initially, but since more than a few teams look like they’re taking advantage of the buyout under the new CBA, things are looking a little bit brighter for teams that want to buy. That’s bad news for Capitals free agent Mike Ribiero, who wants term and money in his next deal. Some Caps fans are asking themselves, why sign Ribiero to a 5-year, $5.5 million contract at age 33 when there’s the recently bought-out Vinny Lecavalier on the market?
It doesn’t make sense, but under the new CBA, teams have to pay two-thirds of a player’s salary for twice the duration of the remaining contract. That means the team that acquires the bought out player will only have to pay one-third of the player’s salary. Pretty awesome, right? Anyway, I’d like to see the Capitals get their mitts on Lecavalier for a couple years instead of dropping mad, mad money on Ribs, as much as we all do love him. It’s all about the money, child. Lecavalier is a cheaper alternative to Riberio – with the salary cap going down, and the Capitals with a lot if money tied up as it is, Lecavalier would be a more affordable and practical option. You listening, George? Grab your Sonic Ear.
Another passenger on the buyout train is Danny Briere. Yes, he is 35, and yes, his production is declining. But he’s gritty, tough, proven in the playoffs, and not to mention, kind of cheap. He would be another good plug for a hole the Caps need to patch. Matt Hendricks’ days as a Cap are likely numbered. Let’s hope they’re not, but again it boils down to moolah. Why re-sign Hendricks for more money when it would be easy to find another guy with the same skill set for less? He is well-respected in the locker room and is recognized as one of the most hardworking, blue-collar players on the team, but things like that matter less in the face of tight finances.
However, the consensus among educated Capitals fans in choosing between fellow FAs Karl Alzner and Matt Hendricks seems to be Alzner. They are both valuable to the team, but Alzner more so, as he is one of the top four Capitals defensemen. It is clear the Capitals want to keep him – McPhee told the media on Monday that they would match any offer sheets for Alzner and Marcus Johansson.
But…Johansson. Let’s not get into that. I think the Capitals would do well to lock up his rights and take advantage of his trade value. Yes, the Capitals’ forward depth situation is not stellar, but it would give the team an opportunity to freshen and improve the roster for next season. I also believe Johansson would benefit from a change of scenery as well, so it could end up being a mutually beneficial arrangement. George, I really hope you’re listening. This is good stuff. I mean it.
Defensive depth is another issue that the Capitals will need to address via free agency or within their system. I know we hate all of those creeps, but Andrew Ference of Bruins fame will not be returning to Boston. He’d be a solid addition to the Capitals blue line, and wouldn’t be outrageously overpriced. Well, at least not yet. Plus he seems like a nice guy, he’s won a Stanley Cup and played in two Cup Finals series in the last three years. Two words: Veteran. Leadership. Go get him, George.
The Capitals have the benefit of something I like to refer to as TGINF. Thank God it’s not Philadelphia. That means there isn’t a goalie controversy every four seconds. Nope, no leaky five holes here. Well – nevermind. Speaking of that, have fun in Philly, Ryan Miller.