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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Capitals re-sign Brett Connolly?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Capitals re-sign Brett Connolly?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

Brett Connolly hit a low point in his career in 2016 when the Boston Bruins elected not to offer him a qualifying offer thus making him an unrestricted free agent. Dropping from the No. 6 overall draft pick in the 2010 draft to not receiving a qualifying offer was a precipitous drop for Connolly, but he found a new home in Washington with a one-year deal. He made the most of his one season with the Caps with 15 goals and 23 points in 66 games despite playing fewer than 11 minutes a night. The season ended on a sour note, however, as Connolly watched the last six games of the playoffs from the press box as a healthy scratch. Now as a restricted free agent, the Caps own his rights and have a decision to make.

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Brett Connolly?

Sorenson: Yes, I think the Caps should re-sign Brett Connolly and GM Brian MacLellan said they are actively working to do so right now. The right wing had a career year with 15 goals and 23 points, and even though he found himself out of the lineup in the playoffs, he proved he can be a valuable asset. Barry Trotz and the Caps will certainly communicate what they want from Connolly in the future, and with a roadmap on how to get there, Connolly will excel. The Caps need depth on their bottom six and having Connolly continue in that role for a minimal (comparatively) salary makes sense. In addition to lineup depth, he would also give the team yet another asset available when looking to upgrade their prospects. At 25, Connolly is still young and at least still a few years away from the best of his career, so to be able to have him in the fold should a deal arise involving younger prospects will only help the Caps in their quest to build depth. If the Caps move on from Connolly, they run the risk of not having that solid depth, and walking away from a valuable third line asset for their franchise.

RELATED: Date released for Caps Fan Fest and Alumni Exhibition

Regan: For a team with salary cap concerns, re-signing a 25-year-old restricted free agent winger who registered 23 points in 66 games despite playing fewer than 11 minutes per night seems like a no-brainer. The Caps need productive and cheap players for the bottom six and Connolly fits the bill. I have just two concerns. First, I do not want to see him go to arbitration. His numbers are fairly solid and that may result in a number bigger than the Caps want to spend on a third-line player. Second, he has to earn Barry Trotz’s trust. Connolly was a healthy scratch to finish the postseason as Trotz elected to dress seven defensemen. Brian MacLellan told reporters that Connolly had a very good season and is working to bring him back next year. The coach and GM have to be on the same page about Connolly or it will turn into a Martin Erat/Dustin Penner situation in which a player can be productive if properly utilized, but get buried in the depth chart. I absolutely believe the Caps should re-sign Connolly, but only if they intend to use him.

 El-Bashir: GM Brian MacLellan said earlier this week that the Caps are interested in bringing back Connolly and, in fact, have come close to reaching an agreement on a couple of occasions. I think it’s a smart move, despite the fact that Connolly didn’t play much (or produce a point) in the playoffs. It also jibes with the Caps’ need to plug holes in the bottom-six forward group with young and (relatively) inexpensive players who possess upside. Connolly, 25, fits that description. He earned less than every other full-time forward last season ($850,000) and is a restricted free agent. He also made the most of his 10:41 of ice time per game, popping a career-best 15 goals in 66 games. He’s got potential, no doubt and, on occasion last winter, showed flashes of his first-round pedigree. The question for me regarding Connolly is this: Can he earn Coach Barry Trotz’s trust and, thus, more ice time next season? He did okay in a brief audition on the second power play unit early in the season. He lit up the score sheet in January and February while skating on a very effective third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky. But Connolly also took the second most minor penalties per 60 minutes on the team (1.70) behind Tom Wilson (1.87) and was scratched for the final six games of the playoffs. So, yeah, there are still question marks in that regard. All that said, I feel the cost vs. potential benefit warrants another season (or two) for No. 10 in Washington.

MORE CAPITALS: No contract extension yet in the works for Trotz

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE