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3 current Caps named 2017's top unrestricted free agents

3 current Caps named 2017's top unrestricted free agents

By now, you've probably heard a lot of talk about how the Capitals need to win the Stanley Cup this year because the team is going to look very different in 2017-18. The reason why is because Washington has several expiring contracts this year and some of those players will be hard to keep.

How hard? 

Luke Fox of SportsNet ranked the 17 top unrestricted free agents of 2017 and three of them made the top five. Deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk is ranked No. 1 with T.J. Oshie coming in just behind him at No. 2.

"NHL teams salivate over puck-moving defencemen under the age of 30, so expect Shattenkirk to knock his next contract out of the park," writes Fox. "Think Keith Yandle's seven-year, $44.45-million pact signed with the Panthers last year."

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Shattenkirk is just 28 and is still very much in his prime. He was the biggest target at the trade deadline and will clearly cost top dollar to keep around. His expiring contract was an issue for St. Louis all season leading to his eventual trade. If the Caps hope to keep him in Washington, it may mean moving a significant piece of the roster to fit his cap hit.

As good as Shattenkirk is and as well as he may fit the modern NHL, many may still be surprised to see him ahead of Oshie. Oshie has scored a career-high 32 goals this season and clearly has developed chemistry with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, a forward pair that sometimes struggles to find a compliment.

What likely pulls Oshie to No. 2 is his age. This is the first 30-goal season of Oshie's career and it came at the age of 30. This is not a level of production you can expect from him for many more years.

The third Cap to make the list is Karl Alzner who ranks No. 5. Writes Fox, "is there room to keep the defensively responsible Alzner and the younger Dmitry Orlov (RFA again)? Oh, yeah. Now Shattenkirk is here too. ...  Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported in the winter that Alzner is asking for $5.5 to $6 million per season from Washington in light of the hefty Brent Burns deal."

Alzner is the best defensive player on the team, but his style does not fit the modern NHL the way Shattenkirk's does. He is not a puck-mover and, for a Caps team with a lot of other players to sign, it may be difficult to find enough money to pay Alzner his reported asking price. Whether he is worth that much to Washington going forward is a question the team will need to ask.

MORE CAPITALS: Ted Leonsis to replace hats for Capitals fans

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Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

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Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

It would have been understandable if Travis Boyd struggled this past week. Something more important was on his mind.

Boyd spent the week in the hospital with his daughter, Hayden, who had been experiencing pain in her throat. He spent the enitre week in the hospital, not leaving until Hershey's game against Laval.

Boyd turned this trial into something incredible as he scored four goals Friday in Hershey's 6-3 win.

Boyd spoke about the ordeal with Zach Fisch of the Bears Radio Network (transcription via RMNB).

“It actually started after the game last Sunday against Rochester," he said. "I went straight from the rink to Urgent Care and then from Urgent Care to the ER. Never left the hospital until Friday morning. We had a successful surgery on Thursday night. Basically just a bad infection in her throat that had to be surgically removed. They had to surgically go in and kind of remove the bacteria and drain out the fluids. Everything went well. She’s doing well.”

Following the game, Boyd dedicated his performance to Hayden.

A four-goal game at the AHL level would have been an incredible accomplishment on its own. The fact that it came during such a trying time for him makes this a truly inspirational story.

You can watch highlights of the game including all four of Boyd's goals here:

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • In the Bears' game Friday against Laval, Riley Barber dropped the gloves with Markus Eisenchmid.  Barber was given an extra minor and game misconduct for instigating the fight in the final five minutes of the game. That penalty carries with it an automatic one-game suspension which Barber served Saturday. Here's a look at the fight.

  • Liam O'Brien had a pair of two-goal games over the week, scoring twice against Laval Friday and then two more against Toronto on Monday. Of his four goals, three of them were empty netters.
  • As the Capitals prepare for their Stadium Series game in Annapolis on March 3, Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley—a native of Perth, Australia—made a plea to see Nathan Walker recalled for the game.  “I’ll have to put a quick shout out to the one Australian that’s playing for the Caps now, Nathan Walker. If you could just bring him up for this game, that’d be great. Because an Australian being in a hockey game is like a Jamaican bobsled team. It doesn’t happen very often.”

  • Brian Pinho was honored Friday in Providence College's Senior Night. He has served as captain of the team this season and as an assistant captain in his junior year. He spoke with The Cowl on what being a leader on the team means to him. "I think being a leader of this team is a great honor, but also a huge responsibility. I try to keep everything fun at the rink, while also bringing some intensity and competing hard every day.” You can read the full story here.
  • Goalie Adam Carlson, who was on loan to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, was reassigned to the Kansas City Mavericks also of the ECHL. He started two games for his new team and turned aside 42 of the 48 total shots he faced.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in his week's updated rankings.

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Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

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

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

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (34-19-7) take on the Panthers (26-25-6) Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Florida.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

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

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Panthers 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
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers 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.

CAPITALS-PANTHERS 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.