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Caps players open up about the team's offseason departures

Caps players open up about the team's offseason departures

The Caps lost some key players this offseason. Some departures were expected. Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Daniel Winnik were all unrestricted free agents. Given the team's cap situation, a return to Washington was unlikely. Some departures, however, were not.

Marcus Johansson was traded to the New Jersey Devils to free up cap space while Nate Schmidt was selected in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights. Those losses were more of a surprise and have brought out a reaction from some of the current Caps.

NHL writer Tom Gulitti was in Sweden for the European Player Media Tour and got a chance to catch up with a few Caps players, some of whom opened up about losing Johansson and Schmidt.

RELATED: Carlson ready to embrace change

Johansson was not just a teammate to Nicklas Backstrom, he was a friend and a fellow Swede. Backstrom talked about how surprising it was to see Johansson traded, but said that he understood it was the nature of the business.

Schmidt is a player who will be missed not just for what he provides in the lineup, but for his personality. At the same time, however, going to the Golden Knights may be a good for his career. He was penciled in to take a top-four role for the Caps next season, but he may well be expected to take on a bigger role in Vegas.

Dmitry Orlov is a player who knows how difficult it can be to climb the defensive depth chart. It took him years before he finally cracked Washington's top-four. When asked about Schmidt, he mentioned it would be a tough loss for the Caps, but acknowledged it may actually be a good move for him.

Everyone within the Capitals organization knew there would be changes this offseason, but there were perhaps a few more changes than many anticipated. They were ready to see players like Williams and Alzner go, but Johansson and Schmidt? Those ones seem to sting just a bit more.

MORE CAPITALS: Penguins goalie considers Holtby an idol

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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@Capitals Twitter

Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

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USA TODAY Sports

There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.