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Ex-Caps still on the market


Ex-Caps still on the market

By Ben Raby

One month has passed since the start of free agency July 1 and while many of the elite players have been signed, dozens of secondary players are still available as teams look to round out their lineups for 2012-13.

Of the available free agents from the class of 2012, some may be signed in the weeks to come, others may take their talents to Europe, others will receive training camp invites on a tryout basis, and a select few may decide to leave the game altogether.

Among the free agents still looking for work are a number of former Washington Capitals. With that in mind, weve assembled a lineup of former Caps still on the open market. The list includes players who are at least one year removed from Washington.

C: JASON ARNOTT: One of Washingtons rental players from the 2011 Trade Deadline, Arnott had a solid 2011-12 with the St. Louis Blues finishing with 17 goals and 34 points in 72 games.

Arnott turns 38 in October and his 20-goal seasons are likely in the rearview mirror. Still, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound center showed in St. Louis that he can still be counted on as a No.2 center while contributing on a No.2 power play unit.

The Chicago Blackhawks could be in the market for a No.2 center and the Detroit Red Wings have plenty of room under the salary cap.

Its also possible that Arnott returns to the Edmonton Oilers where he spent the first five years of his NHL career. Surrounding Edmontons young core of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, and Sam Gagner with veterans like Arnott and Ryan Smyth cant hurt.

CLW: BRENDAN MORRISON: The Michigan alum is 66 games shy of 1,000 for his NHL career but the former second-line center with the Capitals (74 games in 2009-10) has no guarantees that he will reach the milestone.

Morrison finished with four goals and 11 points in 39 games last season split between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks acquired Morrison in late January but the 36-year-old was held without a point in 11 games. Morrison was a healthy scratch in 21 of Chicagos final 31 regular-season games before appearing in just three Stanley Cup Playoff games.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward received a pro tryout from the Vancouver Canucks in 2010 before signing with Calgary later that preseason. Morrison may be relying on a pro tryout again this fall as he looks to extend his 13-year career.

RW: ERIC FEHR: Washingtons first round selection (18th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is looking for work after a disappointing season with the Winnipeg Jets.

Fehrs excitement of returning to his native Manitoba for the rebirth of the Jets was quickly replaced with frustration as injuries sidelined the 6-foot-4 forward for much of the season.

As was the case in Washington, Fehr dealt with a surgically repaired shoulder and didnt make his season debut until November. When he did play, Fehr was limited to fourth line duty and finished with two goals and three points in 35 games. Fehr became an unrestricted free agent when the Jets did not extend a qualifying offer to him.

Fehr turns 27 in September and has never played more than 69 games in a season. Despite the health concerns though, Fehr is only two years removed from a 21-goal season, and is a former Western Hockey League leading scorer.

Fehr clearly has much to prove next season and signing him to a one-year deal could be a worthwhile risk for a team looking to add some scoring to its bottom six forwards.

D: SCOTT HANNAN: While Fehr has never played more than 69 games in a season, his former Caps teammate, defenseman Scott Hannan, has played at least 75 games every year since 2000.

The durable shutdown defenseman had two goals and 12 points in 78 games with the Calgary Flames last season, and finished second on the team with 126 blocked shots. Hannan was also second on the team in shorthanded ice-time, leading a penalty killing unit that finished ninth in the NHL last season.

With the exception of his five month stint with the Capitals, the British Columbia native has spent his entire career in the Western Conference. The Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers are among the teams that could be in the market for a veteran defenseman. Hannan did not sign with Calgary last summer until mid-August.

D: MILAN JURCINA: Jurcina finished with a league-worst minus-34 rating last season, but was still looked upon as a key cog on the New York Islanders blueline (this however may say more about the Islanders than it does about the 29-year-old Jurcina).

Jurcina, who played with the Caps from 2007-2010, has never topped six goals or 17 points in a single season but his size and experience could be attractive to a team in need of a fifth or sixth defenseman.

The 6-foot-5, 253-pound Jurcina was tops among Islanders defensemen with 173 hits and second among the teams blueliners with 127 shots in 65 games.

G: BRENT JOHNSON: After a three-year stint as Marc-Andre Fleurys backup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Johnson became expendable when the Penguins signed Tomas Vokoun, to a two-year deal in June.

Johnson played with the Capitals from 2005-2009, but has not appeared in more than 30 games since 2002-03 with the St. Louis Blues. Instead, the 35-year-old has become the prototypical backup, playing sparingly and providing the No.1 with some short-term relief.

With that in mind, Johnson could be attractive to a team with a clear-cut starter who would not be threatened by Johnsons presence. Should the Los Angeles Kings trade Jonathan Bernier, or the Vancouver Canucks trade Roberto Luongo, Johnson could find work backing up either Jonathan Quick or Cory Schneider. The Toronto Maple Leafs may also be in the market for a backup goalie.

HEAD COACH: RON WILSON: Ron Wilson has been an NHL head coach for 18 straight seasons, a streak that dates back to 1993-94 and includes five years with the Capitals from 1997-2002.

In 17 of those 18 years, Wilson was behind the bench on Opening Night (he was a midseason replacement with the San Jose Sharks in 2002-03).

But with head coaches in place for all 30 NHL teams, Wilson will likely begin the 2012-13 season as a spectator. Its also possible that the all-time winningest American coach in NHL history goes the entire year without an NHL gig.

Wilson has made it known that he cherishes his time with his family and grandchildren and given that he can stay home this season and still collect a paycheck from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 57-year-old may in fact take the year off.

Wilsons primary assistants in Washington, San Jose and Toronto have both secured jobs for next season Tim Hunter as an assistant coach with the Caps and Rob Zettler as an assistant with the AHLs Syracuse Crunch.

If Wilson goes the entire NHL season without coaching, its possible that he will lead the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships next April. Wilson was USA Hockeys head coach at the 1996 World Cup and at the 1998 and 2010 Winter Olympics.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.