Welcome to our Friday six-pack, where we answer your questions on the Washington Capitals. Busy week. Let’s get started:
Is Brooks Laich eligible to have his name on the Stanley Cup if the Capitals win, if he's no longer an active member? @SeanCaps8
Well, it’s up to the team to petition to have him added. According to league rules, a player must have played at least 41 regular season games with the winning club AND been on the roster after the NHL trade deadline OR play in at least one game in the Stanley Cup Final to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Laich played in 60 games for the Capitals this season before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, one day before the trade deadline. So that makes him ineligible. The Caps still could petition to get his name on the Cup if they wish. They are limited to a total of 52 names. There was one occasion in 1994 when the Rangers petitioned to have the names of Ed Olczyk and Mike Hartman added to the Cup. Olczyk had played in 37 regular season games and one playoff game and Hartman had played in 35 regular season games and no playoff games. Both players missed extensive time due to injury that season but were on the Rangers’ roster all season. Gary Bettman granted the Rangers’ request to have their names added. My guess with Laich is that if the Caps want his name on the Cup someone from within the organization, possibly captain Alex Ovechkin, coach Barry Trotz, general manager Brian MacLellan or owner Ted Leonsis, would need to petition the league to add Laich to their list of names and have it approved by Bettman.
why didn't they wait till offseason to do the Laich deal? @pkcnelson
Theoretically, the Capitals could have waited until NHL draft weekend (June 24-25) to try to trade Laich but there was sound reasoning behind their decision to do it in-season. First of all, Brian MacLellan said there was only one team – the Maple Leafs -- willing to take on Laich’s $4.5 million cap hit for next season without having the Caps retain half that salary. The Caps wanted a player comparable to Laich in return, someone who could play left wing, kill penalties and play a strong defensive role. Daniel Winnik fit that description and had another year left on his deal with a $2.25 million cap hit. (Laich will actually earn $4 million next season, while Winnik will earn $1.8 million). To get the deal done the Caps had to add defensive prospect Connor Carrick and the two teams swapped the Caps’ second rounder for the Leafs’ fifth-round selection But the biggest reason the Caps made the deal last weekend and not after the season was the fact that it freed up cap space. Since the deal was completed late Sunday night the Caps went into Monday’s trade deadline with $2.2 million in available cap space. They hoped to add one more depth forward – a 13th forward with NHL experience – and planned on using the additional cap space to do it. MacLellan acknowledged he was a little surprised by the lack of trade activity on Monday and decided to stand pat with Stan Galiev and Michael Latta as his reserve forwards. To further answer your question, the Caps wanted/needed that additional $2.25 million of cap space to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jason Chimera and restricted free agents Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson.
how much could cost re-sign Orlov and how much interest the Caps have considering the huge UFA/RFAs group in 2017 GianluT67
Good question. Orlov, 24, is making $2.25 million this season and has played in all 63 games, recording seven goals, 18 assists, 20 penalty minutes and a plus-15 rating. Last season he made $1.75 million and played in zero games for the Caps because of a wrist injury. Measured against Karl Alzner’s $2.8 million cap hit my guess is that the Caps would offer Orlov only a slight raise on his current salary. Let’s say, two years with an annual cap hit of $2.4 million. The second part of your question is interesting since, following the 2016-17 season, the Caps are looking at a possible reload. Not counting the players likely to get contract extensions this summer (Johansson, Wilson, Orlov and possibly Chimera and Mike Richards), the Caps have only three forwards (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle), four defensemen (Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney), and one goaltender (Braden Holtby) signed for the 2017-18 season. By then, prospects like Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey and Jonas Siegenthaler should be on the Caps’ roster and they likely would have resigned Johansson, Wilson, Orlov, Alzner, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Burakovsky. And where would that leave T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer? Let’s face it. How much the Capitals can spend on other players will be dependent upon how much it will take to re-sign Kuznetsov in the summer of 2017.
Without a random number generator, what do you see as our lines in round one/game one of the playoffs? - @shawndonaghue
Barring injury, here are my line combinations and defense pairings, followed by a brief qualifier:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik – Mike Richards – Jay Beagle
Extras: Stan Galiev, Michael Latta, Zach Sill
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov
Extras: Mike Weber, Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby – Philipp Grubauer
This is just conjecture, but my guess is that Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt will have a short leash in the playoffs and if Barry Trotz is not satisfied with either of their play he will be quick to go with Mike Weber and/or Taylor Chorney.
At the forward position, I could see Jay Beagle sliding up to replace Tom Wilson if Trotz is unhappy with Wilson’s play. And I could see Richards moving into Johansson’s spot and Johansson moving to second-line left wing if Trotz sees Burakovsky struggling. As for injury replacements, I could see Trotz promoting Zach Sill before inserting Galiev or Latta into a playoff series.
Why has Trotz been hesitant to put Kuzy on the PP with Ovi? He's a 2nd legit threat to shoot and opens up the ice for Ovi - @FCF__
I agree with you. However, if the Caps want to be a double threat to score on the power play they need to have two units capable of scoring. Essentially, Ovechkin stays out there for most of the two minutes anyway, so he sees plenty of ice with Kuznetsov. Through 63 games Kuznetsov has five goals and 11 assists for 16 power play points, while Nicklas Backstrom ranks second in the NHL with 27 points (3 goals, 24 assists) on the man-advantage. There are times I like the puck movement on the second unit better than the first, but it’s hard to argue with success and the Caps lead the NHL in overall power play percentage (23.9 percent). I was also asked this week if I think Matt Niskanen will remain on the Caps’ top unit when John Carlson returns to health and my answer is yes. In fact, I’m really intrigued by Dmitry Orlov on power play. He has great chemistry with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov 3-on-3 and I like his creativity and hard shot from the point. (As an aside, I just looked this up and Kuznetsov leads the NHL in even-strength assists (35) and ranks second in even-strength points (50).
How worried are you about the Caps' level of play lately? Normal ups and downs, or cause for concern? @capscoach
I’m going to go with normal ups and downs. In fact, I’m going to pull this quote from T.J. Oshie from Wednesday night. “We’ve been winning,” Oshie said, “but it really does feel like we’ve been in a little bit of a lull. So we’re fortunate when we’re playing like that we’re able to steal some points from some teams. Hopefully, we can grab this ourselves and not have to lose a couple games to really put our foot back on the gas and get to where we want to be.” I can’t emphasize enough how hard it is to remain as consistent as the Caps have been over an 82-game season and how impressed I am that they have gone 63 games without suffering back-to-back regulation losses. I believe that if athletes have muscle memory they also have game management memory and the Capitals have proven they can win games in any fashion. Their ability to overwhelm teams in the third period, outscoring them 83-50, might be the No. 1 reason I think they will go as deep as you can go in the playoffs.
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