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Possible defensive options for Capitals through PTOs

Possible defensive options for Capitals through PTOs

Assuming the Capitals go with seven defensemen next season, they have some holes to fill.

As of now, they have only five defensemen under contract from last season: Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney. That leaves two spots open for prospects, including a top-four role alongside Carlson.

The Caps have plenty of candidates in the system who will compete for those spots including Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Tyler Lewington, Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, among others.

But what if they aren’t ready?

RELATED: DJOOS HOPES TO PUT ON WEIGHT BEFORE CAMP

The team is banking on the hope that not one, but two players with little to no NHL experience will be able to step up and take an NHL spot. While teams groom their prospects to eventually step into the NHL roster, sometimes those players just don’t pan out or at least need more time to develop. Washington is not looking at this season as a complete rebuild. Re-signing T.J. Oshie and keeping the core intact is evidence of that. This is a team that still has its sights set on the playoffs. The Caps cannot afford, therefore, to have two spots on their blue line influx through the entire campaign.

One option, if there is some concern over the defensive depth, is to offer a veteran a professional tryout (PTO). PTOs are a way for teams to bring in players with no long-term commitment. You bring a player in for camp and, if he doesn’t work out, you simply release him.

If the Caps want more competition on defense or are worried about relying too much on unproven prospects, they could bring in a veteran on a PTO. There are a few options for Washington if they choose to go that route:

Roman Polak (31 years old), R
2016-17 season: 75 games, 4 goals, 7 assists with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Fedor Tyutin (34 years old), L
2016-17 season: 69 games, 1 goal, 12 assists with the Colorado Avalanche

Cody Franson (30 years old), R
2016-17 season: 68 games, 3 goals, 16 assists with the Buffalo Sabres

Mark Stuart (33 years old), L
2016-17 season: 42 games, 2 goals, 2 assists with the Winnipeg Jets

If your reaction to these options is to turn your nose in disgust, well, guess what? You’re not going to find a Brent Burns or a Shea Weber available in early September. There’s a reason why these players are still looking for contracts.

There are a few younger options such as Jyrki Jokipakka (26) and Cody Goloubef (27), but the Caps have plenty of untested youth. That’s what their prospects are. If Washington goes the PTO route, it will almost certainly be for a steady veteran.

Both Polak and Franson are physical, shutdown players with good size, but Polak may soon be off the market.

Tyutin spent last season with the dreadful Colorado Avalanche on a one-year $2 million deal. The fact that he could not earn a second look from a team that bad for a price that low is a bad sign for what he may have left to offer. But, that’s why you give him a PTO.

Stuart is an intriguing option because of his leadership. He has never been a remarkable defenseman, but he did spend time as an alternate captain for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets ultimately chose to buy him out of the last year of his contract which carried a cap hit of about $2.6 million.

But the biggest problem regarding any PTO defenseman the team brings in is figuring out just where that player would fit in the lineup. The Caps need someone to play alongside Carlson on the second pair and Orpik on the third. An Orpik-Polak pair, for example, is one that would struggle to transition out of its own zone. It’s not an ideal pairing. You could potentially bump one of those players up to the second pair with Carlson where they would be a better fit in terms on contrasting styles, but then the Caps are relying on a PTO defenseman to earn a top-four role. Not ideal.

But what do the Caps have to lose? A PTO offers a no-risk insurance policy in case the prospects just aren’t ready to step up. Considering how many questions there are surrounding the team’s defense this year, it won’t be surprising to see Washington go the PTO route just as a precaution.

MORE CAPS: WHAT WOULD THE CAPS' ALL-TIME ROSTER LOOK LIKE?

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Game 48: Capitals vs. Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 48: Capitals vs. Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

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

When: 12:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Flyers will be broadcast on NBC

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

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

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-FLYERS GAME?

The Capitals (28-15-4) take on the Flyers (22-16-8) Sunday, January 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-FLYERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Flyers game will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at  11:30 a.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 12:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage starting with Caps Extra following the game and Caps Overtime at 3:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

11:30 a.m. — Caps FaceOff
12:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
12:30 p.m. — Capitals vs. Flyers on NBC
3:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
3:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-FLYERS GAME?

The Capitals-Flyers game is available to stream live here through NBC Sports.  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).

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

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

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

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

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Jakub Vrana, Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-FLYERS 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 the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-HABS

Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.