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Which Caps would you protect in expansion draft?

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Which Caps would you protect in expansion draft?

During their last day of meetings Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla., NHL general managers were provided with the framework of how an NHL expansion draft would work if the league decides to expand from its current 30 teams to either 31 or 32 franchises.

As of now, Quebec and Las Vegas appear to be the two most likely destinations for new NHL teams, possibly as soon as the 2017-18 season. If one team is selected each current NHL team would lose no more than one player from its roster in an expansion draft. If two teams are added, each current team would lose no more than two players.

In an expansion draft each existing NHL team could protect 11 players on its roster, including one goaltender. First- and second-year pros would not have to be made available and unsigned draft choices would also be exempt.

"As we have said all along, we wouldn't expand before the (2017-18) season, which means if we are going to expand for '17-'18 we've got to do something by June at the latest for '17-'18,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters. “But there is no requirement to adhere to any timetable, let alone that one."

The NHL has not expanded since 2000, when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets entered the league.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume two new franchises are awarded for the 2017-18 season and there is an NHL expansion draft that June.

RELATED: Capitals chasing some impressive team numbers

Here is a list of players that could be on the Capitals’ roster 15 months from now. Which 11 players from this eligible list would you protect if you were general manager? It’s not as easy as you’d think.

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin

Nicklas Backstrom

Jay Beagle

Justin Williams (UFA after next season)

T.J. Oshie (UFA after next season)

Jason Chimera (UFA after this season)

Mike Richards (UFA after this season)

Marcus Johansson (RFA after this season)

Tom Wilson (RFA after this season)

Evgeny Kuznetsov (RFA after next season)

Andre Burakovsky (RFA after next season)

Stan Galiev (RFA after next season)

Chandler Stephenson ((RFA after next season)

Nathan Walker (RFA after next season)

Liam O’Brien (RFA after next season)

Defensemen

Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik

John Carlson

Taylor Chorney

Dmitry Orlov (RFA after this season)

Karl Alzner (RFA after next season)

Nate Schmidt (RFA after next season)

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer (RFA after next season)

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby sets franchise wins record, can he catch Brodeur?

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS