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20 Burning Capitals Questions: Who plays more in 2019-20 - Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler?

20 Burning Capitals Questions: Who plays more in 2019-20 - Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at the upcoming training camp fight for playing time on the third pair alongside veteran Radko Gudas. 

The Capitals made some changes on their blueline this summer with Matt Niskanen dealt to Philadelphia for Radko Gudas. With John Carlson and Nick Jensen, that gives three veteran options on the right side. With the hopeful return of Michal Kempny (torn hamstring) and also Dmitry Orlov both on the left side, that leaves one spot for two obvious candidates: Christian Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler. 

That becomes maybe the most interesting battle of camp next month. The top nine is basically settled. There could be a good push on the fourth line. But Siegenthaler and Djoos are two young defensemen in an organization that has invested heavily at that spot in recent years. 

The Capitals will have 2018 first-round pick Alex Alexeyev, 2018 second-round pick Martin Fehervary – both 19 - and 2016 first-round pick Lucas Johansen all at AHL Hershey this year, among others.

That means this season is critical for Siegenthaler and Djoos to establish themselves lest a younger prospect swipe that spot sometime over the next year. You don’t take players that high in the draft and not give them a shot in the NHL at some point. All three aren’t going to be total busts – although Johansen, 21, has some work to do this season as the oldest prospect of the three. 

Djoos, 25, looked like a mainstay after playing in 22 of 24 Stanley Cup playoff games in 2018. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, he’s never going to be much of a physical presence. But he’s a fine skater and has provided good value already as a seventh-round draft pick in 2012. 

But after playing in 63 games in 2017-18, including most of that Stanley Cup run, Djoos appeared in just 45 last season. A Dec. 11 thigh injury turned into compartment syndrome, a scary issue where blood becomes trapped in the muscle and immediate surgery is needed. He eventually returned to the lineup after missing 24 games but wasn’t totally right in his first eight games back. Djoos then sat for 11 of the next 12 before jumping back into the lineup for eight of the final nine games and the first three of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The problem: He was eventually benched for Siegenthaler after Game 3 of the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and didn’t play again. Maybe an offseason healing will get Djoos back on track. 

But Siegenthaler, 22, will have his chance, too. He held his own in rough circumstances in the Hurricanes series. Kempny had been lost for the season on March 20 and the Capitals were scrambling to keep their blueline together. Siegenthaler played on the top pair with Carlson.

That experience left a better taste after an up-and-down rookie season where he made his NHL debut on Nov. 9 before being sent back to Hershey. He played 26 games, a pretty small sample size. Djoos got in 63 as a rookie even before the Stanley Cup playoffs that spring.

So who will actually win this battle? If both are on the roster, you could easily see a scenario where both players get into 50-plus games, especially as they fill in for any of the five veterans if/when they get hurt, suspended, etc. What’s harder to tell is which one will take advantage. They’re two different players. Djoos could be a better matchup against certain teams while Siegenthaler at 6-3, 206 could be better against others. 

One caveat: Djoos was awarded a one-year, $1.25 million contract in arbitration in July. That means he and the Capitals couldn’t come to an agreement on his worth and he is probably being paid more than the team is comfortable with. 

Needing to shed more than $1.37 million in salary-cap space before the final roster is set at the end of the preseason, Washington could deem Djoos expendable in a trade. A defenseman like Tyler Lewington, 25, could take that No. 7 spot and would cost only $675,000. That’s big savings for a team where every penny will count to get some breathing room. But before that happens, Djoos should at least get to prove his worth in training camp. His salary isn’t the only way for the Capitals to get out of cap jail. 

But whether it’s just during camp or throughout most of the season, Djoos and Siegenthaler will both have their chance. With prospects lining up behind them, it’s time to take advantage of the opportunity. 

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'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After taking a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, the Capitals watched as the Winnipeg Jets came storming back to tie the game at 3-3. Suffering from a prolonged slump since the end of December, the game was unfolding into another ugly loss for a team that, despite its talent, just could not seem to find its way. This time, however, the collapse was halted. The Caps did not lay down and managed to battle to a 4-3 shootout win.

While blowing a 3-0 lead is nothing to celebrate, the team showed more resiliency than they have shown for two months and forward Garnet Hathaway knew why.

“It's after the trade deadline,” he said. “The guys in this room are the guys that we're going to win with. So that's the mentality right now, we've got to stick to our guns and play to our identity.”

The trade deadline is a time of uncertainty for many players around the league, many of whom don’t know when they wake up on Monday morning if they will still be playing for the same team by 3 p.m. or suddenly have to uproot themselves and their families.

That uncertainty is not just limited to each individual, it can affect an entire team.

“I think with everybody in here, I would say there's definitely a lot of guys probably have a good feeling, 'OK I'm not going to get traded or I am getting traded,'” center Nic Dowd said. “But I'd say the underlying issue is, I hope they don't bring anybody in that's like myself. That's probably what everyone's kind of looking like. As soon as they see 'Washington Capitals trade for' you're like, 'oh, who is it?' and 'is he my position?'”

“I think that players will very rarely discuss the fact that it's bothering them or they're thinking about it, but they're only human as well,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I think it's a deep sigh of relief for players and now we're ready to move forward knowing this is our group and this is what we're going with.”

Washington is a team with its sights set on a Stanley Cup. That meant they were a team looking to add. But even with the majority of players knowing they would not be moved, the deadline still brings with it uncertainty; uncertainty over where you stand in the lineup, uncertainty over which teammates will still be around after the deadline, uncertainty over what the team will ultimately look like at 3:01 p.m.

Once the deadline passes, however, that distraction is gone and suddenly a team can regain its focus knowing now is the time to focus on the task at hand.

“Now we know that there isn't anymore moving parts,” Reirden said. “Sure, we're going to have to deal with injuries or any other issues, suspensions or different things that go on. That's hockey. But, for the most part, this is our group that we believe in and we think has a really good chance. It's a different vibe after. I can tell you that for sure.”

“The trade deadline pretty much is just kind of a distraction a little bit for everyone,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “So once that's kind of out of the way, there's a sense like it's back to focusing on this final stretch before playoffs. Every team, they're set for the rest of the season. Every team's trying to make their push for the playoffs so there's kind of that sense like, here we go. This is it.”

That certainty also brings with it a sense of unity.

Nothing can replace the bonding that happens between teammates over the course of a full 82-game season, but after the trade deadline has passed comes the realization that this is the team. Whatever happens from here to the postseason and beyond is going to happen with the players who are now on the roster.

There are no more reinforcements coming.

“This is our team, this is who we're going with,” Jensen said. “It's time to bear down and put yourself in as best position as possible to compete in the playoffs.”

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Player from Capitals' AHL affiliate discharged from hospital after losing consciousness

Player from Capitals' AHL affiliate discharged from hospital after losing consciousness

Giant Center, then home of Capitals AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, was the site of a scary moment Tuesday night when prospect Kale Kessy dropped the gloves in the second period of their game against the Charlotte Checkers and started fighting with defenseman Derek Sheppard.

Kessy and Sheppard exchanged blows before the Checkers’ defenseman gained the upper hand and landed a knockout punch.

The Bears’ winger hit his head on the ice before he “lost, but regained consciousness on the ice,” according to a statement released by the team. While being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, he told his teammates, “go win the game.”

Hershey did just that, dominating the Checkers 6-1 behind a hat trick by Virginia native Joe Snively. Kessy was transported to the hospital where he stayed overnight before being discharged the next morning.

“I would like to send my heartfelt thank you to Hershey Bears fans for their thoughts, prayers, and support following my injury last night,” Kessy said in a statement released by the Bears on Wednesday. “Additionally, I’d like to thank our trainers, doctors, EMTs, Bob Goodman, and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for providing me immediate and exceptional care. I am feeling better today, and I look forward to rejoining my Hershey Bears teammates soon.”

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