It’s time for the weekly Capitals mailbag! Check out the Nov. 28 edition below. Have a Caps question you want to be answered in next week’s mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com

Please note some questions have been edited for clarity.

Karl Alzner officially cleared waivers on Tuesday so clearly the Caps did not claim him. Washington is very aware of current trends in the NHL and has put an emphasis on puck-moving mobile defenseman in recent years as evidenced by drafting players like Alex Alexeyev and Lucas Johansen. Even Jonas Siegenthaler, a physical defensive-minded blue liner is a great skater and considered very mobile. Karl Alzner does not fit the bill.

Alzner is a stay-at-home defenseman. Having a player like that on the roster is not a bad thing, but the Caps have one in Brooks Orpik. There’s not much place for two in the lineup.

The biggest issue for Alzner, who is still a good player and could be of value, is his cap hit. A cap hit of over $4.6 million is tough for a team to justify for a player who probably is not going to be a top-four defenseman on most teams. It’s a tough break for a great guy so I hope it works out for him, but as nice of a payday as that may be, his contract is actually hurting his NHL prospects at this point.

 

If there is a need to place Oshie on IR, then I believe this could be something the team could explore. There just hasn’t been a need for it…yet. With a game at home and two in New York, if the team needed to make a recall from Hershey it would not be an issue. With games in Vegas, Arizona and Columbus next week, however, if both Oshie and Evgeny Kuzntesov are not ready to return I could see the team placing Oshie on IR in order to have an extra forward for the road trip.

IR does not provide any cap relief, just a roster spot, so it’s not as if the Caps are losing any money by keeping him on the active roster. Long-term injured reserve does provide some cap relief, but, per my understanding, a player cannot be placed on LTIR retroactively meaning Oshie would be required to miss 10 games from when the team places him on LTIR. That’s obviously not ideal.

So the team does not need to do anything just yet, but they will need to make a decision by next week before they hit the road in order to clear room on the roster for an extra forward.

Well, don’t get too excited about Shumakov’s goal. There was a bit of puck luck involved on that one as a centering pass by Shumakov was deflected into the net.

I’m not being critical, a goal’s a goal, but I’m not watching that replay and saying, yep, this guy is ready for the NHL.

Shumakov showed at camp he needed time to adjust to the North American game. An injury has forced him to miss 13 out of 20 games for Hershey which will set him back a bit. Those 13 games are 13 games he was not adjusting and not developing which sets him back a bit.

It’s also important to remember that when the Caps get healthy, they will have two extra forwards already on the roster. Now obviously, if Shumakov begins to just light up the AHL, the Caps will find a way to bring him up, but as of right now there’s no need for the team to try to force him onto the roster.

 

As for the long-term plan, there isn’t one as evidenced by the one-year deal. Shumakov is a low-risk, high-reward signing. If he adjusts to North America and can contribute, great. If not and the team can’t re-sign him, they didn’t really lose anything.

It certainly will be hard to break up that line, but you may see it happen if Kuznetsov returns before Oshie does because of balance.

Kuznetsov is an incredible offensive player, but not nearly as strong in his own end as a player like Backstrom. We saw how much the Caps struggled to find the right balance with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov when Wilson was out. If both Kuznetsov and Oshie return at the same time, an easy solution is to plug them both onto the second line and leave the top line alone because Oshie is a strong defensive player. As it stands, however, putting Kuznetsov on the second line would mean a Vrana-Kuznetsov-Connolly line. I like that line if it’s late in the game and Washington needs a goal, but defensively that combination leaves a bit to be desired.

Maybe if you want to move Chandler Stephenson or Dmitrij Jaskin onto the second line you have some options, but considering how great the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson line was in the playoffs, I have to believe the goal is to reunite them when Kuznetsov returns.

Luka K writes: If you could have one of Tom Wilson or Filip Forsberg on Caps 1st line, whom would you choose and why? Is it crazy to think that Tom Wilson is top 3 player from his draft class and that he will finally live up to his draft selection and hype? His cap is not too much for what he brings on and off ice. 

Did Luka just go there? Yeah, he just went there.

Because they were both selected by the Capitals in the first round draft of the same draft, Wilson and he who must not be named will be forever linked and compared to one another. For much of their NHL careers, that looked like a rather one-sided comparison, but not anymore.

As good as Wilson has been, I’m not ready to walk away from a 24-year-old player who has scored over 25 goals in each of the last four seasons and over 60 points in three of the last four. With all due respect, Ryan Johansen is not Kuznetsov or Backstrom and the thought of Forsberg playing on a line with centers like what the Caps can offer is an intriguing thought to say the least. Plus, while Wilson’s cap hit of $5.17 million is looking smarter every day, Forsberg’s cap hit is not all that much bigger at $6 million so it’s not as if Wilson is a comparative steal.

 

But the fact that we are even having this conversation shows you just how far Wilson has come from the Adam Oates error…whoops, I mean “era,” of playing eight minutes a night as a fourth line goon.

The 2012 draft class included Forsberg, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Hertl, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Shayne Gostisbehere, Matt Murray, Adnreas Athanasiou and Connor Hellebuyck among others so if you were to redraft that class, I don’t know that Wilson would be a top three player. Top 10? No doubt. Top five? Possibly.

Top three may be a stretch, but you know what? That’s OK. At the beginning of the 2017-18 season it did not look as if Wilson would ever live up to being the No. 16 overall pick and some would have argued he would never live up to even being a first rounder. You can’t make that argument anymore…assuming of course he can stay on the ice and does not get into any more trouble with suspensions.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be read and answered in next week’s mailbag, send it in to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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