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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: The salary cap issues are over...for the week

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: The salary cap issues are over...for the week

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Mary B. writes: With the most recent player moves, where do the Caps stand regarding the salary cap?

I wrote an in-depth piece about this on Tuesday which you can read here. To summarize, the Caps have 25 players despite a 23-player maximum and are nearly $2.7 million over the salary cap. Michal Kempny has been designated as injured non-roster which takes him off, and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s roster spot and cap hit do not count during his suspension. That brings the roster below the cap ceiling and down to 23 men.

This is fine for now, but it means that all the tough decisions we thought the team would have to make at the start of the season will now have to be pushed back a week. Once Kuznetsov and Kempny return, general manager Brian MacLellan still has to trim at least two players and $2.7 million worth of salary.

@irieLife4me on Twitter writes: After watching preseason, what defensive pairings seem likely especially with Michal Kempny still out?

Jonas Siegenthaler has spent much of camp playing with John Carlson, which makes sense as the two seemed to play well together in the playoffs when the spinning wheel of partners to replace Kempny finally landed on No. 34.

Radko Gudas spent some time with Dmitry Orlov in training camp, but it appears Nick Jensen will start on the second pair for now. Orlov did not look as comfortable in that role during the preseason as perhaps the team was hoping, so I wonder how short the leash will be.

And for now, it looks like Fehervary will be playing on the third pair with Gudas.

So to recap, the top pairing is missing its left defenseman, the second pairing is one of the biggest question marks for the team this season and the third pairing consists of one player in his first season with the Caps and one player in his first season in the NHL.

Basically, the biggest takeaway from this is that Kempny still remains absolutely critical to the team’s defense this year and they need him back as soon as possible.

Darren L. writes: I was wondering about Michal Kempny’s hamstring. It’s been a very long rehab process and I just read that the Caps aren’t putting him on long-term IR. Are they still concerned about his status? Or is he very close and they don’t want to rush him back?

Kempny has skated in a non-contact jersey throughout all of camp. His participation has increased throughout so there has been progress, it just is a matter of waiting for him to get back to 100-percent.

If you are looking for a reason to be optimistic, the injured non-roster designation does not carry a minimum number of games that a player must miss. Long-term injured reserve, for example, would require Kempny to miss 10 games.

Kempny could be activated at any time, we just don’t know when.

@Jennife61533767 on Twitter writes: How well do you think the Caps will do this season? How do you think this team will meet the salary cap? Will all those waived, if not picked up, will they be reassigned to Hershey and South Carolina?

Let’s start with the cap. While the roster is cap compliant as of right now, more moves will need to be made once Kuznetsov and Kempny return as I explained above. I know fans are excited about Fehervary and Ilya Samsonov. Chandler Stephenson also had to earn his way back onto the roster after a bad season last year. But if I had to bet, I would think all three players will most likely be sent to Hershey. Fehervary and Samsonov are waiver exempt, so there is no danger in sending them to the AHL. Stephenson, meanwhile, is expendable and has a large enough cap hit at $1.05 million to make him a clear target to be waived.

All three players the Caps placed on waivers on Monday -- Christian Djoos, Liam O'Brien and Mike Sgarbossa -- all cleared and have been assigned to Hershey.

From top to bottom, the Caps still have the best roster in the Metropolitan Division. I believe they win a fifth straight division title. From there, it is all about matchups and how healthy they are. I do think they have it in them to make another deep playoff run, especially if the desperation of the closing championship window sets in.

Zac R. writes: How come there wasn't more talk about defensive prospect Colby Williams this preseason? He was one of the best defensemen on the ice both games he played in.

I’m not so sure I would agree with your assessment. He wasn't bad, but I don't think his play stood out in any way to change my or the team's perception of him. Williams is one of the best skaters in the organization, but I think it is safe to say he is an AHL player.

If the Caps thought he was good enough to be in the NHL, he would be. At 24 years old and with a $700,000 cap hit, being able to have him on the roster would help solve a lot of cap problems.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Why goalies will have the hardest time adjusting to NHL's return, per Joe Beninati

Why goalies will have the hardest time adjusting to NHL's return, per Joe Beninati

With commissioner Gary Bettman's announcement of the NHL's plan for returning to play, hockey fans and players alike can begin to gear up for a 24-team postseason frenzy at some point this summer. 

Teams will have time to shake the rust off in training camp since the league went on hiatus nearly three months ago. July 1 is the earliest camp can begin. Players like Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who admittedly hasn't touched his skates since March, will have to get back in shape quickly before the first puck drops. 

However, Capitals play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati thinks the skaters will be fine. It's the goalies that face the biggest challenge getting back to where they were when the season was suspended.

"I think the goaltending is going to be the most difficult to return," Beninati said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "These guys keep themselves in great shape, they'll get reacclimated, their skating muscles will return in that two-week cap period. For goalies, it's especially difficult to get that timing back and the goaltending role is so explosive. They're asking their bodies to do so many things so reflexively, so powerfully, and quickly that you may be dealing with injuries there."

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Beninati also noted that with expanded rosters under this new format, teams should be able to carry as many goaltenders as they like along with 28 skaters. While having to start your third or fourth goalie in a playoff game may not be an ideal situation if players start getting hurt left and right, it's at least good the league has a preventative measure in place. 

One of the most important aspects of playoff success in the NHL is goaltending. Even if training camp begins on July 1, that'd be nearly four months to make up for physically and mentally with an apparent increased risk of injury. Then you have a massive 24-team field in an NHL playoff setting known for its unpredictability. 

It's probably safe to say the 2020 NHL playoffs will be wild. 

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Fans choice should be clear: Why Oshie, Vrana should win 'Best Bromance'

Fans choice should be clear: Why Oshie, Vrana should win 'Best Bromance'

The Capitals have always been home to some impressively strong bromances (see Ovechkin-Backstrom, Chimera-Ward, Wilson-Latta just to name a few) but there might be none better than the developing connection between linemates T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana. With the NHL Fan Choice Awards in their final week of voting, we thought we would help jog your memory (in case you’ve forgotten) with five reasons why Oshie and Vrana deserve your vote for Best Bromance in the NHL.

5. You’re great! No, you’re great! No, really, you’re great!

It was clear early on this season that the relationship had gone to new heights and the world got to experience it firsthand on December 11th when Oshie and Vrana paid each other compliments after a spectacular goal by No. 77.



After Oshie dangled the Bruins defense, Vrana was sure enough the first teammate there to celebrate and then after the game, Oshie joked that he had to look down and check his skates to make sure they weren’t Vrana’s based on his speed burst. Quick to the repay the comment, Vrana took to Twitter to compliment his linemate on his silky smooth mitts.



They really are too cute.

4. Checking In During Coronavirus Isolation

Last week, Vrana participated in a cook-off with teammate Jonas Siegenthaler and Oshie tuned in to see how things were going. No less than 10 seconds into joining, Oshie recognized and commented on his bro’s new ‘do!

Even during isolation, Oshie is always checking in on his linemate.



Oshie then continued on to taunt Vrana about what seemed like far too clean a house for his linemate and say that his food looked a little dry. But the best part is just the two of them calling each other “liney” the whole time. If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

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3. Sit Back and Watch the Shootout Show

Earlier this year, with the All-Star Game approaching in St. Louis, Oshie found himself on the ballot to be the Last Man In from the Metro Division. Who gave the best endorsement? You guessed it, that would be Vrana.



Oshie then invited Vrana to join him as a package deal, but Vrana had other plans: watching with a nice bowl of popcorn from the couch.

2. Bro Shark, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo 

January 5th looked like it was going to be a very disappointing loss for the Capitals. Hosting the San Jose Sharks, a Logan Couture empty-netter with 1:00 left in regulation seemingly sealed the deal for the visitors with a 2-goal cushion. Never say never. 

First, it was Vrana who brought the Caps back within 1 with 47 seconds left. Then, it was his linemate Oshie who tallied the tying goal with just 15 seconds left on the clock. Our NBC Sports Washington cameras caught another intimate moment for the pair when they got back to the bench.



Could they be any cuter?

1. From One Liney to Another

Yes. They could be cuter. Here’s how.



I mean, look at that. C’mon people, this is the best bromance in the NHL and honestly, it’s not even close. Does anyone else have a t-shirt for their bromance? I thought not. Case closed.

Click here to vote (voting ends on Monday, June 1).

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