It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.
Have a Caps question you want to be answered 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.
Erin C. writes: Do you think it’s almost certain, if not certain, that Vrana will be back next season? If so, what kind of deal do you expect him to get?
If there is one thing I am certain of this offseason, it is that Jakub Vrana will be back with the Caps. Take it to the bank. He is coming off a 24-goal season for a team in which offensive depth suddenly looks like a serious question mark. Not only that, but he is a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. Even if he hated Washington, which he doesn’t, he would have few options but to re-sign.
Locking a player like Vrana up for the long-term seems like a smart move, but I am not sure the team will have the money to do that. To get an RFA to agree to a long-term deal, you have to really pay out some big bucks for those unrestricted free agent years you are buying. I am not sure they are in a position to dedicate that much of what little cap room they have left on a long-term deal for Vrana.
But wait, you may be saying, if they sign player x for this amount and player y for that amount then they could have enough room! Here’s the problem with that way of thinking. Vrana is an RFA, you know he will be back. If you are Brian MacLellan, you need to figure out how much cap space you have to work with to sign players this offseason and you cannot just reserve a certain amount of room in the hope you can sign Vrana long-term. He needs to be one of the top priorities. Get that deal done and out of the way so you know how much cap room he takes up.
For that reason, I see a bridge deal for Vrana. Something probably in the three-year, $4 million per year range.
What, realistically, could the Caps expect in return for a player like Niskanen given his age, level of play and contract?— Don Carnevale (@dcarnevale44) May 27, 2019
Did you know that Brooks Orpik was 33 when the Caps first signed him and turned 34 before his first season in Washington? I bring this up because clearly Orpik was a defenseman who still had value as a leader and as a Cup winner even if MacLellan knew his play was going to drop off before his new five-year contract expired. For that reason the Caps were willing to sign him to a five-year deal at the age of 33.
Niskanen is coming off a bad season and is 32, but he is a high character guy and can be a leader on the blue line. His contract is only for two more years so even if his play rapidly declines, this is not a toxic contract by any means.
Will teams be lining up to trade for him to be on their top pairing? No, but just like Orpik had a lot of value for the Caps when they first signed him, Niskanen is going to have value to teams out there who need that kind of leadership.
Maybe a contender needs that steadying presence in the locker room and on the blue line or maybe a young team like the Ottawa Senators could use some leadership after trading away every good player with any veteran experience they had.
The return is not going to be great, maybe a few draft picks, but the biggest asset Washington will get in a trade is cap space and really that's the whole point.
If you are wondering what problem a Niskanen trade solves because you do not think his trade value is high enough to net the Caps much in return, I would contend you are looking at this the wrong way. The goal is to free cap space in order to make a run at re-signing a player like Carl Hagelin or Brett Connolly or at the very least have enough money to sign a quality free agent forward.
Christopher S. writes: A lot is made about the shortened length of time off in the summer for the Stanley Cup winning (and losing) team and how a short summer impacts summer training etc. However, there are many NHL players who are still playing in the World Cup and nothing is ever really said about ‘other’ tournaments in which these players participate. Doesn’t this sort of negate the whole ‘short summer’ argument? I realize the World Cup may not be as grueling as the Stanley Cup in terms of hitting and compete, but still they are playing hockey games. I also realize that it’s not the whole team participating, but still it’s the top line players.
I see your point, but you touch on one of the key differences here. If you watch the World Championship, no one could mistake that for a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The Stanley Cup Playoffs is the most grueling hockey these players will play. Think about it this way, several NHL players participate in Da Beauty League in the offseason, but no one is worried about that tournament fatiguing the players during the NHL season. Obviously the World Championships is a step above a summer league, but you get the point. The less grueling the event, the less fatigue.
Physically, the players put their bodies through a lot more punishment in the playoffs than at Worlds. Nicklas Backstrom did not participate and Lars Eller left after three games because of injuries. They both were dealing with those injuries during the playoffs, but were not willing to push through them for Worlds. Add another few rounds and you can see why those guys would need more time to recover before they even think about preparing for the next season.
Also, the tournament is over already. The Stanley Cup Final will run through mid-June and that’s just the games. The celebration will run well into the summer. All jokes about how much the Caps celebrated their Cup victory aside, the celebration for every team stretches well into the summer with the city celebrating the win and the players getting their day with the Cup. Once all of that is over, then you have to take care of all the family things you have been putting off, vacations, time with the kids, etc. A Stanley Cup victory turns the sumemr into quite the whirlwind. You do not have the same amount of time to rest, get away from hockey, ramp up your training and be ready for camp the same way you would otherwise. There are a lot of factors that make it a short summer that are not just about playing games.
Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.
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