It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.
Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.
Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.
Dan Hornbaker writes: My question is regarding Nicklas Backstrom, but just regarding term...what do you think he is asking for in terms of number of years and what would you like to see him get? Bonus, same question regarding #8 the following year.
For Backstrom, I am guessing he gets five years, around $46 million and they keep his cap hit to something like $9.2 million.
That's just a guess though.
Obviously Dan's email came before the news on Tuesday. As for Ovechkin, I am thinking we may see three or four years. Remember, that he is 34 now. He will be 35 by the start of next season and 36 by the time his next contract starts. Unless he gets really close to Wayne Gretzky's record, I don't see him wanting to stick around just to score 10-15 goals on the third line. When he stops being a top-line player, I think he goes back to Russia where he will still be a star. That's a total guess and Gretzky's record is a wild card. He may get close enough that he decides to stay longer, but right now I am thinking a three or four-year deal.
As for the money, I really don't anticipate him breaking the bank. Washington has been good to him and I think he wants the Caps to be as competitive as possible for as long as possible so I think he falls somewhere between $9.5-11 million. A nice size salary, but not crippling as the cap continues to rise.
Mecca Vai writes: Would it be in the Capitals' best interest to trade Holtby by the deadline to receive the best deal? I believe they could get a veteran goalie to be 1A, 1B with Samsonov and possibly a top 4 defenseman.
No, no, a thousand times no.
First off, you are greatly overvaluing what they could get in return. You think they are going to get a starting goalie plus a top-four defenseman for a 30-year-old goalie with a sub .900 save percentage on the last year of his contract? No way.
Second, no, it is not in the Caps' best interest anyway.
We have literally seen this before, less than two years ago. Do people really not remember this? Holtby struggled in the regular season, was surpassed by Philipp Grubauer, stepped in and was key to winning the Stanley Cup.
Samsonov is 22 and has 17 games of NHL experience, none of them in the playoffs. You have no idea how he is going to play in the playoffs. You may think you do, but you don't. I don't. Goalie coach Scott Murray doesn't. Nobody does.
Plus, what are the odds if the Caps go on a deep run that they will play both goalies at some point? Probably pretty high. Would you feel more comfortable with a Samsonov/Holtby tandem or a Samsonov/Pheonix Copley tandem? If this team is one injury away from having to rest their Cup hopes on the shoulders of Copley or Vitek Vanecek, do you think they are winning the Cup?
I get it. Defense is a need and you think the Caps have an extra goalie, but in reality they don't.
No one wants to lose Holtby for nothing and if the Caps were not in a position where they thought they could compete for the Cup, he absolutely would be on the trading block. But they have their sites set on the Cup so they are going to ride this out, keep both goalies and then they can feel comfortable switching if either one of them struggles or gets injured.
So to summarize, the Caps are not going to trade Holtby and they are not going to re-sign him.
Are we good? Can we move past all the Holtby questions now?
Jason Woodside writes: I think we should cut our losses and trade Evgeny Kuznetsov for a 2nd pair right D. Is there a team/player out there that would work here? There has to be a team that thinks they can get more out of this guy.
Craig Boden writes: With not much cap space and a few needs before the playoffs, would there be any interest in trading Kuznetsov? Could you get a 2nd/third line centre who can play with some grit and win some important draws and maybe some help on defence?
Wow, how is this a thing?
There is no skater more important in hockey than center. You want to sacrifice center depth, one of the top two centers on the team, for a second pair defenseman or flip him for more of a two-way center? There is no realistic scenario in which this makes the team better.
Just like Holtby, we are less than two years removed from Kuznetsov scoring 32 points in 24 playoff games to lead the team to the Cup.
I think the problem here is expectation. Kuznetsov has the talent to be a 100-point producer. We don't see that consistently and that is disappointing.
But that doesn't mean he's bad.
"Cut our losses?" Really? He is on pace for 75 points. He's third on the team.
So what's the plan, move Lars Eller to the second line and then what? Travis Boyd on the third? No, there is no way the team gets better by doing that.
Fred W. writes: If you were coach & GM for a day, what is one trade and one non-goalie line change you would make today, if any?
In terms of lines, here is what I would go with:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - Richard Panik
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Yes, I would switch Panik with Oshie, just to try it. The third line has improved the last few weeks, at least defensively, but I think it is clear the offensive production is not going to come close to what many had hoped. Oshie has chemistry with Eller, try it and see how it looks and see if more minutes can spark some offense from Panik. If it doesn't work, you can always switch things back.
The Caps won a Cup with that top line and they have barely used it since. I think that speaks to the inconsistency we see from Kuznetsov at times which is fair, but this is a trio that I feel has been under-utilized.
As for trades, the salary cap handcuffs this so I would do something different and recall Martin Fehervary. He is a lefty, but he has been playing on the right in Hershey. This team needs a top-four right defenseman, let's see if he can handle it. If he can't, better to know now and if he can, give him as much time as possible to settle in and adjust to the NHL. Otherwise, you know you need to make a trade before the deadline because I don't think the defense is good enough as currently constructed to win a Cup.
Eddy Drg writes: Is Alex Ovechkin playing hurt?
It's always hard to tell with him. Remember the Nazem Kadri hit? My leg would have fallen off. Ovechkin returned the next period. Then after the playoffs it was revealed (by his wife) that Ovechkin was actually hurt and played through it.
There have been stretches this season where has not looked nearly as dominant as in the past. The goals are still up there, but I get what you're saying,
To my knowledge, there is no injury. There could be, hockey players are very secretive about these things, but nothing that I am aware of and nothing that he cited when saying he would not play in the All-Star Game. We may just be starting to see the first signs of age on the seemingly ageless Ovechkin. If "old" Ovechkin means he still finishes in the top five in goals and has a slow December, that's still pretty darn good.
Rodney Oldham writes: What NHL team has had the most African American players play for its organization? When did the NHL officially start recognizing the contributions that black players have made in the game of hockey?
Well, assuming you mean black players (since most of them are actually Afro-Canadian and not African American) the Edmonton Oilers have had the most with 13. The Caps are close behind them with 11. They have had Madison Bowey, Donald Brashear, Anson Carter, Jason Doig, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Mike Grier, Mike Marson, Bill Riley, Reggie Savage, Devante Smith-Pelly and Joel Ward.
The NHL has made a serious push in recent years to recognize the contributions of minority players and that's why Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first black player, has become a familiar face for hockey fans. He was named the NHL's Diversity Ambassador in 1998 and has been traveling around North America ever since.
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, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.
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