Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Do the Caps have a second-pair right defenseman?


It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

@sports_god1 on Twitter writes: I know Todd has the Defense pinching more this year to jump up in the offense but that also leaves you exposed to odd-man breaks vs. highly skilled/fast teams like we saw vs. the Oilers. Do you see an adjustment vs. highly skilled/fast teams?

The only adjustment I anticipate is just being more aware of it when you play those teams.

For those who may not know what we are talking about here, I wrote an article on this. Basically, the defense has the green light to be more involved in the offense. When a defenseman sees an opening, he can pinch up deep in the offensive zone to join the attack. John Carlson has certainly taken advantage, Michal Kmepny is definitely shooting more and has three goals already this season (he had 11 career goals coming into this season) and you are even seeing Jonas Siegenthaler joining the attack.

When the defense moves up, however, you are vulnerable defensively and a forward has to drop back to account for it. Fast teams can take advantage of this by launching quick counter-attacks. Maybe you catch the Caps mid-transition when the forward is out of position and there is only one defenseman ready to defend. Even if you don’t, a fast transition is going to leave a defenseman deep in the offensive zone sprinting to catch up and the Caps’ having to defend the rush with one defenseman and one forward. Not ideal.


As you mentioned, Edmonton really exposed the weaknesses of this and had multiple odd-man breaks throughout the game. I doubt Reirden is going to suddenly tell the defense not to pinch against fast teams, but just to be aware of who they are playing and who is on the ice at any given time.

Lisa D. writes: Do you permanently move Nick Jensen to the third line so he doesn’t drag Dmitry Orlov down like Matt Niskanen did last season? Is Jensen a case of being a good D on a mediocre team and now being a mediocre D on a good team?

@BelleLegacy on Twitter writes: Would you play Nick Jensen or Radko Gudas with Dmitry Orlov? I’m starting to feel a bit concerned that Jensen ins’t the 2nd pair D that management thought. What are your thought on his play some 30+ games into his Caps tenure?

The transition has been really difficult for Jensen. In Detroit, he played a defense that primarily kept to one side. He’s a right shot, he would play on the right in both the offensive and defensive zones and just stay in his lane. In Washington, the defense is much more fluid and mobile. It switches in the offensive zone to give players better shots and then they are supposed to return to their own side on defense. This has been hard on Jensen. While he looks more comfortable on the left than he did last season (when he was really, really bad on the left), it’s clear he’s not all the way there yet.

Switching Jensen and Gudas in the lineup is the right move and one that Todd Reirden has already made. Let's see how Gudas looks with Orlov. I see Gudas as a high-end third pair guy so I like him better there, but someone has to play on the second pair. See how it looks because I think Jensen can be fine on the bottom pair.

Siegenthaler likes to pinch so there would be less reason for Jensen and Siegenthaler to switch sides in the offensive end. It would allow Jensen to stay primarily on the right and focus strictly on defense and it takes some of the pressure off of him that comes with being a top-four guy.

If Gudas doesn’t work on the second pair...then this team has a big hole it needs to fill.


@sports_god1 on Twitter writes: What’s the rope like for Nick Jensen? How bad south does it have to go for Martin Fehervary to get run?

I don’t think we are anywhere close to Jensen getting benched. Even if he is not as good as originally thought, I still like him in a third pair role. If you don’t, then consider that he is a right-shot defenseman while Fehervary is a lefty. That does not seem to bother Europeans like it does North Americans, but you also have to consider what the pairs are. Do you want a Fehervary, Jonas Siegenthaler pair? That’s a really green pair and my concern with that would be how much would Reirden actually use it, especially in important situations? This team already relies a lot on John Carlson. Having a third pair that you don't trust in the big moments would put even more on Carlson's shoulders. Do you keep Gudas on the third pair and move either Siegenthaler or Fehervary to the second pair? If second-pair right defenseman is a hole, is putting a rookie or second-year player on his off-side really the solution? Probably not.

Katie J. writes: What are the odds that we could keep Radko Gudas for a few more years? He seems to be a great fit!

The sense I get from the team is that they really like him, plus he is a righty and those are not as easy to find as lefties so I would not be surprised. But there are a few things to consider. First, if Gudas does not fit on the second pair, that means you have two right-shot, third-pair defensemen and one of them, Jensen, is under contract. What do you do about that? What do you do about a right defenseman on the second pair which is a significant position?

Price is also a consideration. Gudas costs only $2.345 million against Washington’s cap, but that’s not his total cap hit. His total cap hit is $3.35 million including the salary Philadelphia retained. At only 29 years old, Gudas may not be as cheap next year. If Braden Holtby leaves in free agency like I believe he will, the cap situation won’t be as tight, but cap hit is never not a consideration.

Phillip M. writes: As we have no top 4 right shot defensive prospects are there any teams with top four right shot defensive talent who might make a trade for Braden Holtby? I love Holtby, but he has to know the GM is not going to deconstruct the team to keep him so as Holtby can be a difference-maker on a near playoff team and if need be we may even include Dmitry Orlov with Holtby. What then would it take to get a high-end, young right shot defender and who do you think might be available?


You are right in that I do not believe general manager Brian MacLellan will deconstruct the team to keep Holtby, but I also do not think he will deconstruct the team to trade him.

The prospect pool is indeed devoid of any right-shot top-four defensemen. That is certainly an area of need. If we are strictly talking a prospect, this is not a move you make during the season unless the Caps fall apart and go into complete rebuild mode. Regardless of what anyone thinks about Holtby, whether you are a staunch supporter or one of those people who feels the need to tweet me every time a goal is scored as if you have somehow proven your point despite neglecting the fact that I have zero say in what this team does or thinks about its goaltenders, they are not going to trade him during the season. They are not going to make Ilya Samsonov, a goalie whose career-high games played is 37, the No. 1 in November and they are not going to get rid of a goalie who rebounded from the worst stretch of his career to play lights out in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup unless he completely falls apart in which case his value would plummet.

It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen.

I don’t know how else to explain this and add in the fact that you would consider packaging Orlov in the deal? Put yourself in MacLellan’s shoes. How do you trade the starting goalie and a top-four defenseman for a prospect and go to your team and say “we are all-in on the Stanley Cup this year, I still believe in you”? You can’t.

So this would not happen in the regular season. What about after the season? This is the last year of Holtby’s contract. Perhaps there would be a team out there willing to cough up an asset to acquire his rights, but it would not be a for a top-four defenseman. We are talking like a mid-round draft pick.

There are no possible targets to consider because this scenario is unrealistic.

Mike L. writes: Can you ask Garny if he wants to come over with some of the boys and yourself for a lobstah bake. Ok you can bring Rob.

That sounds like a wicked rippah. I can stop by Dunks, maybe pick up som grindahs and tonic. As long as there’s no johnnies, I’ll bang a uey and meet you in the pahlah.

FYI, my dad grew up in Rhode Island and most of his family still lives in New England. I try not to talk football with any of them...ever.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want answered in the next mailbag, send it to or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.