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 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.
David Pittman writes: Do you think the Caps will make any trades at the deadline?
Mark Kinnane writes: Do you think the caps need to make any more serious trades given that we are already stretched by the salary cap and playing like cup contenders?
Yes, I think the Caps need to make a trade. They have a hole in the top four on the right side on defense which is a significant enough position that I have my doubts they can go all the way without addressing this. The problem is they have no cap room to make a trade.
Teams bank cap space throughout the season which allows them the room to add players they otherwise would not have been able to afford under the cap. Washington has banked virtually no space to this point and that's why I expect them to carry just six defensemen for the foreseeable future in a despite the obvious issues that can cause because the team desperately needs the cap space.
Will that be enough to add a big-name player? Probably not. If Brian MacLellan is not willing to trade away a player as part of a deal in order to free up space, then we are probably looking at him going the Michal Kempny route meaning trying to bring in a cheap right defensemen who can't gain traction on his own team, but who the scouts are very high on and hope he turns into a diamond in the rough. That sounds great, but those players are really hard to find. Kempny is more the exception, not the norm.
Kevin Jensen writes: Is Nicklas Backstrom's decision to represent himself in contract negotiations a twist on providing a hometown discount? By not needing to include a percent given to an agent, his take-home amount would be the same for less.
Well, that's an interesting way of looking at it.
If you're asking if that's why Backstrom has elected to represent himself, the answer is no. As he told reporters in California, he knows he wants to stay with the Capitals. The prospect of negotiating with one team rather than 31 is much less daunting and he wanted to do this himself.
Backstrom also said he would have liked to have the deal done before the season. I don't know when exactly Backstrom moved on from long-time agent Marc Levine, but I would not be surprised if the fact that he came into this season without a new contract already in hand had something to do with him deciding to represent himself.
Does the fact that he won't have to pay lead to a bigger hometown discount for Backstrom? I doubt it.
Backstrom has laid his cards on the table here. He wants to be back and is firm enough in that desire that he will represent himself. On the other hand, his $6.7 million cap hit was already a steal. Backstrom would be well within his rights to ask for a significant raise. Plus, no agent means no buffer. MacLellan will have to deal directly with Backstrom and tell him why he's not worth what he's asking for.
I don't see that happening.
Backstrom wants to be back so I don't think he will want to break the bank as much as he could and I don't think the Caps are going to nickel and dime him either.
Ashley Spencer writes: What do you think will be the Caps’ largest hurdle/challenge in the next 11 games?
I believe you are referring to the fact that there are 11 games against Metropolitan Division teams between now and the All-Star break. Those games will include two more games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, two games against the New York Islanders, three games against the New Jersey Devils and three games against the Carolina Hurricanes. In addition, the Caps will also play the Boston Bruins again and the Tampa Bay Lightning twice.
To me, it's not one specific team that will be a challenge, it is playing the same teams over and over again.
For much of the regular season, you play a team once and you forget about it and move on. It is harder to play the same teams repeatedly because they scout you better, they know you better, the games become more contentious.
The Caps are more skilled than most teams in the NHL. On some nights, that's enough to win. The more a team knows you, the more their coaches can gameplan to beat you and the tougher those games become. We see that in the playoffs every year.
Robert Fletcher writes: The Caps are having a fantastic year! With Nicklas Backstrom back where do you put their Stanley Cup win odds at for this season?
High. Washington is certainly among the favorites. I would put the Caps with the Bruins, Blues and Avalanche as the top four contenders this season. Having said that, the defense worries me as I noted above. I am not sure they can go all the way without finding a top-four right defenseman. to play on the second pair
One thing to keep in mind: If the Caps win the division, who gets the wild card? Teams like Tampa Bay, Toronto and Pittsburgh are all struggling more than many anticipated, but all remain in the hunt. If their slow starts means they fall to the wild card any of these teams would be a tough draw for a first-round matchup.
Alex G. writes: How do you think Garnet Hathaway's game has changed since he joined the team? Though I never really saw him play before he came to DC, 2 goals, both 5v5, in one game (particularly against a team like San Jose) seems pretty impressive for a fourth-line forward (granted, he did have really good set-ups on both goals).
Hathaway really hasn't changed his game. This is exactly what MacLellan hoped he was getting when he signed him in the offseason; a physical, grinding fourth-line player with enough skill to produce when given the opportunity.
Hathaway is getting about a minute more of ice time per game than last year, but his ice time is about on par with what he got in 2017-18. He is on pace for about 10 goals which would be just shy of his career-high of 11. He is on pace for about 24 points which would be a career-high, but otherwise, his numbers all seem pretty much consistent for him.
The reason why you are seeing such an impact from him is because you are seeing his entire line have an impact on the game which a lot of teams do not get from their fourth line.
Chris Couch writes: Does Holtby sit-in on the penalty kill meetings? If not, should he?
I asked Holtby this and he told me yes, he does, in fact, sit in on penalty kill meetings. He said that everyone actually sits in on those meetings which makes sense when you think about it because you never know what could happen and who may be needed to step in and play on the PK. Everyone needs to be ready for that situation.
Holtby also said that he has to sit in on every meeting except the power play. There's not much he needs to know about that.
Joe writes: Been seeing a lot of buzz recently about Joe Snively and how well he's doing with Hershey. Do you see him getting a call up at all this year, especially now that Chandler Stephenson is in Vegas rather than Hershey?
Snively has certainly been hot lately and has seven goals and 10 points on the season. Will he got a call-up? I doubt it.
Snively's cap hit is $925,000 which is the maximum for an entry-level contract. Beck Malenstyn, by contrast, has a cap hit of $736,666. I don't think Washington has the cap flexibility to just call up a guy like Snively as a reward unless it is really, really needed and the team was in a position to make the required roster moves to free up enough cap space.
Maryanne McCormick writes: How much weight do the guys drop through sweating in a typical game?
I don't know about skaters, but goalies with their heavy pads are known to lose quite a bit of weight over the course of a game. Holtby has had issues with hydration in the past so he is very aware of how much liquid he drinks and how much weight he loses. He can lose six to eight pounds just over the course of a practice. For a game, he can lose 10 to 15 pounds and generally drinks 15 to 16 liters of liquids.
The big soda bottles at the grocery store are two liters. Holtby basically drinks eight of those, though I am sure he's not drinking soda.
Thanks for all your questions! 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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