Capitals

Capitals

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 CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

This is a very timely question. NBC Sports will be having a “free agent bracket” with 16 players we think could be potential fits for the Caps. We will pit two players against one another and have fans vote on who would make the most sense and see who you decide the top free agent is. This will start next week so be on the lookout.

I will not go over all 16 players we came up with, but here is a quick overview of what we were thinking in terms of need and a few players to think about. The top needs for the Caps will be depth offense and depth defense. On offense, if you believe like I do that T.J. Oshie could move to the third line, then we are talking a middle-six forward such as Marcus Johansson or Joonas Donskoi, and then primarily fourth liners such as Brian Boyle or Noel Acciari. On defense the Caps need a No. 6/7, basically a Brooks Orpik replacement if Orpik does not return. Ben Lovejoy is a name that pops out right away as does the overtime hero of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final for St. Louis, Carl Gunnarsson.

 

For the rest, you will just have to wait for the bracket to come out.

Nathan S. writes: Do you think Braden Holtby is trending downward in his career or do you see him being back in the Vezina conversation like he was a few years back? His numbers as you know were nothing special this past year although he played well in many games. Also seems like Caps won a lot of 5-4 games so even in wins he was giving up more goals than in prior years. 

Actually, Holtby’s numbers were better last year than the year prior (2.99 GAA and .907 save percentage in 2017-18, 2.82 GAA and .911 save percentage in 2018-19) when Phillip Grubauer supplanted him as the starter by season’s end. It just feels like this season was worse because he did not cap it off with a run to the Stanley Cup. The fact that we have seen two straight seasons of play below the standard we have come to expect from him, however, is a definite concern.

I admit I am torn on how best to handle Holtby next season. He definitely plays better in the regular season when he gets into as many games as possible. He won the Cup, however, playing in fewer regular season games than in any of the three seasons prior. This season seems to clearly indicate that goalies are better prepared for the playoffs if they have more rest.

To answer your question then, I would say no and yes. Do I think Holtby will go back to being the 65+ game goalie with a GAA of less than 2.25 and a save percentage over .920? Probably not. But I do believe if the Caps manage his playing time, he will absolutely deliver in the payoffs.

Jason T. writes: How could adding the Seattle team impact the Caps next season?

The Seattle expansion draft will take place in June 2021 so we are still two years out, but all personnel and contract decisions from now until the draft is over will be made with Seattle in mind. When negotiating contracts, general manager Brian MacLellan has to decide if any player he wants to offer term to is worth protecting from the expansion draft or can be exposed. From the players’ perspective, you have to think anyone who wants to stay in Washington long-term will ask for a no-movement clause to avoid getting plucked by Seattle.

Want to re-sign Brett Connolly? OK, but what if he asks for a no-movement clause? Want to sign Marcus Johansson? OK, but is it worth it if you have to protect him in the expansion draft? Those are the kind of questions MacLellan now has to answer.

First, just to clarify, any player with a no-trade clause is still eligible to be picked up by Seattle in the draft. If a player has a no-movement clause, however, the team is required to protect him. As of now, the Caps do not have a single player with a no-movement clause. This is just not something the team seems to give.

 

If you want one big name to think about when it comes to expansion, it’s Braden Holtby.

Goalie Ilya Samsonov is considered Washington’s top prospect and the future starter in net. Will he be ready to take over by 2021? Considering he has not yet played in an NHL game, it is hard to tell. The problem is that the Caps must make a decision on Holtby by 2020 since that is when his current contract expires.

If you are Holtby, why would you commit to Washington long-term knowing you could get plucked by Seattle the next year? It would not be a surprise if he asked for a no-movement clause in talks with the Caps or get some sort of assurance that the team will not expose him. Teams can only protect one goalie, however, so if you are the Caps why would you give a no-movement clause to Holtby knowing it would mean having to expose Samsonov? Seattle adds a very important wrinkle to whatever extension talks the team may have with its top netminder this summer and Washington may find itself in a similar position to what the Pittsburgh Penguins faced with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray under contract during the Vegas expansion draft.

Jimmy H. writes: Everyone seems to be chirping over this offseason and free agency and what not but if you look to the next offseason it seems like it will have more of a critical impact then this one. What do you think?

Given the age of Washington’s core, the championship window is essentially open on a yearly basis. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen are all over 30 years old. Braden Holtby will hit 30 in September and John Carlson will follow him in January. We just do not know when the play of these players will begin to drop off. Since we do not know how much longer the window is going to be open, that makes this offseason absolutely critical. MacLellan has to add the right pieces to the roster to make sure it can stay competitive for the Cup. That will be extremely difficult given the team’s cap constraints. On top of that, Nicklas Backstrom and Holtby can sign extensions as early as July 1. So there’s a lot to do.

I certainly see your point, however. In 2020, Backstrom and Hotlby’s contacts actually expire. At that point, MacLellan must make a decision in terms of this team’s future in goal. Does he go with the unproven (and cheaper) Samsonov or stick with the veteran (and more expensive) Holtby? Oh, and by the way, Ovechkin’s contract expires in 2021 so he will be eligible to talk extension next summer.

 

And looming over all of this will be Seattle who will sit just a year away from being able to pluck a player off Washington’s roster.

The 2019 offseason has far more pieces MacLellan has to sort out, but the decisions on bigger names will come in 2020.

I reached out to Joe and asked him about this. Besides Joe B. and Joe-Joe which you hear Craig Laughlin say on the broadcast, there was nothing else he could think of. He did say perhaps Laughlin had a few others, but those probably would not be safe for print.

Thanks for all of your questions!. 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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