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.
Larry T. writes: I know it's still early but Nick Jensen seems to be struggling in the Caps' system since they traded for him last season. How much longer do you think they will stick with him before trying someone like Christian Djoos - who is a left shot but was used on the right side during the Cup run?
They are going to stick with Jensen for at least as long as they can’t afford to try anyone else.
I don’t think Jensen is bad, but I am starting to believe that he may just be a bottom-pair defenseman in this defense. The issue with that is you already have a high-end bottom pair right defenseman in Radko Gudas. You need a top-four guy for that second pair, but there are no clear replacements within the organization.
Wait, what about Djoos, Alex Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, or even Lucas Johansen? All of those guys are left shots.
Yes, Djoos was playing on the right when he in the lineup alongside Brooks Orpik, but he did it in a third-pair role. Last year teams exploited him for his size. While I do see him as an NHL caliber player, I also see him as a bottom-pair player and this team has two bottom pair righties. I don’t think taking Djoos out of the minors and throwing him into the top four on his offside is a recipe for success.
So what do the Caps do? Good question. They’re winning for now so it’s not pressing. I would keep Jensen in on the second pair and hope he continues adjusting to the system and that he soon becomes more comfortable with it. Otherwise, try Gudas. I don’t think having him on the second pair is a great strategy either but I am not sure they have a choice if Jensen doesn’t progress.
Benjamin C. writes: Richard Panik did absolutely nothing the first 10 games and now he’s injured long term. Any chance we trade him or give him another chance? I know he’s new and signed for four years but yikes.
Eight games. He has played eight games.
There is no way the team has considered trading him away nor should they. That would be a wild overreaction.
Maybe he stinks, maybe he can be great. I don't know and the reason I don't know is because I have seen him play...wait for it...eight games.
Let’s everybody chill.
Darren L. writes: I haven’t read anything lately about Nicklas Backstrom’s contract status. Do you think the team is just being patient and might work something out during the season?
The Backstrom situation is made complicated by Braden Holtby. I don't think the team can afford both players so if you sign one that's a pretty clear indication the other is on his way out. I have been very open about my prediction that this season will be Holtby’s last in Washington and I believe Backstrom will retire a Cap.
What happens if the Backstrom contract gets announced midseason? What does that do to Holtby’s mentality for the rest of the season?
For a while, I thought Backstrom getting re-signed midseason was a real possibility, but the more I think about it, the more I think they will wait for fear of completely throwing Holtby off his game with the realization that his time as Cap is all but over.
@sports_god1 on Twitter writes: Looking ahead, how would you project the Caps defense a year or two down the line with the expansion draft?
As of now, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny and Jensen are the four players signed past the 2020-21 season. Djoos, Jonas Siegenthaler and Tyler Lewington will be restricted free agents by the end of this season as will some other defensemen in Hershey, but none worth discussing in terms of what may happen with the Seattle draft.
It is my understanding that Fehervary and Alexeyev will not have to be protected in the expansion draft as they will be considered second-year players. I have not gotten that confirmed, but I am pretty sure that is the case.
At this point, I have to believe the team is heading for a divorce with Djoos after he was sent off to Hershey. I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine he’s thrilled about being there are two years in the NHL. I assume Siegenthaler will be re-signed. I don’t know about Lewington, but it doesn’t really matter as he would not be protected anyway.
This is a disclaimer I have to put out there when discussing anything related to the expansion draft so bear with me: a no-movement clause and a no-trade clause are two different things. Only players with no-movement clauses have to be protected. Nobody on the Caps has a no-movement clause so the team will not be forced to protect anyone.
I assume the Caps will elect to protect seven forwards and three defensemen as opposed to just eight skaters so let’s assume Washington will only be able to protect three defensemen out of Kempny, Carlson, Orlov, Jensen and Siegenthaler, plus whoever is playing right defense on the second or third pair at that point.
Carlson will obviously be one, but I am not sure who the second and third will be. There is a lot of hockey between now and then so this is all fluid.
I think a lot of the criticism of Orlov is overblown. He’s a top-four defenseman and his contract is fair value. Anyone who doesn’t think so, go back and rewatch this defense before Kempny came back. There were only two top-four defensemen in the lineup and Orlov was clearly one of them.
Having said that, it is very plausible that the Caps could elect to expose Orlov to Seattle in 2021. Kempny is only one year older and his cap hit is less than half of Orlov’s, plus Alexeyev, Fehervary and Siegenthaler are all left-shots, like Orlov. There’s a log jam at that position so the team is going to have to leave someone significant exposed such as Orlov, Kempny or Siegenthaler. It all just depends on how each player looks between now and then.
If you want to twist my arm for what the Caps’ defensive lineup will look like after Seattle, I’ll say Orlov is left exposed and is ultimately taken and the top six heading into that season looks like this:
Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.
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