Caps mailbag: Who is No. 1 goalie? Who is trade candidate? 


With the offseason in a bit of a lull, Capitals writer Andrew Gillis took a handful of questions on Twitter from fans who are curious about the offseason.

Thanks to all those who submitted questions! Let’s get to it:

Questions: Who do you think GMBM brings in to be #1 Goalie? Kuemper? Husso? Other?

What are the chances of pulling in Jack Campbell?

Let’s combine the goalie questions.

I’m going to side with “other” on this one. The reasoning here is that I think it’s going to be tough business to get into the free-agent market when there isn’t exactly a plethora of available netminders ready to take on a No. 1/1A role for an organization. I think there are higher leverage swings that the Capitals can take without overpaying a free agent goalie and locking themselves into one netminder for the long-term. 

With regard to Jack Campbell, it would probably be a bit of a surprise if he’s brought in.

Semyon Varlamov in New York has a cap hit of $5 million with a year left on the deal and might be a candidate to be moved if the Islanders need to find some cap space. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is another name I’d monitor, as he’s got one year left on a $5.8 million deal. 

The question in my mind not only comes down to the skill of the goalie, but whether the organization wants to commit ~$6 million to a free agent goalie for three to four years, or give up an asset(s) to commit $5 million to a goalie for just one year. 


Question: Anyone in system that can legit claim to be a replacement for Ovie, Wilson, Backstrom or Oshie? If not, what's future look like when they're gone, more drafting or F/A signings?

No. That’s the downside to having a successful rebuild followed by a period of all-in trade deadlines and offseasons. It’s a deal that every team in sports would take, but once those star players go away, it’s over. 

I really like some of the young pieces they’ve got in the organization like Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and Martin Fehervary, and I think they can all be very good NHLers, but are those franchise players you center a Cup team around? I don’t think so. Look at the teams in the Cup Final and at the stars that got them there: Nathan MacKinnon, Steven Stamkos, Cale Makar, etc. Those guys don’t grow on trees and are usually found at the top of the NHL Draft.

Questions: 1. How do you think Alexeyev/LuJo play into the Caps plans this upcoming season? 2: How active are the Caps expected to be in Free Agency?

I think Alex Alexeyev and Lucas Johansen, pending any movement on the left side of the defense this offseason, will be battling for one spot on the blue line and I’d expect at least one of them to play every night. If the Capitals go young and are impressed enough with both of them? Then I would expect both on the roster.

As for free agency, that’s hard to answer at the moment. This offseason strikes me as one where general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t sit quietly, but it’s hard to say right now without knowing what their cap situation looks like because of health concerns. I think they’re going to be wildly busy — but at the NHL Draft.

Question: After goaltending, what need do you think the Caps will try to address?

Getting younger at the forward position. 

The Capitals lost to the Panthers not because of their goaltending, but because they didn’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Panthers. Frankly, they played how they needed both defensively and in net. The offense let them down.

Chalk the loss up to speed, younger legs, Tom Wilson’s injury, general talent or whatever you wish, but the Capitals scored eight goals in the final three games (two of which went to overtime). That’s not good enough in the playoffs, especially considering that they had a lead, sometimes a decisive one, in those games. 

How the change happens remains unknown, but the forward unit has to add some spry legs that can score this summer.


Question: There's lots of "The Caps need to make a big move" sentiment that is then followed by a list of players that are untouchable and suggests trading Eller & Sheary and then not-signing Schultz as said "big moves". If the Caps do make a true, "big move" who off the roster is dealt?

This is an excellent question/point, and one that I’ve agreed with for a while. It’s indeed an idea that sounds a lot better in theory. 

Eller is my answer for the likeliest candidate to move, but for the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to say Dmitry Orlov. I just don’t think the guys at the forward position you theoretically could move, that’d fall under the “big move” category, would be worth it or have any takers.

The Capitals like Fehervary as a top pair defender on the left side and have Alexeyev/Johansen coming up the ranks, figuring to compete for a spot on the NHL roster soon. With veterans Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the right side, getting younger is a bit easier.

I think the underrated storyline of the offseason is that Orlov, Jensen, van Riemsdyk, Alexeyev and Fehervary will need new contracts next summer. The Capitals could look at Orlov’s situation and might not be willing to pay up next summer to a second-pair defender who will then be 32 years old. Washington has nine NHL forwards under contract for the 23-24 season at a combined $46,079,999 cap hit. That’s before any moves this offseason.

With Orlov coming off a career year, I think you’d get a nice return both in the way of picks, prospects or roster players, or a mix of all three. It would hurt to move the longtime Capital, but considering he’ll be up for a more expensive deal in a year where there’s so much potential turnover, there’s an argument to be made that moving on from Orlov to make the organization younger might make sense if the return is good enough. 

I’ve got a hunch (solely a hunch) that the Capitals have a big move or two waiting for us this offseason. 

Question: The team clearly needs to get younger and faster to closer align to the game being played by the conference finals contenders this year. Is it even possible to get younger with their unwillingness to trade key vets? Or are we stuck until the end of Ovi era?

It is possible, yes, because I think you’re going to see Alexeyev, Johansen, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Joe Snively and Aliaksei Protas (just to name a few) get a chance at cracking the NHL roster in September. 

Unless they hit some home runs in the middle/late rounds of the draft — like, 500-foot home runs — this team’s core is what it is at the moment. Not much changing, but you can work around the edges to make the team younger, quicker and more skilled. No one said it’ll be easy, though. Once this team’s stars either retire or fall off with quality in play, the Ovechkin-Era of the Capitals is likely kaput. 


Question: John Gibson, yes or no?

Well, yes. The question is if the juice is worth the squeeze and if he's even on the market. But let's say he is, just for kicks and giggles.

He’s soon to be 29 with five years left on a deal that’ll pay him $6.4 million per year. A goalie like that isn’t going to come cheap. In this regard, you’re paying for the long-term stability and cost-control. 

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A trade for Gibson would be a tricky one to navigate. If I was running the Ducks, I'd be asking about some of the Capitals top picks (20th overall, plus futures) and top young players (McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre, Fehervary, etc) right out of the gate. A lot to ask for? Yeah. But you’re selling a No. 1 goaltender.

If I was running the Capitals, I point to his mediocre last three seasons (.904, .903, .904 save percentages) and hold my breath that he can return to the ~.915/.920 goalie that he was a few years ago. 

Gibson would look mighty good in a Capitals sweater, but it’d have to be the right move for the team to pull that trigger. Would Caps fans love him in D.C.? Absolutely. That shine wears off quicker if he costs you a few prized prospects, though.