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 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.

Justin Cade writes: Do you see any possible scenario where Braden Holtby plays himself out of a potential big-money deal and comes back to the Caps next season?

You have to remember that there are two sides to this, the team and the player.

Do I think Holtby is going to get $10 million per year? No, probably not. Sergei Bobrovsky’s deal already looks suspect and I think Holtby’s current season is going to affect his next offer. I think the Caps would love to have Holtby back as a tandem with Ilya Samsonov and a tough season for him makes this more realistic if still unlikely.

The problem is, explain to me why this works for Holtby?

Yes, he likes it in Washington, but I would not project him to be the No. 1 heading into next season, that affects what he would be worth to the Caps and the team can’t offer him any protection from the Seattle expansion draft because it would have to come at Samsonov’s expense.

 

Look at some of the goalie tandems across the league. I guarantee you there is a team out there that would be willing to bring in Holtby as a No. 1 and pay him like one. Staying with the Caps would mean a reduced role as early as next season and being a downright backup sooner rather than later. I don’t think he is ready to accept that kind of a role knowing that he likes to play as much as possible and knowing there would be other teams willing to offer him a bigger role.

This is supposed to be his last big deal. Why would he accept a deal to be a backup because that's essentially what he would be in Washington.

Matt Silberman writes: Do goalies treat each other as teammates or competition? In a situation like the Caps have this year with Braden Holtby’s expiring contract, how does that play into his relationship with Ilya Samsonov?

I have always been fascinated by this dynamic. Goalies are teammates but also competing with each other for more playing time. Sometimes there is a clear No. 1 and a backup and other times, like with the Caps this season, there is an incumbent and a future starter.

Goalies seem to handle this relationship a lot better than say, NFL quarterbacks. Compare Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to Holtby’s reaction when Philipp Grubauer was named the playoff starter in 2018.

I would expect more controversies, but really it seems most goalies treat each other as teammates and understand why one goalie is starting over the other. In terms of the Caps specifically, a lot of players credit Holtby with helping to mentor Samsonov so they seem to be handling what could be an awkward relationship just fine.

Justin Cade writes: Assuming Holtby takes the money and walks in the offseason, who do you see as Samsonov’s backup in 2020-21?

Not Pheonix Copley or Vitek Vanecek. That’s not a knock on them, the fact is, even if you are sold on Samsonov, it is still a risk turning the crease over to a goalie who will likely only have 30-40 games of NHL experience under his belt. I think the team will want someone a bit more established than that to come in and go with more of a goalie tandem than a No. 1, No. 2. So that means looking at free agents.

Looking at some of the potential free agents, I would think Jaroslav Halak would be a perfect fit in terms of cost and being the exact kind of player they would be looking for. Some other potential names: Jimmy Howard, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin, Brian Elliott.

Hana H. writes: For the All-Star Game / Weekend, do the players have to take care of their own bags, equipment, etc?

I spoke with Holtby about this. In terms of equipment, the players are responsible for getting their equipment to the game. I am sure they don’t have to pay for it themselves, but they have to bring their equipment with them when they fly to wherever the game is being held.

 

Jennifer McCall writes: Do you think 700+ goals is an achievable goal for our Captain this season? If so, what will his final tally for this season?

Ovechkin is only 16 goals away from 700 for his career with 36 games left to play (the team has 37, but remember Ovechkin will have to sit out a game as a suspension for skipping the All-Star Game).

I’m going to be honest, I thought Ovechkin was starting to show his age with only four goals since the start of December...until Tuesday. The shot he unleashed to beat Craig Anderson was absolutely filthy.

Yes, Ovechkin absolutely can (and I believe will) reach 700 this season.

John Fleming writes: If this season really is the last season of the current Cup "window," when does the next window open? When will the Ilya Samsonov, Connor McMichael and Alex Alexeyev lead Caps to contend for real? And could Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom still be on the team by then?

This is really hard to project. I believe they have their starting goalie in Samsonov and the team is very high on Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. We are one or two years away from a Jakub Vrana, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson top line which is good to build around. After that, there are a lot of question marks.

I think there is enough talent in the organization to bridge the gap for a few years once the Ovechkin era truly begins to decline, but after that it depends on just how good the prospects are.

I like Connor McMichael a lot, but there are a lot of mixed opinions on him. I see him as a top-six center, but I have heard some who are of the opinion that he is a bottom-six winger. Aliaksei Protas is catching everyone off guard and is far exceeding expectations, but doing that in the WHL and the NHL are two different things. What is his ceiling? I have not read many experts who see both Alexeyev or Fehervary as top pair defensemen.

The problem for me is that, yes the Caps could find a steal here and there, the team seems to draft fairly well and there could be some players who beat out all the expectations of the experts, but do you honestly believe all the team’s prospects are bonafide NHLers who will prove all the experts wrong? I don’t. There are going to be some busts in the mix.

After years of mid to late-round draft picks as well as trading a lot of picks away for championship runs, that is eventually going to catch up with the team. When Ovechkin begins to decline the team is going to find that it has a lot of young depth players, but may lack superstar talent. The most likely to acquire that is in the lottery which you get into by missing the playoffs.

 

Justin Cade writes: Who among the young Caps do you see as the next face of the franchise? Do you see Jakub Vrána sticking around for years to come?

Wilson and Alexeyev. I would be stunned if Wilson is not the next captain of the team. He is well-spoken, the fans already love him and he is a top-line player. Vrana and Kuznetsov are more skilled, but both are a little too goofy to really carry the mantle of “face of the franchise.”

It is impossible to talk to Alexeyev and not come away impressed. The combination of confidence, swagger and maturity he possesses makes him an incredible quote. He is always smiling and has an infectious personality. If he is a top-four defenseman like he is projected to be, he is someone you are going to be seeing a lot of.

Micah Reed writes: Do you think the NHL would ever consider a "backcourt violation" type rule to implement during 3v3? For instance: If a team carries the puck into their offensive zone, they are not allowed to carry it back across center ice. They could maintain possession in between the blue line and center, but if they backtrack farther than that, it results in a faceoff in their D-zone on the dot of the opposition choosing.

I do not get the sense there is much appetite to mess with the 3-on-3.

Honestly, I would not change a thing about it other than to make it 10 minutes long instead of five minutes. Otherwise, don’t touch it. It’s perfect the way it is.

John Massey writes: Are there any Capitals players that do not have the face/eye guard/mask? Washington or Hershey? I thought it was required, but noticed Jamie Benn and Ryan O'Reily (STL) do not have one. I also noticed a game last week when a Caps player broke a stick and equipment manager Brock Myles reached out to try to give it to the player on the ice. What's the rule on how a player can get a new stick? Can a player carry two and give one away? Throw it to them?

Beginning in 2013-14, all players with fewer than 25 gams of NHL experience were required to wear a visor. Every player with more experience at that point is “grandfathered in” and has the option of not wearing a visor. All other players must wear one including all new players so this will eventually be phased out altogether. Until then, there are a handful of holdouts. There are no Caps players who currently do not wear a visor and the AHL made visors mandatory back in 2006.

The last Caps player I can recall who did not have a visor was Daniel Winnik, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Rule 10.3 deals with broken sticks. Players are allowed to receive a new stick from the bench or by a teammate on the ice, but sticks cannot be thrown slid or shot to a teammate or it is a penalty.

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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