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Caps reportedly have Johansson 'on their radar.' Does it make sense and can they make it work?

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Caps reportedly have Johansson 'on their radar.' Does it make sense and can they make it work?

The Boston Bruins’ quest for the Stanley Cup is led by its star players like Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. No team, however, can go deep in the playoffs without help from its depth forwards and perhaps no one in that role has been more impressive this postseason than former Capital Marcus Johansson.

Johansson was acquired by Boston at the trade deadline and has had four goals and seven assists in 19 playoff games. Beyond the stats, he has looked fantastic on the ice with some slick stick work and great passing to go with his speed. He was named the second star of the game in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final despite not recording a point and has proven to be a major threat every time he is on the ice.

Johansson’s play is important not just because he has helped his team come within two wins of the Stanley Cup, but also because he is about to become an unrestricted free agent and is playing for his next deal. This series provides the biggest stage for him to showcase his talents and teams are reportedly taking notice, including Washington.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic wrote Monday, “Speaking of the Caps, my sense is that they’ve got Johansson on their radar if he’s not priced himself out of their orbit.”

For many Caps fans, this is welcome news. Johansson was a well-liked player during his time in Washington and you can’t help but feel for him after watching him get traded away the season before Washington won the Cup. That stinks for a player who was a big part of the team for so long.

Beyond the nostalgic point of view, however, you have to ask if a Johansson reunion would make sense.

Brett Connolly, Carl Hagelin and Devante Smith-Pelly could all be on their way out of Washington as UFAs while Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitrij Jaskin and Chandler Stephenson are RFAs. The Caps will not lose all of those players, but the tight salary cap situation dictates that it will lose some if not most. Considering the bottom-six was held to only five goals in the team’s first round series against Carolina and two of those goals came from Connolly, yes, depth scoring is going to be a major area of need this offseason. If you believe like I do that T.J. Oshie would benefit from a move to the third line, Johansson seems like an ideal fit as a middle-six player who could potentially play on the second or third line.

Now here comes the tricky part. Can general manager Brian MacLellan make it work?

Much has been written already about Washington’s salary cap situation, but here’s a summary: It’s not great.

With the salary cap projected to be $83 million next season, the Caps are about $10 million under the cap with eight forwards, six defensemen and two goalies under contract. A team will ideally have 13 forwards and seven defensemen.

The bottom line is that Washington has a lot of holes to fill and not a lot of money to do it with. Now let’s look at what Johansson might cost.

Hockey-Graphs released a free agent contract projection in May which gives Johansson a four-year deal with a cap hit of $4.661 million per year. This is an estimate and, as it came out in mid-May, Johansson’s price tag may well have gone up. But let’s use this as a starting point for right now.

Using CapFriendly’s armchair GM tool, adding Johansson to the roster with a $4.661 million cap hit leaves the Caps with about $5.4 million in cap space with only nine forwards and six defensemen. Considering the team will still need to sign Jakub Vrana and he will take up $3 to 4 million of that just on a bridge deal, that will not be enough money to fill out the rest of the roster. So the first thing to note is that the addition of Johansson would force the Caps to move salary.

The player on everyone’s mind when it comes to a possible trade this offseason is Matt Niskanen. Let’s forget about the possible return of a Niskanen trade for now and just take his cap hit off the books. That gives Washington just over $11 million in space to use.

The next step is to re-sign Vrana and RFA defenseman Christian Djoos, both of whom look like locks to return. As we used the Hockey-Graphs projection as the model for Johansson, let’s use it again for Vrana and Djoos. That gives Vrana a two-year deal with a cap hit of $3,157,816 and Djoos a two-year deal at $966,531.

The Caps are left with about $7 million to sign three forwards and a defenseman. That is certainly doable considering the caliber of player the team will be looking for at that point.

As you can see, however, the margins are razor thin for Washington and that makes this scenario wholly unlikely.

The cap hit of Johansson’s current contract is $4,583,333 so the projection actually predicts his next deal will have a lower cap hit. Considering how he has played this postseason and that he is only 28, that is not going to happen. If there is any sort of bidding war among other teams, Johansson will very quickly price himself out of the range the Caps can afford to pay him. This projection also has Vrana lower than I would predict as I think he will get closer to $4 million than $3 million. Just that little extra money for Vrana could be enough to tip the scales and force the Caps out of a possible Johansson signing.

The point is that yes, it makes sense that Washington would have interest in Johansson. He is exactly the type of player the team needs. Yes, signing him would not be impossible if MacLellan is willing to move salary to do so. But the reality is a Johansson reunion remains unlikely. To afford him would almost certainly mean losing Connolly, Hagelin, Burakovsky and Niskanen (likely via trade) and even then, Johansson’s excellent postseason performance should earn him more than the team can afford to spend considering how many other players the team will need to sign to fill out the roster.

There is room under the cap for Washington to add a middle-six forward, but perhaps not one who is showcasing just how good he is in the Stanley Cup Final.


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3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of last season’s playoff, the Capitals dominant forecheck suffocated the Carolina Hurricanes for much of the game on Friday in a 3-2 preseason win. The game was the final preseason game in Washington as the Caps’ three remaining contests all will come on the road.

Here are three players who impressed in the home preseason finale.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov faced only 15 shots from a clearly outmatched Hurricanes roster, but he looked impressive in the few times he was tested. The save of the night came in the second period when he denied Julien Gauthier on a breakaway.

Gauthier attempted the old Peter Forsberg move and skated to his right while trying to craftily tuck the puck in to the left. Samsonov slid with Gauthier, but stuck out his stick to deny the shot and make the tremendous save.

Samsonov continued to demonstrate his comfort playing the puck with his stick as he also denied a scoring opportunity with a well-timed poke check and was always quick to play the puck when it came behind the goal line.

One area in which he was not comfortable was the glove. There were multiple occasions in which he was able to get a glove on the puck, but was not able to catch it creating dangerous opportunities for Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes managed only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, but managed some more pressure in the third. The shutout bid was ended in the third when Brock McGinn followed up his own rebound to score Carolina’s first goal of the game. The second goal came on a fluky bounce off the backboards that Janne Kuokkanen was able to whack behind Samsonov before he could get a glove to it.

While Todd Reirden likely hoped Samsonov would be more tested than he was, he was up to the task with 13 saves.

Brian Pinho

The Caps recorded three goals on the night and Pinho had two of them.  In the first period, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby created a turnover on the forecheck. Feeling the pressure, Fredrik Claesson tried a hopeful clear that was cut off at the blue line by Pinho who skated in and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of goalie Anton Forsberg. He scored again in the third period on the power play when his shot deflected off of Jake Bean and took a favorable bounce up before dropping into the net.

Pinho led the Capitals with five points in three games at the 2019 Prospect Showcase, but at 24 years old, he would be expected to play well. He faced slightly better competition on Saturday and still was able to produce with two goals on the night.

Richard Panik

One of the newest Caps, Panik has looked extremely comfortable in both of his preseason games thus far. He was again strong on the penalty kill where he logged 1:35 of ice time. He also looked strong offensively.

Panik played very heavy below the goal line which suits the Caps’ offensive cycle the team likes to utilize. He also showed good vision as, in the third period, he was able to fight off a check and literally kicked the puck out to a wide-open Tavis Boyd in the slot.

With Panik and Carl Hagelin together, the Caps should have a much more formidable penalty kill this season.


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How to watch: Capitals vs. Hurricanes preseason Game 3

How to watch: Capitals vs. Hurricanes preseason Game 3

The Washington Capitals remain undefeated in preseason play, thanks to Tom Wilson's clutch overtime goal and a Nicklas Backstrom bouncing saucer-pass-turned-shot

Saturday night, the Caps will get their first crack at the Carolina Hurricanes, who knocked them out in the first round of the playoffs last season. This game is also the first one that comes after the Caps whittled their roster down after the first round of cuts, which included Caps 2019 draft picks Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas.

The Caps will face the Hurricanes in the regular season on October 5 at Capital One Arena in their home opener.


What: Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Saturday, September, 21, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Hurricanes preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Hurricanes preseason game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7