It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!
Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!
Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!
Check out today’s matchup:
Region: Fourth line forwards
Brian Boyle vs. Marcus Kruger
Brian Boyle (34 years old): 73 games played with the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators, 18 goals, 6 assists, 24 points, 13:26 TOI
Playoffs: 3 games played with the Nashville Predators, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, 12:40 TOI
Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI
Hockey-Graph contract projections
Brian Boyle: 1 year, $1,278,991 cap hit
Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit
The case for Brian Boyle
An argument could be made Boyle would have been a good deadline pickup for the Capitals this year. He had 18 goals playing for New Jersey and Nashville this season, including five in just 26 games for the Predators. He had 13 the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that. He had 15 goals in 2014-15. Boyle is nothing if not consistent.
Age is a worry. Boyle will be 35 in December. But he’s a big body at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds. He has oodles of Stanley Cup playoff experience with 114 postseason games, including reaching the Stanley Cup Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. He has topped 50-percent on faceoffs seven of the last eight seasons and the Capitals could use help there.
Boyle is an underwater Corsi player (47.5 percent), which is another concern as his numbers dip with age. As recently as 2016-17 (52.6) with the Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs Boyle’s teams drove play with him on the ice.
But we’re talking roster margins here. Chandler Stephenson (45.0) was much worse and Travis Boyd (48.6) was slightly better. But Boyle’s production is showing no signs of slowing down and for a team looking for depth scoring at a cheap price, he is still providing that.
The case for Marcus Kruger
A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). He’s not the offensive player that Boyle is so don’t expect even double-digit goals. But he will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. He played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim.
A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is far more palatable.
Who’s your pick? Vote here:
Day five of our Free Agent Bracket:— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) June 14, 2019
Brian Boyle vs Marcus Kruger
Who do you choose?
🔁 for Boyle
❤️ for Kruger pic.twitter.com/XQP2kSMDuE
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