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Free agent stock watch: Boston rattles the unflappable Justin Williams

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Free agent stock watch: Boston rattles the unflappable Justin Williams

The Boston Bruins made short work of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. While the Bruins will be thinking about nothing but playing for the Stanley Cup the next few weeks, the Stanley Cup Final series will be the last time some of the team’s free agents will wear a Boston uniform. For Carolina’s free agents, Thursday may be the last time they lace up their skates in Raleigh.

Could any of those pending free agents help the Capitals? Can the Caps afford any of them?

With that in mind, here’s a look at where the free agent “stock” of each pending unrestricted free agent in the Eastern Conference Final stands now that the series is over.

NOTE: This list includes only UFAs.

Boston Bruins

Noel Acciari, F

Stock: Neutral

Acciari played in only two games in the conference final due to an undisclosed injury. He did not record a point in either game though he did log some decent ice time.

Marcus Johansson, F

Stock: Up

The former Cap has been a massive addition for Boston and was a major factor in Games 1 and 2 against Carolina, recording one goal and two assists. Johansson ranks seventh on the team this postseason with nine points and of those seven he logs the lowest average ice time so he is making his minutes count.

All the talk about Johansson being soft or not a playoff performer has gone right out the window this postseason.

Steven Kampfer, D

Stock: Neutral

Kampfer is Boston’s No. 7 on defense and he has played in only two games this entire postseason. He only got into the lineup for Game 1 because of Charlie McAvoy’s one-game suspension, but in that game, he scored his first career playoff goal and the first goal of the series.

Carolina Hurricanes

Micheal Ferland, F

Stock: Down

After a sweep, there are few players from Carolina that are going to walk away satisfied with how they played. Ferland suited up for Game 1 against Boston for the first time since leaving Game 3 in the first round against the Caps with an injury. He recorded an assist in Game 1 and a big hit in Game 2 and that was pretty much the extent of what he contributed in the conference final.

Ferland was held to only a  lone assist in the four-game sweep and for a player who contributed 40 points for the Hurricanes this season, he really needed to find a way to contribute more offensively.

Curtis McElhinney, G

Stock: Up

Can I interest you in a 2.01 GAA and .930 save percentage in the playoffs? McElhinney may have only appeared in five games this postseason, but the stats he managed are still pretty darn impressive.

McElhinney ended up in Carolina when the team claimed him off waivers from Toronto before the season. His total cap hit was $850,000. Sure, he will turn 36 this month, but I think it is safe to say he has done enough to earn at least a backup role on an NHL team and likely is not in danger of hitting waivers again prior to the 2019-20 season.

Greg McKegg, F

Stock: Up

Of all the Carolina players who played in at least 10 games in the playoffs, no one averaged less ice time than McKegg. He still finished the postseason with two goals. For a fourth line player with a $715,000 cap hit, he certainly provided as much offense as the Hurricanes could have hoped. His goal in Game 1 gave Carolina its only lead in any game for the entire series.

In an age where depth scoring is becoming increasingly important, McKegg looks like a solid free agent target for any team looking for a fourth-line player.

Petr Mrazek, G

Stock: Neutral

The playoffs ended on a sour note for Mrazek, but Carolina did not lose the series because of goaltending. He showed with his performance in the regular season and in the playoffs up to Game 1 what he can do. For a goalie on a one-year contract worth only $1.5 million, it is hard to see how his stock could have fallen after two bad games against a team that was clearly far superior than Carolina.

Justin Williams, F

Stock: Down

One of the stories of the series was how the Bruins, especially Brad Marchand, were able to rattle the normally unflappable Williams, Mr. Game 7 himself.  Williams’ frustration was especially evident in Game 3 when he took three minor penalties.

No one can deny that Williams played a major role in Carolina’s run to the conference final as the team captain and he showed this season that he can still be an effective top-six winger. He also will turn 38 on Oct. 4. He still has value, but he is battling his age and the shot he took his reputation this series certainly does not help his stock.

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

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 semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.  

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