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Free agent stock watch: Marcus Johansson's price tag keeps going up

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Free agent stock watch: Marcus Johansson's price tag keeps going up

The Stanley Cup Final provides pending free agents the biggest stage in which to improve their stock. The Capitals may not have much money to work with under the salary cap this offseason, but Brian MacLellan is no doubt watching and evaluating any potential fits for Washington.

With that in mind, here’s a look at where the free agent “stock” of each pending unrestricted free agent from the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues through three games of the Stanley Cup Final.

NOTE: This list includes only UFAs.

Boston Bruins

Noel Acciari, F

An injury limited Acciari to only one game in the conference final. It took him just one game in the Stanley Cup Final to make his presence felt with an assist on Sean Kuraly’s game-winning goal in Game 1. He also scored an empty-netter in Game 3 and is a member of a Boston penalty kill that has held St. Louis to only one goal in 10 power play opportunities. Acciari’s stock is not rising to the point that he should be seen as anything other than a fourth line player, but considering his current cap hit is only $725,000, yeah, I would say he has earned himself a raise.

Stock: Up

Marcus Johansson, F

There is no free agent on this list who has improved his stock more than Johansson. The former Cap came into the playoffs with an unfair reputation of being soft and a poor playoff performer and he has certainly rewritten that narrative. He has been brilliant throughout the postseason and was named the second star of the game for Game 1. He also recorded a goal and an assist in Game 3. At times in Washington, he was asked to do too much and was even playing wing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin. The Bruins just need Johansson to be a role player and he is thriving with that opportunity.

Stock: Up

Steven Kampfer, D

Kampfer is Boston’s No. 7 on defense and has not been called upon in any of the first three games of the series. He has appeared in only two games this postseason, but he made his last chance count with a goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps could be in the market for a No. 7 defenseman, however, so perhaps he is someone fans should keep on their radar.

Stock: Neutral

St. Louis Blues

Patrick Maroon, F

The big-bodied, hometown hero of St. Louis has been a feel-good story for much of the postseason, but he has been a non-factor thus far against Boston. That is disappointing considering how physical the series has been. For much of the season, Maroon has looked a step slow for today’s NHL. It is disappointing that he has been largely invisible in a series that looked to be more suited to his skillset. Maroon may get re-signed by the Blues. Heck, he may even get signed for more than his current one-year, $1.75 million contract. But he is someone who appears to be more valuable to St. Louis than he is to anyone else.

Stock: Down

Carl Gunnarsson, D

Gunnarsson scored the goal that launched a thousand puns with his overtime winner in Game 2. After telling head coach Craig Berube in the bathroom that he just needed one more chance, he gave St. Louis the first Cup Final win in franchise history and became the hero of the “Boston Pee Party.” Still, let’s not go nuts over what this means. He remains a depth defenseman and someone the Caps could potentially target as a No. 6/7 for veteran depth if Brooks Orpik does indeed retire or is not re-signed by Washington.

Stock: Up

Chris Thorburn, F

Tough year for a 13-year NHL veteran who played one game for the Blues and then was dispatched to the AHL for the rest of the season. He was recalled for the playoffs but has yet to appear in a game. Soon to be 36, his career is likely over. 

Stock: Down

Michael Del Zotto, D

Split 42 games between Vancouver, Anaheim and the Blues this season, but has not appeared in a playoff game. St. Louis picked up Del Zotto at the trade deadline on Feb. 25 for the depth they haven’t needed. He turns 29 this month so he should still garner some interest in a similar role, but after signing consecutive two-year deals with Philadelphia and then Vancouver he likely won’t get much more than a one-year minimum deal. The Caps could probably find a better option if they need a veteran No. 7 defenseman who won’t play much.

Stock: Down

Brian McNally contributed to this report.

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In a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

In a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

The phrase "stick to sports" is one often uttered by angry fans who don't want politics to bleed into their past time, who want sports to remain an escape from every day life. No sport has taken those words to heart in recent years more so than hockey where players very rarely come out and discuss political or social topics. Braden Holtby, however, has been a notable exception.

With the country locked in political unrest after the senseless murder of George Floyd, Holtby tweeted out an impassioned statement on Wednesday with his thoughts.

"I don't think this time is a time to sugarcoat anything," Holtby said Friday in a video conference. "I think it's a time to look at ourselves in the mirror and really find how we can be better and how we can take responsibility for the past and learn from that to move forward."

Holtby has been an outspoken advocate for human rights, particularly those of the LGBTQ community, for several years. Many hockey players have been outspoken in the wake of the protests currently gripping the country representing a shocking shift from the norm of silence we typically see in hockey from such issues.

Holtby, however, has never been shy about giving his thoughts.

"I don’t know why it’s been kind of taboo to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in," Holtby said. "Obviously, there’s always this divide from sports to social issues. You want to be educated, you want to make sure that you know what you’re talking about [and] you’re not just using your platform to try and be popular or something like that."

RELATED: HOLTBY, WILSON MAKE STRONG STATEMENTS IN SUPPORT OF BLACK LIVES MATTER

Quick reactions on social media are easy and often without substance. Holtby, however, who professed that he actually dislikes social media and does not like to use it all that much, stressed the need for everyone, including himself, to educate themselves on the important issues facing the country before and in addition to speaking out.

"It wasn't until I moved here that you really understand what racial injustice is in this country," Holtby said, who is originally from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. "In Canada, we have indigenous rights and racism that way. I grew up around that, but this is different so I needed to educate myself and still need to. I believe how my parents did the right thing in teaching us in our situation. I learned a lot from them and Brandi as well and now we're just trying to take our knowledge we've learned in a different culture and try to teach our kids that way."

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But not everyone is open to hearing Holtby's thoughts on the matter.

When you speak out on these types of issues, you are bound to get plenty of backlash. Holtby has gotten such reaction from many who have decided that because he is a professional hockey player, he is for some reason no longer entitled to have a voice. There are also those who do not want to hear the opinion of a Canadian on America despite the fact that Holtby has been living in America since 2009.

"I think we all have our professions," Holtby said. "Everyone does. I don't know if any of us have -- unless your job is to fight racial inequalities or any sort of social issues that way, we're all just trying to be humans. And we just happen to have a following based on our job where people see us and it's easier to see us. It's crazy to think that that's an argument. We play hockey on the ice. We live our lives just as humans off of the ice and try to do our part that way. The second part about the Canadian thing is I've lived here for over 10 years now, so we call this home. This is my kids' home. My kids are both American. I feel like I'm fortunate to have been in both countries and be a part of both countries. I've said this a long (time): Canada follows America in a lot of ways. If you go from Canada to America, you don't see a ton of difference. The northern part of the states are very similar to Canada, and I believe when you try to make changes in one [it affects the other]."

But when the issues are important enough, it's easy to tune out the naysayers.

"I'm just trying to learn how I can do my part and my family's part to help people out," Holtby said. "I'm really hoping and I really believe that this is going to change the world in a lot of ways."

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Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

The future looks bright for the Capitals with Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei as an up-and-coming star.

Ovechkin’s wife Nastya captured an adorable moment on her Instagram story Thursday afternoon when Sergei practiced his shot and found the back of his miniature net on six consecutive attempts – just like his father would.


Nastya praised her 1-year-old, saying “Bravo!” after every goal scored, before he celebrated in classic Ovechkin fashion.

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While Ovi's eldest son has been occupied with his new role as a big brother as of late, he makes sure to leave plenty time to work on his slap shot and practice his celly, too, of course.

It looks like the young star is already on track to catch his father at 700 and make his debut in the 2038 NHL season.

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