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Getting cheap players proves expensive for Capitals

Getting cheap players proves expensive for Capitals

As the summer approached, it became clear the Capitals were going to be very tight against the salary cap. After losing in the first round of the playoffs, general manager Brian MacLellan was left with the unenviable task of having to somehow address the team’s needs while also shedding salary. Doing so proved expensive, though not in the traditional sense.

Teams have to be careful not to rely too much on free agents. The nature of free agency essentially requires teams to overpay as multiple organizations vie for a player’s services. This is a good way for a team to quickly get into trouble.

But what if you do not have the cap room to getting into a bidding war for free agents? Then you have to offer them something else: Term.

On Monday, that’s what the Caps did as they signed both Richard Panik and Garnet Hathaway to four-year deals. This comes just a few weeks after giving Carl Hagelin a four-year deal as well.

In the past, MacLellan has not typically given long-term deals to bottom-six players. Now, Panik, Hathaway, Hagelin—all of whom will play primarily on Washington’s bottom two lines—are all signed through the 2022-23 season.

“In order for us to get that AAV down so we can add depth, I think we pushed up the term a year on probably all three of those contracts,” MacLellan said Monday on a conference call.

Offering those extra years proved huge in those players choosing to sign with Washington.

“It was the best offer I had pretty much from the beginning,” Panik said. “They offered me four years. Nobody else did. That was the main reason. That's why I chose (Washington). I wanted a longer deal and they were willing to do it right away.”

“It's been a dream to play in the NHL and to have a team that agreed to a four-year deal, it shows a lot of faith,” Hathaway said.

Those three players join third-line center Lars Eller who is also under contract through 2022-23.

Though he admitted to having to add an extra year to spread out their cap hits, MacLellan also revealed the team’s lack of offensive depth within the pipeline helped ease the blow.

“We don't have young forwards ready to step in and play third line,” MacLellan said. “There's a bit of a gap in our organization in that area that we were comfortable committing to the four-year term on all three [players].”

Committing too much money to a player can be a gamble, but the same is true for offering too much term even if it comes with a reasonable cap hit. If the bottom six continues to be a weakness for Washington, it will become very difficult to make any adjustments with four roster spots locked up for four years.

MacLellan, however, has proven adept at moving on from the troublesome final years of big contracts.

When he first took over as general manager, MacLellan convinced free agent defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to sign with Washington in part by offering them terms of five and seven years respectively. When the contracts became worrisome for the team, MacLellan traded Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche who bought him out of his final year allowing MacLellan to re-sign him at a more reasonable hit. After a down year for Niskanen, MacLellan traded the last two remaining years of his deal to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas who, analytically, had a much better season than Niskanen.

That, however, is a worst-case scenario. If all goes according to plan, the Caps will now have both a more formidable bottom six and a stronger penalty kill locked in for four years.

It’s a gamble and one that MacLellan is betting with time rather than money.

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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.

CAPITALS-HURRICANES PRESEASON GAME 3: HOW TO WATCH

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

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