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Key Caps questions: Can Dmitry Orlov eclipse 40 points?

Key Caps questions: Can Dmitry Orlov eclipse 40 points?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Can Dmitry Orlov eclipse 40 points?

Tarik: Orlov’s goal every year should be producing 40 or more points.

Two seasons ago, the Russian defenseman established a career-high for assists with 27 and ended up with 33 points. Last season, Orlov scored a career-best 10 goals and finished with 31 points.

Orlov’s goal output, in fact, made him just the fifth Caps defenseman since 2000 to hit double digits, joining Mike Green, Sergei Gonchar, John Carlson and Dennis Wideman.

What does that tell us? It tells us that 12 goals and 28 assists in 2018-19 shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Orly.

The area where I could see Orlov making the biggest jump next season is in the goal department.

He possesses a blisteringly hard shot. And, last winter, two things became apparent to me: No. 1, Orlov had started shooting to score rather than just put the puck on net and No. 2, he was beginning to do a much better job of walking the blue line, finding open lanes and delivering that big shot on net with more accuracy. Consider: he mustered 125 shots on goal each of the last two seasons but last season saw his goal total jump from six to double digits for the first time.

At 27-years old, Orlov still has a lot of runway in front of him. I think he’s going to continue to improve at both ends of the rink, particularly in the D-zone, where NHL defensemen often hit their prime around his age.

I’m a little less bullish on Orlov’s offensive upside for one reason: I think he’d need to skate on the first unit power play to really increase his goal and assist totals. And the point job, of course, is locked down by Carlson, and rightfully so.

The bottom line: I could see Orlov, who hasn’t missed a game in three-plus seasons, hitting 40 points. But I’m having a tough time seeing him amass much more without a bigger role on the PP. Last season, for example, Carlson racked up 32 points with the man advantage, while Orlov had four.

JJ:  Getting more time on the power play would certainly help Orlov, but I believe the issue that holds him back the most is his offensive instincts.

Last season, Orlov produced 10 goals and 31 points. His partner, Matt Niskanen, produced seven goals and 29 points. I think it's fair to label Niskanen as a two-way defenseman, but when you compare the skillsets of both players, there is no reason why Orlov and Niskanen's offensive point totals should be that close. Orlov's offensive ceiling is much, much higher.

So why did they produce at essentially the same rate?

Orlov has a great, great shot and is an incredibly skilled stick-handler, but he lacks the same offensive instincts of the opportunistic Niskanen who always seems to know the best time to creep up into the offensive zone. You just don't see Orlov score many goals like this.

Orlov does score some pretty amazing, highlight reel goals, but if he is not scoring off a great individual play or with his blistering shot, he's not scoring. He is not as effective at reading play in the offensive zone.

Though he does not play on the first unit of the power play, Orlov still got over 95 minutes of power play time last season and he registered a measly four assists. Even if you're not playing with the top unit, you are still getting time on a man-advantage. There's still more room to work with and a player with Orlov's skill should be able to muster more than four points.. But, for a player playing the blue line on the power play, Orlov is expected to be one of the quarterbacks of that unit and he just does not see the game the same way Niskanen or John Carlson do.

Another issue facing Orlov is his role. He and Niskanen used to be the Caps' top defensive pairing in almost every situation. The addition of Michal Kempny gives Washington a bonafide top-four. Orlov and Niskanen are the go-to in shutdown situations, but if you need offense, your first choice is going to be putting Carlson's pairing on the ice, not Orlov.

At 27, Orlov is really entering the prime of his career. If he hopes to take the next step offensively, it's now or never. He has tallied 29, 33 and 31 points in the past three season, so he is hovering around the same level of production. His skill set indicates he should be producing more. It's certainly possible he takes the next step, but I see 35 as much more realistic than 40.

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Alex Ovechkin's workout was adorably interrupted with a dance party from his son, Sergei

Alex Ovechkin's workout was adorably interrupted with a dance party from his son, Sergei

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin was enjoying a morning workout in his house on Wednesday when a small distraction entered the room.

Enter Ovechkin's one-year-old son, Sergei.

Instead of the Capitals winger shooing off his son to finish his workout, the two engaged in a dance party. It was quite precious.

With the song '40 Gradusov' by Loboda playing in the background, Ovechkin picked up his son, and the two started swaying side to side, dancing to the tune. Ovechkin's wife, Nastya, captured it all on camera, posting it to her Instagram story.

The elder Ovechkin has been spending plenty of his unexpected free time with Sergei, as the coronavirus pandemic has paused the NHL season indefinitely. The two teamed up for a Capitals simulated game on NHL 20 earlier this week, and they even watched film together, too.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What does Washington's salary cap situation look like for next season?

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What does Washington's salary cap situation look like for next season?

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Joe Collins writes: I know it may be a bit too early for this question, but has there been any discussion on any possible compensation for teams that traded draft picks for players who were on expiring contracts in the event the season gets canceled? If the season were to not be completed the Caps would've traded a 2nd and 3rd rounder for 10 games with Brenden Dillon and another 3rd rounder for seven games with Ilya Kovalchuk. I am sure many other teams are in similar, if not worse, positions. Any thoughts on how these teams should/may be compensated?

It does seem early to talk about this as the season has not been canceled and it is only April 1, but I'll play along.

This will be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think any team that made trades for rentals without conditions should be entitled to any compensation. I understand that these are extenuating circumstances, but the Caps would not have been entitled to any compensation had the season gone on as normal and they missed the playoffs so why should they be entitled to anything now? Or how about if they got injured and they weren't able to play? Teams would not be entitled to anything in that situation either. The fact that you might not have them for very long is the risk you run with rental players. When teams trade for players on expiring contracts, they are hopeful they will get a long postseason run out of them, but you do it with the understanding that you could potentially only get those players for a handful of games.

To me, a much bigger issue will be what to do with trades that had conditions attached, like when draft picks are tied into how far a team goes into the postseason. When you have agreed on conditions based on the traditional season and postseason format and that changes, those are circumstances which I do feel a team would be entitled to some form of compensation. I don't know exactly what that would look like as I don't know how the season will be formatted when it returns, but compensatory draft picks would make the most sense to me. That way a team that promised to give away a draft pick doesn't have to based on whatever the postseason looks like and teams still get to recoup picks. Sure, that may mean more draft picks in, let's face it, what is already a heavily diluted draft, but the coronavirus has affected how teams scout the end of the season, taking away scouting trips and with minor junior and college leagues canceling their postseason. Add some compensatory picks so teams can take a shot at players they may not have scouted as much as they would like.

Jack Ryan writes: If the season doesn’t get canceled, wouldn’t all UFA’s be available to sign come July 1?

That is among the many logistical issues with a delayed season, but the league is aware of it. In a conference call Monday, Brian MacLellan said the league had discussed player contracts being extended to August this year if the league returns and plays into the summer. The NHLPA would have to approve that, but considering the revenue at stake, there is no reason why it wouldn't.

The league has a lot of very good lawyers to worry about these kinds of things. There is no scenario where a plan is in place, the league starts up and then oops! No one figured out that player contracts expire before the playoffs are supposed to end. What a pickle! I am sure there are minor things that may slip through the cracks, but something as significant as player contracts will be sorted out before the puck drops again.

Bill Bridge writes: Assuming the cap stays where it is and Braden Holtby is gone, the Caps would be in good shape. They'd have enough room to field basically the same group of forwards minus Kovalchuk, sign a vet goalie to back up Ilya Samsonov and even re-sign Brenden Dillon to a $3.5-$4 million contract if they wanted to go that route. Thoughts?

Not including restricted free agents, the Caps have 11 forwards, four defensemen and one goalie under contract for next season. If the salary cap stays the same -- which would be my guess, I can't see it going up at this point and I don't think either the NHL or NHLPA wants it to go down -- Washington would have about $10.4 million to work with to sign a high-end backup/tandem goalie to go with Samsonov, sign a third-line winger (because Richard Panik certainly looks like a fourth-line player at this point), give Jonas Siegenthaler a raise and sign one or two additional defensemen (only one if Martin Fehervary is ready to step in). Even with Holtby off the books, things are going to get tight very quickly.

I think Brian MacLellan has done a masterful job with this roster and he has been as good a general manager as anyone during his tenure, but the fact he has given out a lot of long-term deals for veterans with the thought that those cap hits would look better with each passing year with the cap continuing to steadily rise. When the cap stays in place, that has major ramifications not just for next year but for how this team has projected its cap out over the next few years. That is hugely important considering Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana's current contracts expire at the end of the 2020-21 season.

I think it makes sense to try to re-sign Dillon if they can, but I think he could probably get more on the open market and signing him is not just about getting his contract to fit in next year, it's about getting it to fit beyond next season with Ovechkin and Vrana re-signed. Ovechkin's cap hit will probably be about the same, but Vrana has clearly earned himself a gigantic raise.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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