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Marcus Johansson is headed to the Sabres and yes, he was too expensive for the Capitals

Marcus Johansson is headed to the Sabres and yes, he was too expensive for the Capitals

Marcus Johansson has finally signed and no, he is not coming back to Washington. Despite some reported interest from the team early in the offseason, the price tag was always expected to be too high to make a return to the Capitals. On Saturday, that proved true.

Johansson signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in a deal that will give him a cap hit of $4.5 million per year.

After their first-round exit, general manager Brian MacLellan had plenty of time to consider what offseason adjustments the team needed to make in order to compete for the Stanley Cup again in 2019-20.

As the playoffs wore on, Johansson continued to impress with his key contributions for the Boston Bruins. In all, he scored four goals and seven assists in 22 games as the Bruins fell just one win short of the Stanley Cup.

With offensive depth being the most glaring need for Washington, a reunion with Johansson seemed to make a lot of sense...until you considered his price tag.

As he was excelling on the game’s biggest stage, it was expected that Johansson would be able to cash-in on his next deal. Though the length of the deal is not all that high at two years, the cap hit is.

Had the Caps signed Johansson to the same deal at $4.5 million per year, that would have given Johansson the fifth-highest cap hit among Caps’ forwards, a steep price for a player who would have been penciled in for a third-line role.

Adding him also would have forced the entire house of cards that is the Caps’ salary to come crashing down.

The Caps signed free agents Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipisic. The total combined cap hit of those three players next season is $4.95 million. For just $450,000 more than the cost of Johansson, the Caps filled out the rest of their roster and improved the team’s penalty kill and team defense.

Signing Johansson would not have left the team with that kind of flexibility and it is hard to imagine how the team’s bottom six would have ended up better overall by committing so much of its limited cap space to one player.

Once you start to realize how desperately the Caps needed to upgrade their overall team defense, making several small moves to address that makes a lot more sense than the one bigger-name addition.

Signing with Buffalo is also a move that makes more sense for Johansson as well. He will almost certainly get a top-six role with the Sabres as opposed to a third-line role in Washington. That will better allow him to parlay this deal into a bigger deal in two years.

Because of that, MacLellan’s recent tactic of overpaying in term length in order to keep cap hits low would likely not have interested Johansson who clearly has his sights set on that next big contract.

At $4.5 million per year, that’s just not a move that would have made sense for Washington.

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Ovechkin awarded the prestigious Wayne Gretzky International Award

Ovechkin awarded the prestigious Wayne Gretzky International Award

Alex Ovechkin has already collected almost every award in hockey imaginable, and he just won another.

USA Hockey announced on Wednesday that Ovechkin will receive the prestigious Wayne Gretzky International Award. He will be honored at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Dec. 12.

The award recognizes international players who have had a significant impact on advancing hockey in the United States.

After the Capitals drafted him first overall in 2004, Ovi has used his prominence in hockey to make an impact on the Washington area. Ovechkin started Ovi's Crazy 8's in 2006, providing more than 5,000 tickets to help underserved children attend Caps games.

2019 marks the sixth consecutive season that he will be hosting a skating event for the American Special Hockey Association. Ovi has also worked with several foundations to grant the wishes of ill children.

Over the course of Ovechkin's NHL career, youth participation in hockey in the DMV has nearly doubled, rising from 13,923 to 22,500, according to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“His performance on the ice and efforts off the ice have certainly translated into more kids and families wanting to be involved in our sport,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey, in a press release. “He’s been a great ambassador for hockey and embodies what the Gretzky Award represents.”

Entering his fifteenth season in Washington, Ovechkin has made a habit out of winning awards.

Ovi's scoring prowess has him ranked thirteenth on the NHL's all-time goal list, and another 50 goal season would push him all the way to seventh.

Finishing his career as the top-ranked goal scorer is not out of the question, as Ovechkin continues to chase the namesake of his most recent award.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: These kids are alright

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: These kids are alright

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

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

@TheWuWu on Twitter writes: In order to get the salary cap down, which Caps players do you think, are up for trading away?

First, it’s important to note that the suspension to Evgeny Kuznetsov bought them an extra week. His cap hit won’t count against the salary cap for the three games in which he is suspended. When he comes back, however, the team is still going to have to make some tough decisions to get under the cap ceiling.

The guys I think could potentially be on the chopping block are Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd, Christian Djoos and Pheonix Copley. Stephenson and Boyd underperformed last season, Djoos is making too much money to be a No. 6-7 and at some point the Caps are going to have to get Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek playing time.

The problem with trying to trade any of these players is the fact that every general manager in the league knows Washington’s cap situation so unless there’s a player they really, really like, they are not going to be willing to trade for them and will instead wait until someone is placed on waivers and try to claim them then for nothing. If the Caps love what they see from Samsonov, for example, why would anyone trade for Copley? They know the team will have to put him on waivers to fit Samsonov so there would be no point.

@elbaforero on Instagram writes: How many new players?

The salary cap forced the Caps to let go of several players, but as this team is still contending for a Stanley Cup, general manager Brian MacLellan also had to find a way to improve the roster while shedding salary.

Richard Panik was signed in the offseason to play wing on the third line in place of Brett Connolly. He does have some offensive potential as he scored 22 goals and 22 assists in 2016-17 with the Chicago Blackhawks, but this move was about bringing in a defensively responsible player who can play on the penalty kill. That will be a theme with the team’s new faces.

Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic will be fourth-line additions. Hathaway signed for four years so he will be here for a while. Leipsic is the team’s latest reclamation project as this will be his fifth team in four years. Both players are strong in shot suppression and could potentially play on the penalty kill.

Defenseman Radko Gudas was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade for Matt Niskanen. Known for dirty hits and checkered past with the Department of Player Safety, many do not realize that he is actually a solid defenseman and was voted by the media to be the Flyers’ best blueliner last season. He is better at this point in his career than Niskanen and this will be a good upgrade for Washington’s defensive end of the ice.

Micah R. writes: How much weight should we put into the training camp groups?

Some, but not much initially. Those groups are not random and there is a reason they are organized that way, but it is also important to remember that there is some competition and experimenting going on. Initially, the NHL players are spread out so that they can get plenty of time with the coaches during practice, but also so that prospects get time to practice with and against those players. In terms of lines and combinations, however, everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

For example, we saw the most likely line combinations for the first three forward lines on the very first day of training camp. It is also no coincidence that players competing for a fourth-line role are playing together with Chandler Stephenson, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway on a line and Brendan Leipsic and Travis Boyd together.

Does that mean I think Stephenson has a leg up and Leipsic and Boyd? Not at all. Do I read anything into prospect Brett Leason skating with Leipsic and Boyd? No. He definitely will not make the team this year. The defensive pairings also shuffle constantly so I read nothing into who plays with whom on the blue line at all.

When you dissect the groups and lines you can kind of start to see why they are organized in a certain way, but it is far too early to draw any conclusions from line combinations.

Niakan K. writes: Based on the results of the prospect showcase, who do you think made a strong enough impression on the coaching staff to potentially play for an NHL roster on the Capitals? I thought Martin Fehérváry looked the most NHL ready.

You nailed it. Fehervary was the most impressive player for the Caps in the tournament. I knew the team was high on him, but I was taken aback by how much praise was heaped upon him at the start of camp. Clearly, he has made an impression on the organization and his stock rose the most from the showcase.

The bigger takeaway I had was who did not impress. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Shane Gersich are thought to be the two forwards closest to being NHL ready and neither played all that well in the showcase. If you can't handle playing other prospects, chances are you are not ready to play against NHL competition yet. Granted, their chances of making the NHL roster this year given the depth additions MacLellan made were pretty slim. To me, it only goes to confirm my suspicion that neither player is ready for the NHL and needs a full season in Hershey to get there.

tim101searle on Instagram writes: Caps lineup looks pretty set — if a rookie has a camp too good to ignore, what do they do?

This is dependent on who the rookie is and what position they play. Teams are loath to burn entry-level contract years if they do not need to with junior players and there are also times where a prospect just will not get enough playing time to justify a spot on the NHL roster.

For example, I think Tyler Lewington has a much better chance of making the Caps this year than Fehervary. In terms of skill, Fehervary blows Lewington out of the water. Neither player is going to beat out someone in the top six, however,  and Todd Reirden knows he can use Lewington as a No. 7 and not feel pressure to get him playing time. He can’t do that with Fehervary because he needs to play regularly to help his development.

On the other hand, if Fehervary plays so well that it looks like he is actually one of the team’s top six defensemen, then you find a way to get him in. The Caps are right up against the salary cap so adding a rookie to the roster with his entry-level salary would only help that situation and give the team more flexibility in terms of trade or waiver possibilities.

So far, I do not foresee any unexpected players performing so well as to change the outlook of the team ... yet.

Purvis G. writes: Are there any young scoring wingers in the farm system ready to contribute anytime soon?

Not really, no. Brett Leason has good size and, at 20 years old is certainly older than most draft picks, but he looked bad in the Prospect Showcase and clearly needs time in Hershey to adjust to the pros. I mentioned Gersich and Jonsson-Fjallby above, though neither player would be what I would consider a scoring winger — both will be bottom-six energy guys. Perhaps they could get a call-up this season, but neither player is ready yet. Riley Sutter and Kody Clark are both injured so I can’t judge how far along they are, but I would be surprised if either sees the NHL this season.

So to answer your question, no. Leason, Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas are exciting additions to the farm system, but in terms of players who could help right away, the cupboard is still pretty bare.

Christopher S. writes: Has the coaching staff ever considered/what do you think about giving Christian Djoos some time as a winger? I know the mind-set and game-play is very different for the two positions but it actually might make Djoos a better defender down the road.. and it gives cover for a 7th defenseman and 13th forward.

I do not believe the coaches have ever considered this and I do not know why they would. Djoos will become a better defenseman by working on being a defenseman, not trying to learn a new position that would require extensive work and practice. That would not happen overnight or over the course of a week.

The idea of teaching him as insurance in case you need an extra forward or defenseman is not a viable option. If your roster is so barren you cannot find a natural forward to insert into your lineup when needed and have to go with Djoos, that says a lot about the team's forward depth or lack thereof. Prospect forward depth may be an issue for Washington, but it's not that bad.

@theoneandonlydoofnugget on Instagram writes: Do any of the guys like waffles?

Cereal is the breakfast food of choice, particularly Ovi O’s.

@avabetzner13 on Instagram writes: Can Jakub Vrana get any cuter?

Who, this guy?

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, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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