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Tarik's three stars: Grubauer keeps Caps close, but can't cool Flames


Tarik's three stars: Grubauer keeps Caps close, but can't cool Flames

Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer gave the injury-depleted Caps a chance on Sunday night at the Saddledome. But his 36 stops weren’t enough as Sean Monahan and Co. struck midway through the third period and the Flames skated off with a 2-1 victory.

The defeat sent the Caps home with a 1-2-0 record on their Western Canada swing. They’ll take Monday off and will return to the ice at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday for practice in Arlington.

Tarik’s three stars of the night:

1- Johnny Gaudreau, Flames

Johnny Hockey had a hand in each of the Flames’ goals, earning a secondary helper on the first one and a primary assist on Monahan’s decisive score in the third period. On the game winner, Gaudreau carried the puck in, hooked off after his path to the net was blocked, then delivered a deft crossing pass right to Monahan on the doorstep.  

2 - Jakub Vrana, Capitals

Through the first 40 minutes, the speedy 21-year-old winger was easily the Caps’ most dangerous forward. In the third period, he got rewarded. Vrana put his third shot attempt on net and it ended up squirting through Flames goalie Mike Smith (30 stops) and juuuust crossing the goal line to knot the score, 1-1. The goal was Vrana’s third on the season and first in six games.

3 - Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

The Caps’ backup is still looking for his first win, but he had his best performance of the season. He may have been a bit deep in the cage on the Flames’ first goal, but there was nothing he could do about Monahan’s go-ahead strike. Grubauer’s best save came on Mark Giordano—during a wild 4-on-1 jailbreak—that kept the game knotted 1-1 in the third. The start, by the way, marked the third straight for Grubi on the backend of a back-to-back set. So, yeah, he’s getting some tough assignments.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But on Thursday, the Capitals' now former bench boss was officially named the head coach of the New York Islanders.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.



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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft


The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.