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What's left on the Capitals' offseason to-do list?


What's left on the Capitals' offseason to-do list?

The Capitals have hired a new head coach, re-signed John Carlson, traded Philipp Grubauer and re-signed multiple players form their championship roster in order to make a run at another Stanley Cup.

It's already been a busy offseason for Washington, but they aren't done just yet. Before Brian MacLellan can grab his bathing suit and snorkel and hit the beach, there are a few other items left on the Caps' to-do list for the summer.

Re-sign Tom Wilson and the team's remaining free agents

MacLellan said after Todd Reirden's introductory press conference that signing Wilson to a new deal is now priority No. 1. There should be no concern over the fact that he has not yet re-signed. As a restricted free agent, his options are limited and he elected not to file for arbitration. Unless he signs an offer sheet, which have essentially become taboo and no one ever does in the NHL, a new deal is more a matter of when and not if.

With about $8.2 million left in cap space according to CapFriendly, the team should have plenty of room to get a new deal done.

In addition to Wilson, Madison Bowey and Liam O'Brien both are restricted free agents as well. Bowey was not yet eligible for arbitration and figures to be a part of the Capitals' blue line plans next season. O'Brien did file for arbitration which could drag this process out a bit.

O'Brien's hearing is scheduled for July 23 in Toronto. Teams and players can continue negotiating up until the arbitrator issues his ruling so a new deal could come well before then. By filing for arbitration, this also means O'Brien cannot sign an offer sheet from another team.

Sign a veteran defenseman

Not including a couple of minor league additions, Nic Dowd is the only player the Caps have added in free agency for next season. It is likely, however, that the team is not done quite yet.

If the season were to start today, here is what Washington's defensive lineup would look like:

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

That third pairing should stand out. Djoos and Bowey have a combined 114 games of NHL experience plus the 22 playoff games for Djoos. The team would probably be comfortable having both players somewhere in the lineup next season, but not on the same pair. There's also no No. 7. Clearly, the Caps need to add another player on defense.

Could Washington potentially find another defenseman in Hershey? It's possible, but there's a problem. WIth no viable veteran options, Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs would be the most likely additions. Those are three young prospects who will look to compete for an NHL spot in training camp, but adding a rookie to cycle into the third pair with Djoos and Bowey does not solve the inexperience problem.

The Caps are in need of a veteran defenseman capable of cycling into the lineup and providing leadership for the younger players. Anyone come to mind?

The obvious name is Brooks Orpik who was traded away to get his cap hit off the books and was subsequently bought out by Colorado. MacLellan did say the team was in talks with Orpik so he remains a possibility. If not him, however, MacLellan will have to keep looking in the free agent market or possibly explore a low-cost trade with another team to find the right fit.

Fill Todd Reirden's staff

The Caps have their head coach, but they still need to build a staff around him.

At his introductory press conference, Reirden said Blaine Forsythe will remain as an assistant coach, Scott Murray will continue coaching the goalies and both video coaches are returning. That means the team still needs two more coaches behind the bench to assist Reirden. MacLellan said he hopes to find a former head coach to fill one of those spots.


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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

Capital One Arena saw its first action of the season on Tuesday, albeit in a preseason game, as the Capitals fell 5-2 to the Boston Bruins. T.J. Oshie looked like he wanted to hit everything that moved every time he was on the ice. Matt Niskanen also scored a power play tally, but both he and Oshie’s spots on the team are already secure. There were plenty of other players with a lot on the line looking to make an impression in the home preseason opener.

Here are four players who impressed.

Riley Barber

The Caps scored less than five minutes into the game thanks to a nifty deflection by Barber on a quick shot by Alex Alexeyev. Barber was Washington’s top offensive threat on the night and was all over the net with nine (!!!) shots on goal and another four attempts. His goal was a dirty one, but Barber also showed some soft hands and good stick work as well throughout the night.

“I thought he had a real strong showing tonight and a number of opportunities and chances and was able to make a real nice play on the first goal,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I liked his game in particular and I think he was someone that was able to show us a little bit more of an offensive flair than maybe he has done in the past.”

At 24, Barber is at a critical point in his career as he is battling to make the NHL and not become a career AHLer. Right now he still looks like a long shot to make the roster and will likely need a few more efforts like Tuesday’s game to really give himself a shot to stick around in Washington.

Nic Dowd

Dowd is in a battle for the fourth line center job to replace Jay Beagle. Tuesday was a good dress rehearsal for him in terms of winning the job. Dowd was the team’s best player in the face-off dot, took 17 draws and won 12 of them, by far Washington’s top face-off man on the night (not counting Jayson Megna who won the one draw he took).

"It’s a big part of everyone's game in the National Hockey League,” Dowd said. “You lose possession of the puck, you're chasing it for 30 seconds. So, I will continue to work on that and continue to make it a big part of my game."

“That’s an integral role to any team’s success,” Todd Reirden said. “Certainly we were able to benefit from having faceoff success especially in that dot with a right-hand centerman taking those draws. I put him in situations to take a lot of those draws tonight. He did a good job of that, he did a good job on the penalty kill. He continues to be as expected in what we’ve researched and seen from him and he was all of that tonight. I liked his game tonight.”

Dowd also drew two penalties on the night.

The biggest competition for Dowd at fourth line center looks to be Travis Boyd who also played Tuesday. With both players in action, Dowd had the greater impact on the game. The offensive upside looks much higher for Boyd, but Dowd looks like he provide more of those little things that Beagle provided such as face-off wins and penalty killing.

Connor Hobbs

Hobbs took exception to a hit delivered to him by Tanner Pond and the two dropped the gloves. Liam O’Brien dropped the gloves as well and took on Mark McNeil, but Hobbs gets the shout out here because it was a pretty darn good bout with Hobbs delivering several pretty nice rights to Pond.

Braden Holtby

Just in case you were wondering, yes, Holtby is going to make the team. While you could put him in the same category as Oshie, Holtby makes the list for having the top play on the night.

In the first period, former Cap Daniel Winnik looked like he had an empty net to shoot on, but Holtby stretched out the toe to make the fantastic save and somehow deny Winnik.

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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”