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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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Pheonix Copley to start in Winnipeg as Braden Holtby out with upper-body injury

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Pheonix Copley to start in Winnipeg as Braden Holtby out with upper-body injury

Braden Holtby will miss Wednesday’s game in Winnipeg due to an upper-body injury which will give Pheonix Copley his second start in as many nights. The team will also dress an emergency backup for the game. Isabelle Khurshudyan was the first to report the news.

In addition, Michal Kempny will miss Wednesday’s game as well due to an illness. He is considered day-to-day. Jonas Siegenthaler will get into the lineup for his second NHL game.

Pheonix Copley started Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He turned aside 26 of the 28 shots he faced for a .929 save percentage in the win.

It is unclear when the injury to Holtby occurred. Copley was a surprise start in Tuesday’s game, but if the team suspected Holtby could miss Wednesday, recalls from Hershey could have been made prior to now which would have prevented the need for an emergency backup.

The backup for the Capitals will be Gavin McHale, the goaltending coach for the women’s team at the University of Manitoba. McHale, 31, is in his second season at UM and is listed by the website Elite Prospects as 6-feet 7-inches. The last time he played competitively was in 2014-15 with the Warren Mecs of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League. This is not the first time he has been called upon in the NHL as he was an emergency NHL backup in the past for the Colorado Avalanche in February.

Depending on the length of Holtby’s issue, a call-up for either Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek could be a possibility. Vanecek has been out with an upper-body injury meaning Samsonov would be the most likely candidate should the Caps need him.


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Why Tom Wilson’s return to the lineup could shake up the Caps roster

Why Tom Wilson’s return to the lineup could shake up the Caps roster

The return of Tom Wilson Tuesday gave Todd Reirden his full offensive lineup for the first time this season. It is not hard to figure out where he fits in the lineup. The real question is now what his return means for the rest of the roster.

Wilson found a home on the top line last season alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He provides defensive balance to a very offensive duo; he is able to win puck battles along the boards because of his physical play, which generates more offense and he has the offensive skill and skating ability to keep up with his incredibly skilled linemates.

That was all evident on Tuesday, as Wilson scored a goal in his return in very typical Wilson fashion.

After trying in vain to find a suitable replacement for Wilson on the top line, Reirden immediately plugged him back into the top line. Instantly, a lineup that looked jumbled with players trying to find their spots suddenly looked complete again. The top nine that Washington rode to the Stanley Cup last season was restored.

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

With Wilson back, Washington is at the maximum roster limit of 23 players and just slightly under the salary cap. But they also have two extra forwards on the roster. Most teams do not typically carry two extra forwards because it means sitting two assets in the press box every single night. You need one to plug in in case of emergency, but a second is most likely better served being traded or moved down to the AHL.

Assuming the top nine sticks, that leaves the team with Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson and Dmitrij Jaskin.

If the Caps were interested in moving one of those players, a fourth line player won’t yield much in a trade. That makes placing a player on waivers as the best option.

The question is who?

There are compelling reasons to keep each of those five players. Dowd and Boyd are centers and a team can never have enough of those, Smith-Pelly was one of the team’s playoff heroes with seven goals in the postseason and Stephenson brings a lot of speed. The most likely choice would appear to be Jaskin who has only two points in 12 games since he was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Blues. There is clear potential there and he has improved drastically since he was first acquired just prior to the start of the season. There is definitely more there than what we have seen from him.

But Jaskin also was not part of last season’s Stanley Cup roster.

The good news for Jaskin and all the team’s depth players is that there is no rush for the Caps to make any sort of roster move since they can technically carry the current roster as is and, per Cap Friendly, they can still fit everyone when Brooks Orpik returns from LTIR by sending Jonas Siegenthaler back down to Hershey.

But a decision is likely to come sooner rather than later to avoid having to sit two forwards in the press box every night. That makes these next few games critical for everyone on the fourth line to make an impression.