It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!
Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!
Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!
Check out today’s matchup:
Region: Third line forward
Micheal Ferland vs. Joonas Donskoi
Micheal Ferland (27 years old): 71 games played with the Carolina Hurricanes, 17 goals, 23 assists, 40 points, 14:06 TOI
Playoffs: 7 games played with the Carolina Hurricanes, no goals, 1 assist, 1 point, 10:16 TOI
Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI
Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI
Hockey-Graphs contract projections
Micheal Ferland: 4 years, $4,181,982 cap hit
Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit
The case for Micheal Ferland
Ferland fills the Caps’ need for a productive third-line player. He scored 40 points last year with limited minutes and ranked fourth on the Hurricanes in points despite being 16th on the team in time-on-ice per game. Being able to be productive without getting top-six minutes is a skill. Brett Connolly has it and so does Ferland.
In addition to his production, Ferland also plays a physical game which would fit in well with Washington as the Caps like to play a heavier game. While they do have some speedy players, the trade of Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas is a sign that the physicality is still highly valued by the organization.
Ferland turned 27 in April and is entering his prime. The projected price tag may be a bit much for him, but his injury-plagued postseason may help bring that price down.
Donskoi has good skill, but that has earned him career-highs of 14 goals and 37 points, both of which he scored last season so the Caps could end up paying a bit more than they should to obtain him. If you are frustrated by Andre Burakovsky, does it make sense to bring in another player with similar numbers to play on the third line?
The case for Joonas Donskoi
Donskoi will be a much cheaper option than Ferland and with Washington against the cap and given the fact that the salary cap could actually be lower than the $83 million originally projected, money talks.
Comparing Donskoi to Burakovsky may not be entirely fair. When Burakovsky is having a bad game, he is invisible. Donskoi, on the other hand, made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. His stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset.
The ultimate case against Ferland is the fact that his first name is Micheal – but he spells it "ea" instead of "ae" – making him the sworn enemy of every hockey writer.
Who’s your pick? Vote here: