Capitals

MacIntyre begins filling staff at Colorado

MacIntyre begins filling staff at Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has brought in a few familiar assistant coaches from San Jose State, hiring Kent Baer to run the defense and Brian Lindgren to direct the offense.

In all, six of MacIntyre's former coaches will join him in Boulder.

Baer served as the interim head coach for the Spartans once MacIntyre left and led the team to a win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl. Baer wanted to stay at San Jose State, but was passed over for the full-time job in favor of San Diego's Ron Caragher.

So now Baer joins MacIntyre at Colorado as they try to turn around a program that has had seven straight losing seasons, including a 1-11 record this year that was the worst in the 123-year history of the program.

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a number in his head. It is the most important one for any NHL executive heading into the offseason: $83 million. 

That was the expected salary cap for the 2019-20 season and – with some small margin for error – the amount MacLellan and his staff used to formulate their offseason plan. But it is June 20 and the number that was originally at $83 million could drop to as low as $81.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. 

Given that Washington has some carryover for bonuses and overages from last season worth about $1.150 million, it could be working with a cap number as low as $80.35 million. That is not ideal for a team where every dollar could spell the difference between upgrading its middle-six forwards or adding a veteran fourth-line player. 

The NHL is expected to come to an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association soon and let teams know the number by Saturday, the second day of the entry draft in Vancouver. That’s a few days later than normal, however, and forces GMs to make decisions during the draft regarding trades and picking prospects they otherwise might not.   

"It's frustrating. We've been projecting using that 83 (million dollars) number for the last part of the year,” MacLellan told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “At some point, we switched back to the 82.5 because there was some rumblings there, and now it seems to be going back a little further. I know it seems like it's not a large amount of dollars, but it does impact teams that are right at the number as far as salary.”

On an $82 million cap, the Capitals have about $9.7 million in room according to the great web site CapFriendly.com. But they need to sign restricted free agent Jakub Vrana and add four other bottom-six forwards and a depth defenseman. That is an extremely tight fit and might rule out some free agent options MacLellan had interest in. 

The free-agent “interview” period begins Sunday when teams can talk to agents of pending free agents and gauge what their demands will be and if they are a fit when the market opens on July 1. 

That, in turn, effects negotiations with Vrana and any other RFAs (Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos) that Washington might want to bring back. Burakovsky is likely to be traded at the draft this weekend, according to multiple NHL sources with knowledge of Washington’s thinking. A further budget crunch would seem to seal his fate.  

MacLellan wouldn’t confirm that and even said “we like the player.” But Burakovsky is due a $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday so the decision might have been made for them. If the cap is the worst-case scenario ($81.5 million) the Capitals are in a real bind. But they’d like to know for sure.   

“When you see it go down to maybe 81.5, I think there's a pause on our part,” MacLellan said. “We want to see the number before we move forward because it's going to affect our roster decisions even on the bottom end - on fourth line and what we have to do going forward because the margins are that slim for us."

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MacLellan provides injury updates on Oshie, Kempny and Alexeyev and the news is all good

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MacLellan provides injury updates on Oshie, Kempny and Alexeyev and the news is all good

The Capitals' season came to an end earlier than expected with their first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The end of the season came even earlier for Michal Kempny and T.J. Oshie due to injuries, but the latest updates on their recovery is all positive, according to Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan.

Kempny tore his hamstring during a regular season game against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was taken down to the ice by Lightning forward Cedric Paquette. He underwent surgery in April and was given a timetable of about four to six months which would put him in danger of missing training camp, the preseason and even perhaps the start of the regular season.

MacLellan said Thursday, however, that he expects Kempny ready for training camp.

“It's wait and see, but we're expecting him to be available for camp,” MacLellan said via conference call. “He's progressing well. I haven't got an update over the last week or so, but before that he's on target to play in training camp.”

Kempny’s absence in the playoffs forced the entire defense to reshuffle. It was not until Jonas Siegenthaler was bumped into the top pair in Game 5 of the series that the blue line found any sort of consistency at all. Kempny's presence at training camp will be important for the defense to get off on the right foot.

The prognosis is even better for Oshie who MacLellan says is already back to working out.

“I think he'll be ready for start of training camp,” MacLellan said. “Last I heard, he was healthy and working out at our practice rink and doing well. But yeah, he'll be ready for training camp for sure.”

A nasty hit to the back from Carolina forward Warren Foegele in Game 4 of their playoff series knocked Oshie awkwardly into the boards fracturing his clavicle. Oshie underwent a surgical procedure in April and was said to be out indefinitely.

The news was also good on the prospect front as MacLellan said 2018 first-round pick Alex Alexeyev had avoided major injury after a scary looking knee-on-knee collision ended his WHL season in March. The young defenseman had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher following the play.

Just three months later, however, MacLellan says Alexeyev will be healthy for Washington’s development camp that will be held from June 24-29.

“[Alexeyev’s] healthy,” MacLellan said. “I don't think it was as bad as initially expected. He'll be at development camp here and fully healthy.”

That is a major bullet dodged for the Caps as Alexeyev is widely considered one of the team’s top prospects. In its futures edition, The Hockey News ranked Alexeyev No. 2 among Caps’ prospects behind goalie Ilya Samsonov. A serious knee injury would have been a serious blow to the future of a potential star player.

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