Radko Gudas

Quick Links

Grading the Caps' new additions

Grading the Caps' new additions

After trying to keep the band together after the Stanley Cup run in 2018, Brian MacLellan changed tactics in 2019 making several new additions to bolster a contending roster. In came Radko Gudas, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic and Richard Panik.

Adjusting to a new team takes time. Hockey systems are complex and require practice. Plus, relationships have to form in the locker room. Trying to judge these players a week into the season serves no purpose. Thanksgiving, however, seems like a reasonable time to check in and see how eacy player has fared thus far.

Radko Gudas

Gudas was a surprise pick up off the Matt Niskanen trade. With the salary cap situation being what it is for Washington, it was widely just assumed that MacLellan would trade away the veteran defenseman for draft picks or prospects. Instead, he got Gudas, a defenseman whose solid play last season was overshadowed by the reputation he developed through the multiple suspension he has taken in his NHL career.

Stats: 26 games played, 0 goals, 6 assists, 6 points, 25 PIM, 17:09 time on ice per game

Gudas on the Caps

It's nothing but positives. The team's playing well, I thought I fit in pretty good right away. Obviously we got some teaching points learning new system. Everybody's still getting a little bit used to it. I think it's going to take a couple more games, but so far I've been amazed with everything around me.

Todd Reirden on Gudas

He's been a great add to the team. Certainly still getting used to some things we're doing systematically that are different than how they did them in Philly. That's for certain. He's probably been one of the biggest changes we've brought over from another team in terms of some of the things we ask from our defensemen that are new to him. So I think he continues to go through some growing pains on that. But in terms of how he fits into our room is he's been outstanding, fits in great with the guys, good leadership qualities already. A number of times he stands up for his teammates when he's in these scrums. I put a big value on that. There's certain situations like that, he's always the first one to jump in there for a teammate if there's a hit that's dirty or bad so I think he's done a great job of that. I think he's been a big part of why we've had success on the penalty kill. Him and [Jonas] Siegenthaler are the first two over the boards right now for us and they're really are willing to block shots and pay the price in battle and they've done 

Grade: A-

When MacLellan traded for Gudas, he knew he was getting a high-end third-pair defenseman. Nick Jensen's struggles on the second pair allowed for Gudas to have a shot there. Had he been able to stick and establish himself as a top-four defenseman, this move would have been an A+ as MacLellan would have solved the team's main weakness without even knowing it. Still, even if he can't fill the hole on the right next to Dmitry Orlov, Gudas has proven himself to be every bit the strong, physical defenseman and penalty killer the team hoped it was getting.

Garnet Hathaway

Looking to make the team more difficult to play against, MacLellan managed to sign Hathaway away from the Calgary Flames, the only NHL team he had ever known. Hathaway instantly brought a physical edge to the lineup. He has proven productive as well and has seven points in his first 23 games, putting him on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 14 points.

Stats: 23 games played, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, 30 PIM, 11:38 time on ice per game

Hathway on the Caps

I think they built this team so well, I don't think there's a void that you can really point at. I want to go and I want to compliment the guys that are there right now. They have a lot of skill, they have a lot of scoring and they have guys that are tough and play a physical game. So, I want to continue on the growth I have in my career right now and I want to continue to be hard to play against.

Reirden on Hathaway

He’s a special guy in terms of his compete, his battle, his character. It’s really high-end. And when you have a guy that has a broken nose and comes back and then gets into a fight and draws a penalty which we score on the power play and then ends up scoring an empty netter that’s how it should work out. For a sacrifice like that, if you’re willing to do those things that’s what to me being a Washington Capital is all about.

Grade: B

You can't be effective if you aren't on the ice. Hathaway was suspended three games for spitting which is just so far off the grid from what you expect from an NHL player, you have to ask if he can keep his emotions in check. Beyond that limited incident, however, I love what Hathway brings. The type of player he is can be summed up in the sequence he had against the New York Rangers in which he broke his nose, came back, drew a penalty, got into a fight, the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway scored an empty netter at the end of the game. When you have a player like that, that's a big addition.

Brendan Leipsic

Leipsic is Washington's latest reclamation project. A player on his fourth NHL team who the team signed on a whim to a cheap contract in the hopes he could turn into a team contributor.

Stats: 26 games played, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, 4 PIM, 9:17 time on ice per game

Leipsic on the Caps

It's never really easy coming into a team that's won, especially prett recent. I did in L.A. and then here. But everybody kind of welcomes you really well. Everybody gets treated the same from the top to the bottom, first line, fourth line, backup goalie. Great group of guys, I can see why they've had a lot of success here.

Reirden on Leipsic

He's helped us a couple different ways. We're looking for someone to play with a lot of energy and speed and also had a little bit of edge to his game. I think that he's been able to provide that through the first quarter of the season for us. Primarily played on the fourth line but I haven't been afraid to slot him up at times with some other players. He has the skill to play with some top-end guys as he showed probably more so in LA then with Van. He's fit in nicely and I think when our fourth line's at it's best, it has him on it to be able to create offense. Also, he's not really all that fun to play against. He's a tenacious player that hunts pucks and has a physical element to him. I think he's allowed us to play a more aggressive skating game that we were seeking to play when we looked to sign him this summer.

Grade: B+

It seems early to slap a grade on Leipsic because it seems like he has just started to really hit his stride. It was evident immediately how fast he was, but it took time to show how skilled and physical he was as well. He is a very high-end fourth-line player who presents a very difficult matchup for teams, much more difficult than you would anticipate for a fourth-line player. I'd like to see him perform the way he is now for an extended amount of time so I'll give him a B+ with the caveat that I feel this will go up by season's end.

Richard Panik

Of the four new acquisitions, Panik was expected to take on the biggest role as a two-way, third-line forward. He was expected both to be strong in his own end, while also a strong goal-scorer on the other. He also happens to be the player who has struggled the most adjusting to his new team.  A shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games certainly did not help.

Stats: 16 games played, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, 4 PIM, 11:53 time on ice per game

Reirden on Panik

He’s more than just a scorer for us. That’s why we targeted this player in the summer and our organization went after him. I’m just happy to see him get rewarded with some offense. That line, it’s been much talked about trying to get a little something offensively from that group.

MacLellan on Panik

It hasn't been a seamless transition for him. We haven't seen that line together much. As we get healthy, I think we'll have a better indication of whether it works or it doesn't work. For [Panik], it's been up and down. His performance has been good and it's been not so good. But we've got to give him some time to fit in and to play with his normal linemates for a stretch during the season.

Grade: C-

Two goals aren't going to cut it, but there's no denying that Panik has played remarkably better since returning from his upper-body injury. The Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Panik third line has also played together less than 24 minutes at 5-on-5 this season thus far so there really is not enough sample size to call this signing a bust yet.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Do the Caps have a second-pair right defenseman?

gudas_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Do the Caps have a second-pair right defenseman?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

@sports_god1 on Twitter writes: I know Todd has the Defense pinching more this year to jump up in the offense but that also leaves you exposed to odd-man breaks vs. highly skilled/fast teams like we saw vs. the Oilers. Do you see an adjustment vs. highly skilled/fast teams?

The only adjustment I anticipate is just being more aware of it when you play those teams.

For those who may not know what we are talking about here, I wrote an article on this. Basically, the defense has the green light to be more involved in the offense. When a defenseman sees an opening, he can pinch up deep in the offensive zone to join the attack. John Carlson has certainly taken advantage, Michal Kmepny is definitely shooting more and has three goals already this season (he had 11 career goals coming into this season) and you are even seeing Jonas Siegenthaler joining the attack.

When the defense moves up, however, you are vulnerable defensively and a forward has to drop back to account for it. Fast teams can take advantage of this by launching quick counter-attacks. Maybe you catch the Caps mid-transition when the forward is out of position and there is only one defenseman ready to defend. Even if you don’t, a fast transition is going to leave a defenseman deep in the offensive zone sprinting to catch up and the Caps’ having to defend the rush with one defenseman and one forward. Not ideal.

As you mentioned, Edmonton really exposed the weaknesses of this and had multiple odd-man breaks throughout the game. I doubt Reirden is going to suddenly tell the defense not to pinch against fast teams, but just to be aware of who they are playing and who is on the ice at any given time.

Lisa D. writes: Do you permanently move Nick Jensen to the third line so he doesn’t drag Dmitry Orlov down like Matt Niskanen did last season? Is Jensen a case of being a good D on a mediocre team and now being a mediocre D on a good team?

@BelleLegacy on Twitter writes: Would you play Nick Jensen or Radko Gudas with Dmitry Orlov? I’m starting to feel a bit concerned that Jensen ins’t the 2nd pair D that management thought. What are your thought on his play some 30+ games into his Caps tenure?

The transition has been really difficult for Jensen. In Detroit, he played a defense that primarily kept to one side. He’s a right shot, he would play on the right in both the offensive and defensive zones and just stay in his lane. In Washington, the defense is much more fluid and mobile. It switches in the offensive zone to give players better shots and then they are supposed to return to their own side on defense. This has been hard on Jensen. While he looks more comfortable on the left than he did last season (when he was really, really bad on the left), it’s clear he’s not all the way there yet.

Switching Jensen and Gudas in the lineup is the right move and one that Todd Reirden has already made. Let's see how Gudas looks with Orlov. I see Gudas as a high-end third pair guy so I like him better there, but someone has to play on the second pair. See how it looks because I think Jensen can be fine on the bottom pair.

Siegenthaler likes to pinch so there would be less reason for Jensen and Siegenthaler to switch sides in the offensive end. It would allow Jensen to stay primarily on the right and focus strictly on defense and it takes some of the pressure off of him that comes with being a top-four guy.

If Gudas doesn’t work on the second pair...then this team has a big hole it needs to fill.

@sports_god1 on Twitter writes: What’s the rope like for Nick Jensen? How bad south does it have to go for Martin Fehervary to get run?

I don’t think we are anywhere close to Jensen getting benched. Even if he is not as good as originally thought, I still like him in a third pair role. If you don’t, then consider that he is a right-shot defenseman while Fehervary is a lefty. That does not seem to bother Europeans like it does North Americans, but you also have to consider what the pairs are. Do you want a Fehervary, Jonas Siegenthaler pair? That’s a really green pair and my concern with that would be how much would Reirden actually use it, especially in important situations? This team already relies a lot on John Carlson. Having a third pair that you don't trust in the big moments would put even more on Carlson's shoulders. Do you keep Gudas on the third pair and move either Siegenthaler or Fehervary to the second pair? If second-pair right defenseman is a hole, is putting a rookie or second-year player on his off-side really the solution? Probably not.

Katie J. writes: What are the odds that we could keep Radko Gudas for a few more years? He seems to be a great fit!

The sense I get from the team is that they really like him, plus he is a righty and those are not as easy to find as lefties so I would not be surprised. But there are a few things to consider. First, if Gudas does not fit on the second pair, that means you have two right-shot, third-pair defensemen and one of them, Jensen, is under contract. What do you do about that? What do you do about a right defenseman on the second pair which is a significant position?

Price is also a consideration. Gudas costs only $2.345 million against Washington’s cap, but that’s not his total cap hit. His total cap hit is $3.35 million including the salary Philadelphia retained. At only 29 years old, Gudas may not be as cheap next year. If Braden Holtby leaves in free agency like I believe he will, the cap situation won’t be as tight, but cap hit is never not a consideration.

Phillip M. writes: As we have no top 4 right shot defensive prospects are there any teams with top four right shot defensive talent who might make a trade for Braden Holtby? I love Holtby, but he has to know the GM is not going to deconstruct the team to keep him so as Holtby can be a difference-maker on a near playoff team and if need be we may even include Dmitry Orlov with Holtby. What then would it take to get a high-end, young right shot defender and who do you think might be available?

You are right in that I do not believe general manager Brian MacLellan will deconstruct the team to keep Holtby, but I also do not think he will deconstruct the team to trade him.

The prospect pool is indeed devoid of any right-shot top-four defensemen. That is certainly an area of need. If we are strictly talking a prospect, this is not a move you make during the season unless the Caps fall apart and go into complete rebuild mode. Regardless of what anyone thinks about Holtby, whether you are a staunch supporter or one of those people who feels the need to tweet me every time a goal is scored as if you have somehow proven your point despite neglecting the fact that I have zero say in what this team does or thinks about its goaltenders, they are not going to trade him during the season. They are not going to make Ilya Samsonov, a goalie whose career-high games played is 37, the No. 1 in November and they are not going to get rid of a goalie who rebounded from the worst stretch of his career to play lights out in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup unless he completely falls apart in which case his value would plummet.

It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen.

I don’t know how else to explain this and add in the fact that you would consider packaging Orlov in the deal? Put yourself in MacLellan’s shoes. How do you trade the starting goalie and a top-four defenseman for a prospect and go to your team and say “we are all-in on the Stanley Cup this year, I still believe in you”? You can’t.

So this would not happen in the regular season. What about after the season? This is the last year of Holtby’s contract. Perhaps there would be a team out there willing to cough up an asset to acquire his rights, but it would not be a for a top-four defenseman. We are talking like a mid-round draft pick.

There are no possible targets to consider because this scenario is unrealistic.

Mike L. writes: Can you ask Garny if he wants to come over with some of the boys and yourself for a lobstah bake. Ok you can bring Rob.

That sounds like a wicked rippah. I can stop by Dunks, maybe pick up som grindahs and tonic. As long as there’s no johnnies, I’ll bang a uey and meet you in the pahlah.

FYI, my dad grew up in Rhode Island and most of his family still lives in New England. I try not to talk football with any of them...ever.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The Capitals are 10 games into the 2019-20 season. For the most part, things have gone well. The team is 6-2-2 and sits atop the Metropolitan Division. John Carlson leads the entire NHL with 18 points which puts him in some pretty elite company. Ilya Samsonov looks as good as advertised while Braden Holtby looks like his old self after a brief reset. Alex Ovechkin has six goals already and T.J. Oshie leads the team with seven. Plus, both special teams units look improved.

That’s a pretty solid start.

But there remain two important questions that still need answers.

Who should play on the right on the second defensive pair?

Michal Kempny finally returned after missing the first eight games of the season. He started the last two on the third pair, but is working his way back up to the top pairing. Once he gets there, the defense will finally be at full strength.

That gives Washington a pretty solid top three of Kempny and Carlson, plus Dmitry Orlov. But who should play on the right with Orlov?

Jensen had the first crack at it to start the season, but after some up-and-down play, Radko Gudas was bumped up for a few games. Since Kempny returned, Gudas moved back down to third to play with him and Jensen moved back with Orlov.

So far Gudas has been as good as advertised, but playing well on the third pair does not necessarily mean he should be on the second.

Jensen was one of Detroit’s top defensemen when he was acquired by the Caps. The team is still waiting for that player to emerge. It has been a tough transition for him to Washington's system and, while he has shown flashes of strong play, he remains largely inconsistent. His Corsi-For percentage at 5-on-5 is the second-worst on the team at 46.82-percent. He is one of only three Caps below 50-percent with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tyler Lewington being the other two.

The issue for the Caps may be that they have two high-quality third pair right defensemen in Jensen and Gudas and only one top-four right defenseman in Carlson which leaves a hole on that second pair.

When it comes to the defense, we should reserve all judgment until Kempny is back to playing on the top-pair full-time so we can see this defense at full strength. Until then, however, the second pair remains a question mark.

Can the Caps get enough production from the third line?

There wasn’t much offense to speak of from the Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Richard Panik trio and it didn’t take Todd Reirden long to split them up. Hagelin is the Swiss Army knife of the Caps’ offense, but his offensive production is limited. Panik meanwhile has had a tough start to his Caps’ tenure with zero points and is on long-term injured reserve.

As always, the top six for this team remains lethal and the additions of Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway to the fourth line have been home runs. The third line is the only one that remains a question and it may need a boost from a player like Jakub Vrana, who has been playing there the last few games with Eller and Hathaway, to help spark some production. Ultimately, however, you would like to see Vrana back in the top six and Hathaway back on the fourth. Hagelin, Eller and Panik are the best fit for the third, but if they can’t produce together it may mean weakening the top six or the fourth line by moving players around to find a combination that produces on that third line.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: