Capitals

Top 25 Capsules

Top 25 Capsules

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Seth Curry scored 24 points to lead No. 3 Duke past Georgia Tech 73-57 on Thursday night.

Mason Plumlee added 16 points and 13 rebounds after going just 2 for 12 during an awful first half, and the Blue Devils (16-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot 53 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes to bounce back from their only loss.

Freshman Chris Bolden's 20 points were the most scored by a Georgia Tech player this season.

But the Yellow Jackets (10-6, 0-4) had 21 turnovers in losing their fourth straight, remaining the only team winless in ACC play and falling to 5-32 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of a slump with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting after coming off the bench for the first time in his Duke career.

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No. 5 MICHIGAN 83, No. 9 MINNESOTA 75

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Trey Burke had 18 points and nine assists for Michigan.

Hardaway hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the Wolverines (17-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who had the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game and finished with 13 steals to fuel their fast break. Nik Stauskas added 11 points.

Austin Hollins led the Gophers (15-3, 3-2) with 21 points and four steals, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Andre Hollins was drawn into early foul trouble, but he came alive after halftime to finish with 13 points and four assists.

The Gophers crept back in the game after falling behind by 19 points early in the second half. After Rodney Williams cut the margin to 77-70 with 2:40 remaining, the Gophers got the ball back but Williams had an open 3-pointer rim out and Andre Hollins had his putback attempt blocked underneath.

Burke stretched the lead to nine with two free throws with 43 seconds left.

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No. 8 GONZAGA 71, PORTLAND 49

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Kelly Olynyk had 21 points and eight rebounds as Gonzaga won its eighth straight.

Olynyk, the 7-foot center who leads the West Coast Conference in scoring, got off to a slow start against the Pilots after two straight games with more than 30 points, scoring just one basket in the first half.

Kevin Pangos added 14 points, including four 3-pointers for Gonzaga (17-1, 4-0 WCC), as the Bulldogs extended the best start in school history.

Kevin Bailey had 16 points for the Pilots (8-11, 1-3) who trailed by as many as 21 points and dropped their 19th straight game in the series with the Zags.

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No. 10 FLORIDA 68, TEXAS A&M 47

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Mike Rosario scored 19 points and Patric Young added 18 for Florida.

The Aggies led by one point midway through the first half before a big run by the Gators gave them a 35-18 halftime lead.

It was a letdown for Texas A&M (12-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), which was coming off an 83-71 victory at Kentucky on Saturday. Elston Turner scored a career-high 40 points in that win, but managed just four points Thursday on 1-of-10 shooting.

It is the fifth straight win for Florida (13-2, 3-0) which is in the midst of playing four of five games on the road.

Jordan Greene had 12 points for the Aggies, while J'Mychal Reese added 10.

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No. 22 VCU 92, SAINT JOSEPH'S 86, OT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Treveon Graham scored six of his 25 points in overtime after Virginia Commonwealth rallied late in regulation to tie it.

Darius Theus added a career-high 22 points and 10 assists and four steals for the Rams (15-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10), who won their 12th straight. Juvonte Reddic added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Rams, who were playing their first game as a ranked team since 1984-85.

Langston Galloway had 22 points, Carl Jones 21 and C.J. Aiken had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (9-6, 1-2).

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NORTHWESTERN 68, No. 23 ILLINOIS 54

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Reggie Hearn scored 20 points and Northwestern built an early lead using 3-point shooting to hand Illinois its third straight loss.

Illinois has lost five of seven - and three straight in the Big Ten - after starting 12-0.

The Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big Ten) were 8 of 15 from 3-point range but hit five of those shots in the first half to build a 36-21 lead.

Northwestern made 26 of 31 free throws, many of them late with Illinois forced to foul.

The Illini (14-5, 1-4) closed within 48-39 on a free throw by Brandon Paul with 4:36 to play and got no closer.

Jared Swopshire had 12 points and six rebounds for Northwestern, while Alex Marcotullio scored 12 points and Dave Sobolewski added 10.

Paul had 21 points for Illinois, which shot 38 percent from the field, including going 3 of 20 from 3-point range.

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No. 24 UCLA 74, OREGON STATE 64

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Shabazz Muhammad scored 21 points and Kyle Anderson added 17 as UCLA won its 10th straight.

Travis Wear added 17 points for the Bruins (15-3, 5-0 Pac-12), who equaled their longest winning streak since 2008-09. They have won 23 of the last 24 games played against Oregon State on their home court.

Roberto Nelson scored 17 points and Joe Burton added 12 points for the Beavers (10-7, 0-4). They lost their fourth straight and fifth in their last six.

The Beavers were held under their 75.7-point scoring average. They are one of two Pac-12 teams with five players averaging double figures, but only three players reached that mark in the game.

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

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: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

2018-19 stats

Noel Acciari (27 years old): 72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (34 years old): 76 games played with the Vegas Golden Knights, 6 goals, 9 assists, 15 points, 12:26 TOI

Playoffs: 6 games played with the Vegas Golden Knights, 0 goals, 0 assists, 11:44 TOI

Hockey-Graph contract projections

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: 2 years, $1,450,996 cap hit

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to double the salary of an obvious fourth-line player. 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot. 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.   

The case for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

A late bloomer who grew into a bottom-six role for the Philadelphia Flyers and, the past two seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights. Bellemare held his own as an above-water possession player on a team that dominated in that area. But even when taking into account his usage and that he ranked lower than most of his teammates in that area, he was still about break even. 

No other forward logged as much time on the penalty kill for Vegas (147:54) and it wasn’t close. The Knights gave up just 18 power-play goals with Bellemare on the ice and scored three short-handed goals. He had two shortys in his time with the Flyers.

Bellemare won’t give you much offensively. He’s never reached double digits in goals or 20 points in a season. He’ll also turn 35 late next season. But he’s played in the Stanley Cup playoffs three of his four NHL seasons (31 games) and the Capitals remember him from the Cup Final in 2018. Bellemare had two assists in that series. He’s difficult to play against, would provide a veteran presence missing on the fourth line and was primarily a center for the Knights so he has positional versatility. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here. 

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Breaking down all the implications of Carl Hagelin's new deal with the Caps

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Breaking down all the implications of Carl Hagelin's new deal with the Caps

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a difficult task this offseason of maintaining a roster that could still compete for the Stanley Cup despite facing a major salary cap crunch. The first big move came on Friday with the trade of Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas which freed up a sizable amount of cap space. The second big move came on Sunday with the re-signing of forward Carl Hagelin.

Washington acquired Hagelin at the trade deadline and he fit in well with the team. Now the Caps have locked him up for the next four years with an $11 million deal.

There’s a lot to like about this move.

Hagelin is a good player who played a significant role with two Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins teams. He scored only 18 points last season, but 11 of those points came in 20 games with the Caps showing there was an obvious fit. He instantly became Washington’s best forward penalty killer as he logged 2:21 of shorthanded ice time per game with the Caps, the most among the team’s forwards.

The Swedish forward is also incredibly versatile and can fit into any he is plugged into. That is a valuable asset considering the team may not have enough cap room to fill all its holes this offseason.

What Hagelin is best known for, however, is his speed. Now opposing teams will have to contend with the speed of players like Hagelin, Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov all while worrying about the physical play from players like Tom Wilson and Radko Gudas.

All that, and it came at a pretty great price.

After finishing up a four-year contract with a $4 million per year cap hit, Hagelin’s new deal carries a very modest cap hit of just $2.75 million.

Given his pedigree and his skillet, it seems likely there may have been a market for Hagelin’s talents had he reached free agency. The interview period in which free agents are free to talk to other teams does not begin until June 23 so this new contract prevented Hagelin for exploring other opportunities.

As good as this deal is, however, there are some problems with it as well that carry implications across the roster.

Just because Washington got Hagelin for cheap does not mean they did not overpay. Signing free agents frequently results in a team overpaying as the market tends to bump up the value of desirable players. MacLellan has, throughout his tenure, sought to keep cap hits low by offering long-term deals. Hagelin is no exception.

Hagelin will turn 31 in August. For a player whose main asset is speed, four years is a long term to give him. As smart a player as he is, once his speed begins to falter with age it will significantly hinder his effectiveness as a player.

You may not consider 31 to be old, but it is old enough that the team should be concerned by how he will look in the last few years of his contract.

Washington now has nine forwards, six defensemen and two goalies under contract for next season. According to CapFriendly, the Caps sit at about $10.7 million under the projected cap ceiling of $83 million. Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos are both restricted free agents and expected to return. If Vrana takes a bridge deal, he will likely take a $4 million cap hit while Djoos should come in at about $1 million. That gives the Caps about $5.7 million to sign another three forwards and that’s assuming the salary cap is $83 million. According to Elliotte Friedman, after the combine, several teams believe the cap will actually be closer to $82 million which would, of course, mean less room for Washington to maneuver.

On the surface, $5.7 million appears to be plenty, but things are much tighter considering Brett Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and Andre Burakovsky is a restricted free agent. Just to qualify Burakovky would require offering him one year at $3.25 million. Suddenly that $5.7 million does not appear to be all that much.

At the very least, the Caps are going to be limited in what they can offer a player like Connolly and that will make it difficult to re-sign him.

“I was able to produce here, for sure,” Connolly said on breakdown day. “But it was in a limited role. So, part of me wants to challenge myself again and take that next step in my development. I'm 26, I feel I'm in the prime of my career, my body feels great. There's going to be opportunity out there, I know that.”

 Connolly turned 27 in May and is coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals, 24 assists and 46 points, all career-highs. Given the talent Washington boasts on its roster and their salary cap, there will be teams out there willing to offer Connolly a bigger role and more money than what the Caps can in free agency and that was before Washington re-signed Hagelin.

The problem here is that offensive depth is an issue for the Caps and one that Connolly directly addresses. In their playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington scored 20 goals in seven games. The team’s bottom-six forwards accounted for only five of those goals. That is just not enough. Of those five goals, one of them was an empty-netter and one came on a penalty shot. Of those three remainings, two were scored by Connolly.

Now the team may have no choice but to see its biggest bottom-six offensive threat leave in free agency and MacLellan has limited money with which to pursue free agent forwards leaving no clear solution for how to replace Connolly’s production. It is not going to come just from getting a full season from Hagelin.

Hagelin does a lot of different things really well on the ice. Producing offensively isn’t one of them. His career-high in goals is 17 which he last scored in 2014-15. Last season, he had five.

Yes, Hagelin is a very good player who adds speed, helps the team’s penalty kill and comes in at a great cap hit. What he does not address, however, is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses and his signing will make it very hard for the Caps to fix that weakness this summer.

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