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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps look to the trade market for upgrades?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps look to the trade market for upgrades?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.

The Caps have 17 players under contract for next season and are currently about $4.1 million under the $75 million salary cap ceiling, according to Although that's enough room to flesh out the roster, it virtually assures an influx of rookies and other low-cost players in 2017-18, particularly on the blue line. Which brings us to today's question: With cap space tight and the first wave of free agency already over, should the Caps look to the trade market to find upgrades? 

Sorenson: At this point, I don’t want the Caps to go to the trade market to find a defenseman. I realize everyone will think I’m crazy for this thought because they have been left short on the blue line with Nate Schmidt being selected by Las Vegas, but I want to see some young blueliners get a chance before they look to fill what they think is a need right now. Teams don’t develop and grow without throwing young players into the fire. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Caps be forced to do that. John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Schmidt didn’t develop into the players they are because they were seasoned when they played their first NHL games. They worked their way into the lineup. Brooks Orpik was signed for his leadership and now he will be captain of the blueline along with Matt Niskanen. Taylor Chorney is perfectly capable of playing while the Caps find out which defensemen can make it in the NHL. I think it will be necessary for Caps fans to watch young players make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. The Capitals didn’t succeed in bringing a championship home in their two-year window and now it’s time to build and develop young talent. If they need to add a veteran during the season or at the deadline, do it then. But I want to see the Caps give their young guys a shot. And who knows what will happen, there’s another team in the  Metro who just won a Cup doing just that.

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El-Bashir: In a word, no. Completing a trade that would benefit this year's roster would likely involve moving another big piece, and I'm not sure filling one hole while potentially creating another is what this team needs right now. When I look at the roster as currently constructed, I see a forward lineup that's strong down the middle (Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle) with a couple of high-end wings (Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie) as well as a couple of youngsters that could blossom with more responsibility (Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson). The blue line is where my main concern lies. Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson? No problem. But I suspect integrating a rookie (or perhaps two, depending on how things shake out) could put a lot of strain on a lineup that allowed the fewest goals per game (2.16) last season. In fact, it probably means the Caps will need both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer to be as good, if not a tiny bit better, than they were last season to compensate for that increase in inexperience. I'm with Jill on this one. It's time to find out what Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey, Nathan Walker and the other prospects who've been stuck in Hershey the past couple of years can do.

Regan: There are a few problems with the team looking to the trade market. First, everyone knows the Caps’ current cap situation and no one is going to do them any favors. That means they lose a bit of their leverage. Second, the Caps no longer are negotiating with the same depth they enjoyed last season. Washington doesn’t have forwards, defensemen, prospects or draft picks really to spare. If you dip into one of those assets, you are making the team weaker which defeats the purpose of the trade. The only real expendable piece the Caps have is Philipp Grubauer and the problem there, as we have seen, is that there is no market for goalies at this point. If there is a trade to be made in which the Caps can exchange Grubauer to upgrade the blue line then, by all means, pull the trigger. And for those of you pointing to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a reason why the Caps should keep both netminders for next season, that was true last year, but the Caps' are not in the same position of strength as they have been. They simply do not have enough depth on defense to scoff at the notion of trading Grubauer...if there was a market for him. Their best bet would be to wait for a team to suffer a goalie injury or somebody to underachieve. Once the phone calls start coming in, the Caps can name their price.

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

Radko Gudas was surprised, but also relieved. A different year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed to go wrong for the Flyers, is behind him now. He plays for the Capitals now. 


“I was a little bit shocked to be honest,” Gudas said in a conference call on Tuesday. “But when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play.”


It capped a whirlwind few days for the 29-year-old, a polarizing figure in the sport along the lines of Washington forward Tom Wilson. Gudas has been suspended four times by the NHL Department of Player Safety. To say he plays the game on the edge is an understatement.


“Staying on right line of suspensions: It's always tough lately in the hockey these last few years,” Gudas said. “I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for my team. It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job.”


In the midst of a rough year for Philadelphia that saw a coach firing and a late playoff surge fall short, Gudas took advantage of increased ice time – and cut his penalty minutes to 63 from a high of 116 when he joined the Flyers four years earlier. He will never be a big offensive threat, but he’s figured out how to suppress shots and play a reliable defensive game.


At a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic on Friday when he got the news, Gudas received messages from his new teammates and wasn’t even sure who, exactly, of the Capitals coaches he spoke with. There was a lot going on. But he’s excited to play “for a well oiled machine” like Washington, which has its 2018 Stanley Cup and has won the Metropolitan Division four years in a row. 


Gudas knows fellow Washington defenseman Michal Kempny, 29, well. The two men were born just three months apart in 1990 and were teammates on the World Juniors under-18 Czech Republic team in 2008. They reconnected in 2017 for the Czech Republics’ entry in the IIHF World Championships. Jakub Vrana, 23, is a third Czech on one of the NHL’s most diverse rosters and played with Gudas at the 2019 World Championships. Kempny was still recovering from a torn hamstring sustained during the regular season. 


That familiarity is nice, but Gudas has been traded before when Tampa Bay sent him to Philadelphia in 2015. You just adjust to the role given with your new team. He’s ready for a fresh start with the Capitals. 


“They’re the winners from last year, they were the contenders this year,” Gudas said. “They always have a good team. They in the playoffs every year all these years. Play my simple game, the guys to know what to expect for me and know I’ll be there for them.”

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Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

With the NHL Draft just a few days away in Vancouver and after countless mock drafts, NBC Sports Washington will have you covered as the Capitals decide who to take with the 25th overall pick.

As part of NBC Sports Washington's coverage of the NHL Draft, the Capitals Talk Podcast will host 'Capitals On the Clock: Draft Night' on linear television and as a live stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app.

Capitals Talk will sit down with Rob Carlin, Grant Paulsen, Al Koken, Michael Jenkins, J.J. Regan and Brian McNally to discuss the Capitals the 2019 Draft. They'll be joined by Zack Fisch, Manager of Media Relations & Broadcasting with the Hershey Bears, who will shed light on who's ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

The live stream will also include an NHL and Capitals Draft trivia segment which fans will be able to play along with.

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Capitals Talk Podcast "Capitals on the Clock" Special

When: 8 p.m. Friday June 21

Where: NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports MyTeams App