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After selecting a goalie, Capitals bolster blue line

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After selecting a goalie, Capitals bolster blue line

After taking Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., the Capitals set their sights on bolstering their blue line by selecting three straight defensemen in Rounds 2, 5 and 6 on Saturday.

The four draft picks match the fewest taken by the Capitals in any draft year. They also made four picks in the 2011 draft. Unlike that year, when the Caps did not pick until the fourth round, the Caps traded away their third- and fourth-round picks on Saturday to select Swiss defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler at No. 57 overall.

After sitting out Rounds 3 and 4, the Caps made defenseman Connor Hobbs their fifth-round pick at No. 143 and defenseman Colby Williams in the sixth round at No. 173.

Hobbs, 18, is a puck-moving 6-foot, 187-pound defenseman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who plays for the Regina Pats, the same childhood team of Capitals coach Barry Trotz and the hometown of Caps assistant general manager Ross Mahoney.

Hobbs used the word “super pumped” at least four times in his interview with reporters and said he had an “awesome” pre-draft chat with the Capitals.

“I’m super happy, super pumped,” he said. “I thought I’d go somewhere in he middle-ish to late rounds I can’t say enough. I’m super pumped, super excited.”

Hobbs recorded one goal and 15 assists, along with 31 penalty minutes, in 33 games for Regina last season after being traded from Medicine Hat, where he had one goal and one assist in 12 games.

He said he has a hard shot and likes to “rip the puck,” saying he strives on making hard tape-to-tape passes out of his defensive zone.

MORE CAPITALS: WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT SAMSONOV

He grew up a Maple Leafs fan and said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is his favorite player. Along with the Caps’ other draft picks, he is expected to attend the Caps’ development camp from July 7-11.

The Caps took Hobbs’ teammate, Colby Williams, with their final pick of the draft at No. 173. Considered more of an offensive threat from the blue line, the 5-11, 191-pounder from Regina, Saskatchewan recorded 11 goals and 30 assists with 95 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Pats.

Here are some thumbnails on the three defensemen taken by the Caps:

Jonas Siegenthaler, 6-2, 220, Zurich, Switzerland

- Siegenthaler spent the majority of the 2014-15 season with Zurich in the Swiss League under former Stanley Cup-winning coach Marc Crawford. A physical, two-way defenseman, Siegenthaler led the Lions with 39 penalty minutes.

- Internationally, Siegenthaler registered four assists in seven games and was named to the tournament all-star team at the 2015 Under-18 World Championship, helping host Switzerland to a fourth-place finish. Siegenthaler has also represented his country at the 2015 World Junior Championship and the 2013 and 2014 Under-18 World Championships. 

- In 2012-13, Siegenthaler was part of two championship teams. He registered 2-12-14 in 34 games for Zurich’s junior team to win the Swiss Elite Jr. A Championship and also helped the under-17 team to a title with two assists in five postseason contests. 

What they’re saying: Jonas Siegenthaler is a smooth skating defenseman with a tremendous combination of size and mobility. Keeps his game simple, by not risking too much and always looking to make a short safe pass. Needs to improve his shoot, despite most of the time being on target, his release is poor and it lacks power. Has fine hands and puck handling and his passes are soft and accurate, but like his shot they lack power. Stands his ground along the boards and is not afraid to use his body, while playing a reliable defensive game. – Elite hockey prospects

Connor Hobbs, 6-0, 187, Saskatoon, Sask.

Favorites:

NHL team: Toronto Maple Leafs

NHL player: Drew Doughty
Movie: Boondock Saints
TV show: That '70s Show
Actor: Will Ferrell
Musician: George Strait
Sport (other than hockey): Football
Athlete (non-hockey): Derek Jeter, Roy Jones Jr.

What they’re saying: "He does a lot of things really well. He's big, he's got good skills, he moves good on the ice. He's everything we hoped for. For somebody who shoots the puck like him, you hope there's going to be more offence. I think there will be. More than anything, he's 17. Last year he was playing midget hockey. When he's 18 and 19 years old, he's going to be a really high-end defenseman." – Pats coach John Paddock

Colby Williams, 5-11, 191, Regina, Sask.

- Set career highs with 11 goals, 30 assists and 41 points in 2014-15. Added 3 goals, 5 assists in nine playoff games. Named defenseman and player of the year for Pats.

 

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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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