Heading into the offseason, the Caps needed to find a right wing for their top line. They did that. The departure of Eric Fehr, however, leaves a new hole at third line center and finding a single replacement could prove difficult.
With only limited cap space remaining and few free agent options available, chances are the Caps are done making moves for the summer.
"We’re exploring a couple things, but i would say we’re done for now," said general manager Brian MacLellan Monday in a teleconference with the media.
That means Fehr's replacement will come from within the roster. Or perhaps I should say replacements.
Said MacLellan, "It’s just a matter of which way we want to go, how we want to set our lineup up, if we want to be more offensive on the third line or if we want more of a shutdown type line. We have different players that could fulfill both those roles--a couple of defensive guys in Brooks Laich and [Jay] Beagle and if we chose to go [Andre] Burakovsky or [Marcus] Johansson it would be a more offensive line."
Beagle was re-signed over the summer to a three-year deal. While many thinks he is better suited for the fourth line, considering his skill on the faceoff and that Barry Trotz trusted him on the top line last season, it is not surprising to hear he would be considered for the third.
Burakovsky came into the NHL as a center, but played primarily on the wing. While he is expected to compete with Johansson for left wing on the second line, MacLellan believes Burakovsky has the skills to be an NHL center.
"I’ve always thought Burakovsky would be a really good center just because of the skillset he has," MacLellan said. "We’ve only done it a little bit. To me he could play any position, right wing, center, left wing. He’s just that good."
Rotating players on the top line is not an ideal situation. Last year's carousel at right wing stemmed from the fact that the team lacked a top-line caliber right wings. Rotating players in the third line, however, allows the team some situational flexibility that MacLellan feels can be a strength next season.
"I think it just gives the coaches an opportunity to try different combinations. It will be basically on their strategy of how we want to match up against other teams."
Then again, if Johansson becomes more of a two-way player as MacLellan hopes, then perhaps he can take control of the job himself.
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