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Caps may be reluctant to deal first-round pick

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Caps may be reluctant to deal first-round pick

Historically, there are two big trading windows on the NHL calendar – the days leading up to the annual trade deadline, and the days leading up to the NHL draft.

Last year, there were 23 trades consummated in the days leading up to and including the 2014 NHL draft in Philadelphia.

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan made three of them, trading three late-round picks for depth goaltender Edward Pasquale and the 159th selection of this year’s draft; sending the 104th and 118th picks to the Rangers for the 89th pick in the 2014 draft, which the Caps used to take Australian forward Nathan Walker; and sending the 44th and 74th picks in 2014 to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for the 39th pick, which the Caps used to select Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek.

At next weekend’s draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., thanks to a trade deadline deals for forward Curtis Glencross, which cost the Caps a second- and third-rounder in this year’s draft, and defenseman Tim Gleason, which cost the Caps defenseman Jack Hillen and a fourth-rounder, the Caps own just five picks in the seven-round draft.

They are:

Round 1 – 22nd overall

Round 3 – 62nd overall [from Buffalo]

Round 4 – 113th overall

Round 5 – 143rd overall

Round 6 – 173rd overall

MacLellan has said he would like to acquire a top-line right wing through a trade, but considering the Caps’ restraints with the salary cap he would might be more inclined to deal a roster player with salary than one of the club’s five draft picks. In fact, MacLellan may look to add picks in this years draft, possibly using the negotiating rights to UFA defenseman Mike Green as a trade chip, the way he did with Jaroslav Halak last year when he pried a fourth-round pick from the Islanders for the goalie’s rights.

On the flip side of that formula, the Caps could also part with a draft pick if they thought it would give them better leverage to acquire a pending UFA like Los Angeles Kings veteran right wing Justin Williams.

MORE CAPITALS: HOLTBY, CAPS CONTRACT TALKS STAGNANT

If the Caps intend to find a top-line right wing such as Patrick Sharp [two years, $5.9 million], Radim Vrbata [one year, $5 million] or T.J. Oshie [two years, $4.175 million] through a draft-day trade, they likely would need to part with their first-round pick and in a draft considered deep in talent, they might be unwilling to part with their 22nd overall pick.

The Caps have had at least one first-round pick in 12 of their last 13 drafts and while this will be their first time picking at No. 22, they’ve fared well in the bottom third of the first round, finding Andre Burakovsky [23rd in 2013], Evgeny Kuznetsov [26th in 2010], Marcus Johansson [24th in 2009], John Carlson [27th in 2008], Semyon Varlamov [23rd in 2006] and Mike Green [29th in 2004].

Stay with us as we spend the next week previewing the 2015 NHL draft and the moves the Capitals may be making leading up to it. 

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Lumberjack Caps enjoy off day...throwing axes

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@ForgedAxeWhis

Lumberjack Caps enjoy off day...throwing axes

The reigning Stanley Cup champions seemingly have boat loads of team fun while on the road. 

A day after cruising past the Vancouver Canucks (5-2, win) at their place, the team enjoyed a little friendly competition inside an...axe throwing arena. 

Forged Axe Throwing is an indoor facility in the countryside of Whistler, British Columbia. 

Dressed as lumberjacks, the Caps dove right into their team-building activity. 

Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom went head-to-head for Swedish bragging rights. 

To no one's surprise, Alex Ovechkin is as much of a goal-scorer as he is an axe-thrower. 

But it was T.J. Oshie who walked away with the Forged Axe Throwing title on this day. 

Needless to say, Tuesday wasn't your average off day for a National Hockey League team. But as reigning champs, everyday is atypical. 

 

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Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Last season was by far Braden Holtby’s worst in the NHL.

With a .907 save percentage and 2.99 GAA, Holtby was not even considered the starter for the Capitals heading into the playoffs. While his overall numbers were low, things really spiraled at the start of February.

From February 2 to March 6, Holtby managed a save percentage of only .878 and gave up a whopping 4.32 GAA. It was the worst stretch of his professional career.

There have been many theories as to the cause of Holtby’s struggles. From 2012-13 through last season, only one goalie played in more games than Holtby’s 340. After Philipp Grubauer took over, Holtby thrived in the postseason.

But neither goalie coach Scott Murray or Braden Holtby believe the issue was fatigue.

“You don't want to overuse a No. 1 guy, but [Holtby’s] a guy that has proven he can play some games and be productive,” Murray said.

The real issue, in Holtby’s mind, was the changing culture of the NHL and its focus on offense.

“It's a skill-based league now, not a toughness based league,” Holtby told NBC Sports Washington. “I see that in the league trying to take players out that play a physical game. It's hard. It's strange for us that grew up kind of loving that game because of the toughness and the heart that it took and different ways to win games. It's hard to see that kind of softness come through. That's one of those things I struggled with last year and I think you grow up and try and just ignore it and control your own game.”

It’s no secret that the NHL is trying to increase scoring with changes such as making goalie pads and pants smaller and referees calling games tighter leading to more penalties and less physical play. The league’s efforts seem to be working - in the 2017-18 season, the average goals scored per team jumped up by 10 percent.

Here are the average goals per game per team in the NHL from the 2010-11 season through 2016-17:

2010-11: 2.79
2011-12: 2.73
2012-13: 2.72
2013-14: 2.74
2014-15: 2.73
2015-16: 2.71
2016-17: 2.77

In every season during that stretch, the average fell between 2.71-2.79. In the 2017-18 season, however, that average jumped up all the way up to 2.97.

Successful NHL goalies are expected to have a save percentage over .910 and a GAA below 2.50. But what happens when that standard changes? For Holtby, he struggled to evaluate his own performance. He felt he was playing well, but the numbers told a different story.

“That was one of the real challenges last year, especially through the first four months or so,” Holtby said. “We try to evaluate it every game the same based on every play and not how the game is and it felt that, both [Murray], [goaltending director Mitch Korn] and I felt that I was playing better than I had years passed and the numbers just weren't obviously showing that and it became frustrating and that started to creep in my game. That's kind of a main reason why you saw the drop off in February.”

If the issue was not fatigue, however, then why was time off the solution?

According to Murray, it wasn’t.

“It's always good to have rest, but I think more importantly he had to reinvent himself a little bit and reestablish his foundation that got him here in the first place which is a blue-collar attitude,” Murray said. “I'm going to work and I'm going to stick to what I'm good at, my habits and make sure they're good and let some of the outside stuff go. I think that was just as important as rest, kind of that reset button and understanding who he was and what got him there and getting back to that.”

It’s an important lesson that Holtby will have to remember for this season as scoring has jumped up yet again even over last season. In the first month of play, the average number of goals per game per team has climbed to 3.10. Should that trend stick, it will be the first time the average has gone over 3.00 since 2005-06.

“You know there's going to be more goals, more chances,” Holtby said. “Just focus on every play and just leave out the rest because those are things you just can't control. That's just life.”

 

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