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Capitals

With Marcus Johansson and Tom Wilson both signed, the last restricted free agent the Capitals need to ink is Dmitry Orlov.

And both sides seem willing to make it happen after declining to file for arbitration. JJ Regan broke down the financial side of the negotiations here

As for Orlov’s 2015 season, he made some huge inroads after a stubborn wrist injury sidelined him the year before. Orlov rebounded from the dejection of the prior season to play all 82 games in 2015-16, but not without some bumps along the way.

The Russian defenseman was a game-changer on the ice. Many times he took the puck end to end and created offensive chances. Orlov finished the year with 8 goals and 29 points, but he also made his share of mistakes. 

GM Brian MacLellan described him as a “high event player, both ends there’s some events going on.”  

Orlov came under intense scrutiny two weeks before the end of the regular season, when Barry Trotz called him out for mistakes twice. 

The first came after a win against the Blues, in which Trotz said Orlov made a “soft play” against David Backes. 

Then the next game, two nights later against Columbus, Orlov gave away the puck while trying to make a clear in the defensive zone. “We threw a pizza in the middle and it ended up in the back of our net," the Capitals coach said. "That can’t happen. Those things are disastrous come playoff time.”

 

Speculation began that the 24-year-old, having played every game up to that point, would be benched. However, when asked about Orlov's talent balanced against these kinds of blunders, his mates backed their fellow blueliner, saying that he does things on the ice many of them can only dream about. 

Veterans Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen both spoke extremely highly of Orlov and what he brought to their defensive corps. 

As it turned out, Orlov was not benched. Trotz said he had a heart-to-heart with his young defenseman and was satisfied with the result. The head coach also added that the leash would be shorter in the playoffs.

Trotz later yanked that leash in the Pittsburgh series, benching Orlov after his miscue led to a Penguins goal in Game 1. He sat most of the rest of that game, and then was not in the lineup in Game 2. 

When he returned in Game 3, he appeared to be a more conservative player, one who wasn’t as willing to take the risks he did during the regular season. Risks that perhaps led to some of his offensive success. There were a few instances in Game 3 when Orlov had to the chance to start a break out, but instead decided to clear or pass, taking the safer route.

Despite the bumps in the road at the end of the season, Orlov gained a lot of confidence and his teammates enjoyed watching him change the face of a game with his talent.