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End of season review: Dmitry Orlov

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End of season review: Dmitry Orlov

Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Dmitry Orlov

Position: Defense

Shoots: Left

Age: 23 [turns 24 July 23]

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 210

Games: Did not play

Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 2-year, $4 million contract [2015-16 salary: $2.25 million; cap hit: $2 million]

Strengths: When he’s healthy, Orlov is a very effective two-way defenseman with a heavy shot and an ability to separate opponents from the puck with open-ice hits. In 2013-14, he averaged 19:36 in ice time, primarily on a second pairing with Mike Green. But a broken wrist suffered in the 2014 World Championships began a nightmarish season for Orlov, who developed an infection that required a second surgery and resulted in a lack of strength and flexibility in his left wrist. Orlov was assigned to Hershey on March 27 for a three-game rehab assignment and recorded three assists and a minus-3 rating for the Bears. He returned to Washington on April 2 but Capitals coach Barry Trotz did not have enough confidence in Orlov to put him in the lineup, saying he needed to improve handling the puck in tight areas. During the playoffs Orlov said he received a call from the Russian national team inviting him to play in the 2015 World Championships if the Capitals were eliminated. “I don’t want us to lose,” Orlov said, “but I was surprised the coach called me and I was excited the coach believe in me for the national team.”

Room for improvement: Orlov said he was healthy enough to play in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs and does not anticipate needing any more surgeries on his wrist. “I watch games from press box,” he said. “I was mad at not playing because I wanted to be part of the team. But they play good. It was a hard season for me. Right now it’s all good. I just want to forget what happened, forget this year and be ready for next. It was a hard year not playing. I feel I can do what I did before. Every day I feel better.

I just want these few months to go fast and I look forward to practicing and playing.”

Memorable Moment: Two of Orlov’s three assists in Hershey came off booming slap shots from the point. He took six shots in those three games and appeared to have the same torque as he had in the first three seasons of his pro career.

Quotable: “You can’t practice, like, every day and not play. It’s hard emotionally. All hockey players want to play in games and not just practices. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s hard to be normal. I’m not being myself. I’m not doing what I can do.” – Orlov on Dec. 11, 2014

2015-16 Expectations: General manager Brian MacLellan said he plans on having Orlov and Nate Schmidt as the Caps’ third defense pairing next season but also sent up a warning flag by saying he does not know if Orlov will ever be 100 percent again. That means some of the strength and flexibility in Orlov’s wrist may never be fully restored. Orlov said his biggest problem was fending off opponents with his left hand while battling for pucks in the corners. If Orlov can continue strengthening the muscles around his wrist fracture he should be able to compensate and return to play a significant role with the Caps next season. But if Orlov cannot fully recover, next season could be his final one in Washington because of his contract situation.

RELATED: End of season review: Matt Niskanen

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Andre Burakovsky inks new deal with Colorado Avalanche

Andre Burakovsky inks new deal with Colorado Avalanche

Andre Burakovsky is officially no longer a Washington Capital.

After he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in June for second and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, Burakovsky inked a new deal with the squad for one year and $3.25 million.

Burakovsky posted 25 points last season in 76 games and had been the subject of trade rumors for the better part of two seasons. The Capitals offered him a qualifying offer but would have had to match his previous cap hit of $3 million per year.

The Capitals, after signing Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Brendan Leipsic, have a touch over $4 million left to sign restricted free agents Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson, and Burakovsky's departure gave them the cap space to sign those deals.

Colorado meanwhile has $19.9 million in remaining cap space and need to sign a host of restricted free agents to new deals, including Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher and Vlaidslav Kamenev.

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20 Burning Capitals Questions: Can the third line provide enough offense?

20 Burning Capitals Questions: Can the third line provide enough offense?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2. 

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.  

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for the next three weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.   

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today we look at the team's offensive depth.

Can a Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Richard Panik third line provide enough offense?

When you look at the Capitals’ offseason moves, it is clear the focus was to improve the team defensively. Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic all look like decent defensive upgrades, but the team has also lost a lot of offensive production that it has not necessarily accounted for.

Gone are Brett Connolly, a 20-goal scorer, and Andre Burakovsky, a player who was inconsistent and frequently underperformed but who also had top-six skill and potential.

In seven playoff games against the Carolina Hurricanes last season, Washington got just five goals from the bottom-six. Two of those goals came from Connolly who is now gone, one was a penalty shot and one was an empty netter. Clearly, depth offense was a weakness for the team last season and now they seemingly have less.

In today’s NHL, the best teams do not rely solely on the top-six for offense, but the top-nine. But with Connolly gone, Washington’s third line projects to be Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller and Panik. Can that line provide enough offense for depth scoring not to be a weakness?

Hagelin is a very versatile player, but offense is not his strong suit. He managed only five goals and 19 total points last season. He has never scored 20 goals in any season of his career and has reached 30 points only once in the past five seasons. Eller has been a good fit in Washington and tallied 38 and 36 points in each of the past two seasons, the best two seasons of his career. But, like Hagelin, he has never scored 20 goals at any point in his career. Panik scored 20 goals only once in 2016-17 when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks and playing on a line with Jonathan Toews. Last season with the Arizona Coyotes, he totaled 14 goals and 19 assists.

The third line does not necessarily need one guy to carry the load and score 20+ goals, but it cannot be dragged down by a player scoring in the single digits either. Five goals from Hagelin will not be enough.

The good news is that in recent years many players join the Caps and see an immediate boost in their offensive production. Connolly had 59 points in five NHL seasons prior to coming to Washington and he scored 96 in his three years with the Caps. As noted before, Eller’s two best seasons of his career came in the last two years, both in Washington. Hagelin scored only five goals last season, but three of them plus 11 of his 19 points came in the final 20 games of the season after getting traded to the Caps.

This is not to suggest anyone on the third line will suddenly become a breakout scorer. They have established over their careers that is not who they are, but there is a reason to project that all three could score in the 15+ goal range with 30-40 points.

The Caps could not afford to keep or replace the offensive production they lost in the offseason, but if the team improves defensively as much as MacLellan hopes, they may not have to. We may see a lot more 3-2 games than 5-4 this year, but you don’t need to score as many goals if you are not giving up as many.

Can the third line score as many goals as last season? That seems doubtful. Can it generate enough offense that the team does not become top-heavy and entirely dependent on its top-six? Yes, it can.

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