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Five UFA defensemen that might interest Caps

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Five UFA defensemen that might interest Caps

In a perfect world, the Capitals would have locked up restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov by now, giving general manager Brian MacLellan a clear-cut picture of what he has to spend when the unrestricted free agent market opens for business at noon on Wednesday.

Instead, MacLellan will wade into the waters with trepidation, careful not to overspend the estimated $6 million he’ll have in cap space when the numbers for Holtby, Johansson and Kuznetsov are in the books.

Some of that $6 million will almost certainly be spent on a UFA depth defenseman, someone capable of playing third-pair minutes in the event Nate Schmidt or Dmitry Orlov are unable to handle the load or if one of the Caps’ top four defensemen gets injured.

Although MacLellan acknowledged he may be forced to pick through the UFA leftovers on Thursday or Friday, here are five defensemen that might interest the Caps if they are not snatched up quickly on Wednesday:

Barret Jackman, St. Louis Blues

Age: 34

2014-15 stats: 2-13-15, plus-3 in 80 games, 16:48

2014-15 cap hit: $3.16 million

Scouting report: A hard-edged, defensive defenseman, Jackman was the NHL’s top rookie way back in 2002-03. He plays a solid, reliable game and is a great leader in the locker room. He’d fit in nicely as the Caps’ fifth defenseman but other teams may need him to play a top-four role and will be willing to overpay.

Sergei Gonchar, Montreal Canadiens

Age: 41

2014-15 stats: 1-13-14, plus-6 in 48 games, 17:41

2014-15 cap hit: $5 million

Scouting report: Taken by the Capitals with the 14th pick of the 1992 draft, Gonchar could be a nice fit with the team that gave him his start in the NHL, especially if he’s willing to settle for a one-year, $1.5 million contract. He's played for six teams in his 20-year NHL career that included a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. Gonchar may have lost a step, but he is a reliable first-pass defensemen who might be willing to play a No. 7 role in a familiar city. Gonchar is also from Evgeny Kuznetsov’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Eric Brewer, Toronto Maple Leafs

Age: 36

2014-15 stats: 3-8-11, minus-5 in 44 games, 18:41

2014-15 cap hit: $3.875 million

Scouting report: Brewer doesn’t give you much offensively, but he’s a big [6-4, 216] left-shot defenseman who can log big minutes when needed. Brewer is well-respected in the locker room but has been to the playoffs just twice in the past 12 seasons. Like Gonchar, he would need to settle for a contract that pays him about $1.5 million.

Robyn Regehr, Los Angeles Kings

Age:  35

2014-15 stats: 3-10-13, plus-10 in 67 games, 20:19

2014-15 cap hit: $3 million

Scouting report: At 6-3, 222 pounds, Regehr is still capable of logging heavy minutes and is a force on the penalty kill. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2014 and would likely want a more meaningful role than the Caps have to offer. But if Justin Williams decides to come to Washington, he might be able to lure his Kings teammate with him.

Tim Gleason, Washington Capitals

Age: 32

2014-15 stats: 1-8-9, minus-13 in 72 games, 16:19

2014-15 cap hit: $1.2 million

Scouting report: Gleason did not rule out the thought of returning to the Capitals and neither did MacLellan, saying he liked the toughness and reliability of the 11-year veteran. Gleason is not likely to attract a high level of interest in the open market and his familiarity with the Caps could make him a good fit at a cap-friendly salary in the $1 million range.

MORE CAPITALS: SUITORS LINING UP FOR CAPS' JOEL WARD 

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.