Welcome back to our Friday six-pack of Capitals questions. Plenty to choose from this week, so keep them coming!
what teams are sending scouts to caps games? Any interest in galiev? - @PSLouis85
In the two Capitals games since the NHL All-Star break NHL teams represented in the Verizon Center the press box have been the Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets (twice), Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers (twice). That doesn’t always mean there’s a strong interest by any of those teams. Some scouts plan these trips early in the season and others regularly scout Capitals games because of where they live. Intentionally or not, the Caps showcased Stan Galiev on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers but it didn’t last very long. After starting the game on the top line the Caps fell behind early and Barry Trotz replaced Galiev with Jason Chimera on the top line. Galiev, 24, has another year left on his contract and next season it becomes a one-way at $575,000. The problem with Galiev is thart his sample size is very small. He’s only played in 14 games this season and has two assists. Thart is not going to draw much interest in the open market and it certainly won’t get you much of a return. I could see the Caps putting Galiev in a package that could yield a player they think can help them in the playoffs.
Could we possibly see a big trade before the deadline? Possibly acquire a D-man. If so, who? @waleed_shaikh
It depends on how you quantify “big.” The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 29 and, yes, I think the Caps are in the market for a defenseman, just because you can never have too many. I like the way the Caps’ blue liners have played in the absence of Brooks Orpik – especially the development of Nate Schmidt and the reliable play of Taylor Chorney – and Dmitry Orlov has made significant strides, but I think one more veteran defenseman could put them over the top. I’ve mentioned before in this space that I think Dan Hamhuis would be a good fit with the Caps. A 33-year-old veteran who played six seasons under Barry Trotz in Nashville, Hamhuis is back practicing with the Vancouver Canucks after suffering facial fractures when he was struck by a puck in December. He could return to action this weekend. Hamhuis is in the final year of his deal with the Canucks and carries a $3.25 million cap hit. Prorated, that would be roughly $700,000 against the cap. According to our good friends at www.generalfanager.com, the Caps currently have roughly $5 million in cap space. But they also have Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) on long-term injury reserve. They have 49 players under contract, leaving them room for one more before hitting the 50-man limit. Making room for a contract like Hamhuis’ would simply require sending a player or two (Zach Sill and/or Galiev) down to the minors. The question, of course, is what the Caps would be willing to play for veteran depth on their blue line. Last year the Caps acquired Tim Gleason from the Hurricanes in exchange for Jack Hillen and a fourth-round pick. Would the Caps be willing to give up their first-round pick, which could be 30th overall, for a player like Hamhuis? And would that be enough for the Canucks?
Do you see Kuznetsov as a 100 pt player within a year or two? @E19HT_6
I hope I’m wrong, but no. That’s not to say I don’t like everything Evgeny Kuznetsov brings to the table. I just think reaching 100 points is more difficult now than ever. Since the 2011-12 season, only one player, Sidney Crosby, has recorded 100 or more points (104 points in 2013-14). This season, Patrick Kane is tearing it up in Chicago and is on pace for 112 points. Jamie Benn, who is closest to Kane in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, is on pace for 91 points. There is no question in my mind that if Kuznetsov can stay healthy -- and he has through his first two-plus seasons in the NHL – he will be a point-a-game player throughout his NHL career. That’s pretty darn good. Maybe even Hall of Fame worthy depending on if he can win a few championships. Justin Williams has won three Stanley Cups and has played with some incredible players and he told me yesterday he thinks Kuznetsov might be one of the smartest and most skilled players he’s ever played with. So, yes, Kuznetsov is capable of scoring 100 points. Time will tell if he will ever get there.
Do we have any update on MoJo and his injury? D2D with the CAPS has meant week to week for other players. That scares me. @@zachg10
do you think orpik returns in the near future? Next couple weeks? @Jklass3n
Marcus Johansson (upper body) and Brooks Orpik (lower body) were on the ice practicing with the Caps on Friday and I think both will be back in the lineup during the Caps’ upcoming three-game road trip to Nashville (Tuesday), Minnesota (Thursday) and Dallas (Saturday). Since Monday is a travel day the Caps won’t have their next practice until Wednesday in Minnesota. Caps coach Barry Trotz said he’d like to have his injured players practice before returning to the lineup. That being the case, I could see both Orpik and Johansson returning Thursday against the Wild. Orpik told me this is the longest he’s ever been out of the lineup (35 games) in his NHL career and wants to prove to his coaches and teammates that he’s durable enough to be an impact player in the playoffs. Johansson wore a non-contact gray practice jersey today and will need to be cleared for full contact before he can play.
When Jay Beagle becomes healthy again what do you think the caps lines look like? who sits? -@c_lo83
The good news is that Jay Beagle (hand surgery) is now skating with a stick in his hands and could be back practicing with the Caps when they return from next week’s road trip. With that in mind, I could see his return coming sometime in third week of February. Where he fits in will depend on the effectiveness of Mike Richards, who has been winning faceoffs (57 percent) but is still looking to find his touch offensively. That said, here’s how I see the Caps’ forward lines shaking out:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Mike Richards – Jay Beagle
Extras: Michael Latta, Stan Galiev
you've been around the great regular season teams that have failed. What makes THIS team different? - @theNHLLocksmith
Great question and you’re right. I covered teams in Philadelphia that looked unbeatable in the regular season – the 2002-03 Flyers had 107 points and the 2010-11 Flyers had 106 points – but both were knocked out in the second round. The Flyers lost top defenseman Eric Desjardins in 2003 and were doomed after that. The 2011 team had defenseman Chris Pronger for just three playoff games and rotated three goalies, which led to a second-round sweep to the Bruins. But I also covered a Flyers team in 2009-10 that limped into the playoffs on a shootout victory in the final game of the regular season but made it all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, when a bad-angle goal by Patrick Kane won it for the Blackhawks. That’s why it’s important to note that Stanley Cups are never won in February or March. What makes this Capitals team different than the one, say, in 2009-10 is the age and maturity of its core players, its willingness to play team defense, the experience of its coaching staff, and its elite-level goaltending. I understand the consternation of Capitals fans who have been disappointed in the past. But every season presents new challenges and opportunities and I honestly think this team is capable of going all the way.
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