Happy New Year and welcome to our first Friday Six-Pack of 2016. Crazy week in Capitals Nation. Let’s get started:
@ChuckGormleyCSN are the capitals in the market for big name impact D - phaneuf? Etc.? Injuries partially but do have need for one more D...
— Zack Kaplan (@ZJKaplan) December 31, 2015
Good question, Zack. I’d love to see a player like Dion Phaneuf in a Caps uniform but not at $7 million a season for the next four years. That just won’t fit into the Caps’ salary structure. That said, I agree the Capitals will be in the market for a defenseman leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Although Marcus Johansson’s name has been tossed around in trade rumors recently and he would attract strong interest, he’s on a one-year deal and there is no cost certainty for another NHL team. With all of that in mind, I think it’s more likely Brian MacLellan adds to the Caps roster by trading for depth the way he did last year when the Caps picked up defenseman Tim Gleason, who was on an expiring contract. Unfortunately, the UFA pickings are pretty slim this year.
— Michael Marzzacco (@Marswaggo) December 31, 2015
If the Caps stand pat with their current roster – and I’m not 100 percent certain they will -- I’d like to see Brooks Laich given the opportunity at third-line center. He’s big enough and strong enough in the faceoff circle and he’s a smart positional player who can adapt easily to playing the middle of the ice while helping out down low in the defensive zone. This could also be a big opportunity for Andre Burakovsky, especially if Barry Trotz decides to move Marcus Johansson to third-line center and moves Burakovsky up to second-line left wing. Johansson would change the dynamic of the Caps’ checking line (with Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson) and I think Trotz is hesitant to make that third line something it isn’t. And then there’s Michael Latta, who was starting to play really well before his arm injury in that Monday night fight with Nicolas Deslauriers. Latta is in the final year of his contract and has a lot to gain in these final four months of the season.
— Daniel Lajoie (@DanielLajoie2) December 31, 2015
Ah, yes. I’ve been asked this question a lot recently, even before Jay Beagle was injured on that freaky play Wednesday night when Buffalo defenseman Jake McCabe swatted at a waist-high puck and hit Beagle’s hand instead. As I wrote on Thursday, there are so many risk/reward factors that play into a Mike Richards signing. First is the legal aspect. If the Caps are interested in signing Richards, do they wait until his legal issues are resolved? His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 28 but there is a possibility that hearing (for alleged possession of Oxycodone) could be pushed back even further. Second is the disruption aspect. The Caps own the best record in the Eastern Conference and Brian MacLellan may be hesitant to mess with the chemistry in his locker room. Signing Richards would bring a ton of media attention and scrutiny inside the Caps’ locker room and would place a harsh spotlight on MacLellan’s willingness to tinker with a Stanley Cup contender. Third is the on-ice aspect. In his prime Richards was one of the league’s most tenacious two-way centers in the NHL. And as recently as two years ago he was a very effective checking-line center who helped the Kings win a Stanley Cup. But since then Richards’ game has deteriorated, not to mention his off-ice reputation. If Richards gets a second chance at the NHL – and many believe he will – he will have a lot to prove to a lot of people and that could make for a determined player capable of elevating a team from Cup contender to Cup favorite. So, in a nutshell, a lot of homework would need to be done before any NHL team decides to give Richards that second chance.
— Michael Fleetwood (@mpfCaps) December 30, 2015
Yes, I see the Capitals opening up negotiations with Chimera’s agent, Allan Walsh, but the cost could be prohibitive. Chimera, 36, is in the final year of a two-year, $4 million contract and he’s earning every penny. He’s on pace for a career-high 22 goals and 44 points and those numbers certainly would warrant a raise. This is a situation very similar to what the Caps faced with Joel Ward and Eric Fehr last summer and you see what happened there, with both players getting higher pay and longer term than what the Caps were willing to offer. Chimera has said he would like to play into his 40s and stay in Washington. And with his speed and staying power I don’t doubt he could do both. But would the Caps give a 37-year-old (he turns 37 on May 2) a three-year deal? I’m not sure, especially since they’ll be committing more money to RFAs Tom Wilson, Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov. I’m not sure what dollar value the Caps are placing on Chimera, but I’m guessing somewhere in the two-year, $5 million range. Again, that’s just a guess.
@ChuckGormleyCSN is Orpik ever coming back? This is sounding worse everyday.
— Ryan P. McGonigal (@BIGR32) December 31, 2015
I wish I could give you a better answer on this. Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been extremely vague with injuries and as the season goes on I don’t expect that to change. When Orpik was first injured back on Nov. 10, Trotz said that if it was playoff time he’d be playing. Here we are almost two months later and Orpik is not even skating with the team. To my knowledge, Orpik has not undergone surgery to repair his injury and I can tell you he is doing extensive off-ice rehab and is walking much better this week than he was three weeks ago. This is purely speculation, but Orpik and the Caps may be using the NHL All-Star break in late January as a barometer for Orpik’s progress. Since the Caps are winning without him, thanks in large part to the play of Nate Schmidt, they have the luxury of allowing Orpik to take as long as he needs to be an effective player in the playoffs.
— CapsYapp (@CapsYapp) December 30, 2015
My biggest surprise would have to be Nate Schmidt. Through 32 games he has one goal, five assists and is a plus-8 while averaging 18:45 of ice time. His ability to move the puck up the ice quickly – either with a hard first pass or by carrying it himself – has made him a valuable commodity on the Caps’ top defensive unit. So much so that I think the Caps would consider keeping him there once Orpik comes back, possibly working Orpik back into the lineup alongside Dmitry Orlov. My biggest disappointment to this point would be Andre Burakovsky, who has three goals and six assists in 34 games. To borrow a phrase from Barry Trotz, I thought last year’s playoff performance would have a “trampoline effect” for Burakovsky and he would have a breakout season this year. But with the Caps’ second line of Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams playing so well, Burakovsky has been relegated to fourth-line duty and it’s hard to produce consistently when you’re playing 11 or 12 minutes a night. To his credit, Burakovsky has learned to be a reliable player on the fourth line, which may be the intended benefit Trotz had in mind when he put him there. So, while Burakovsky has been a disappointment I’m certainly not writing him off. His snap shot is one of the best on the team and he could have a very productive second half.
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