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If you read between the lines, Brian MacLellan tipped his hand about his plan for Orpik, Alzner

If you read between the lines, Brian MacLellan tipped his hand about his plan for Orpik, Alzner

Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a lot to say on Tuesday when he met with the media. Overtly, he did not say much about defenseman Brooks Orpik or Karl Alzner, but what you see when you read between the lines spoke volumes as to what their future with the team may be.

The Capitals are a team that will be strapped for cash this offseason thanks to several restricted free agents in need of new contracts such as Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Nate Schmidt. One potential way to relieve some of that pressure would be to buy out a player.

Orpik will be 37 years old at the start of next season. He has two years remaining on his five-year contract and carries a cap hit of $5.5 million. It is no secret Orpik’s on-ice performance no longer lives up to his cap hit which has led to speculation that he could be a potential buyout candidate this offseason. On Tuesday, MacLellan put an end to that notion.

When asked about any potential buyouts this offseason, MacLellan said, “No, I don’t expect to have any.”

RELATED: Caps 'open' to signing Orlov and Kuznetsov long-term

The first question many will have is why not? Orpik remains a physical presence on the blue line, but his lack of speed is ill-suited to the quickening pace of today’s NHL. If the Caps are in need of cap space, why not buy him out?

The most likely answer will be totally unsatisfying to many fans: Intangibles. His true value to Washington is not what he does on the ice, but what he brings off of it.

When asked about Orpik in March, Barry Trotz said, “Teams follow their leaders and he's one of our important leaders. He quietly will, not really grab a guy, but he'll quietly make a suggestion if there's someone who's maybe not acting the right way or performing the right way and I think that has a real big impact because he's so respected in the room.”

Not many teams will be clamoring to trade for a 37-year-old defenseman with a significant cap hit, so it seems safe to say that without a buyout, Orpik will be returning to the fold again next season.

But what about Alzner? This is where you have to read between the lines.

When talking about how the team will retool for next season, MacLellan said of the defense, “[Dmitry Orlov]’s already top-four. [Nate Schmidt]’s going to move into the top-four.”

If the team has Orlov and Schmidt in the top four, along with Matt Niskanen and John Carlson and we know Orpik will be returning, then that does not leave much room left for Alzner.

An Orpik-Alzner pair would be a disaster with neither player bringing much in the way of speed to the table. Could Alzner potentially slide to the third pair and play alongside a prospect or Taylor Chorney? Perhaps, but if MacLellan thought Orpik would spend the majority of next season as a healthy scratch, you have to believe a buyout would still be on the table. It doesn’t matter what his leadership is, you cannot have $5.5 million sitting in the press box.

MacLellan did not mention Alzner once during his availability and in truth, it seems hard to find a spot for him in the lineup given what MacLellan had to say about the makeup of the top-four. As an unrestricted free agent, it appears Alzner's time in Washington is at an end.

MORE CAPITALS: Connolly remains in Caps' plans despite late benching

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Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

The Capitals have a superstar Russian, an incredible Swedish center, a Canadian netminder, but the team also boasts several American players as well. On the 4th of July when American celebrate the birth of our nation, lets put down the barbecue, apple pie and fireworks for a few minutes to remember some of the top highlights from each of the team's Americans.

Travis Boyd: 4 goals for Hayden

In Feb. 2018, Boyd turned hardship into an inspirational moment. While with the Hershey Bears, Boyd's daughter, Hayden, developed a serious infection and had to go to the hospital. Boyd went with her on a Sunday and did not leave until Friday morning to prepare for that night's game, a game in which he would score four goals.

John Carlson: The golden goal

Carlson has numerous highlights from his career with the Caps, but on Indepence Day it seems only fitting to look back at his biggest goal for his country. Carlson represented Team USA in the 2010 World Junior Championships which was hosted by Canada that year. USA made it all the way to the final where the played the host nation. Tied at 5 through regulation, Carlson scored the golden goal off a 2-on-1 as he caught the goalie leaning anticipating the pass.

Nic Dowd: Historic penalty shot

In Game 5 of the Caps' series against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019, Nic Dowd was slashed by defenseman Dougie Hamilton while he was in alone on goalie Petr Mrazek. Dowd was awarded the first penalty shot of his career and he delivered, dekeing right to open up Mrazek's pads and tucking the puck through the 5-hole. In addition to being his first penalty shot goal, the goal was also Dowd's first-career playoff point.

The goal also had some historic significance for the team as it was Washington's first ever playoff penalty shot goal.

RELATED: 2003 NHL REDRAFT

Garnet Hathaway: Shows his toughness against the Rangers

On Oct. 18, the Caps hosted the New York Rangers and it proved to be an pretty epic night for Hathaway. He was knocked out of the game in the second period with a broken nose after a big hit from Jacob Trouba, came back in the third, drew a cross-check, fought Brendan Smith (again, with a broken nose), the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway returned to score the empty-netter.

That’s a pretty unbelievable game.

Nick Jensen: Assisting on goal No. 700

Jensen has been with the Capitals for about a year and a half, but he will forever be linked to the team's greatest franchise player thanks to one assist.

Against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, Jensen grabbed a loose puck behind the offensive goal line and sent it back behind the net to keep the offensive cycle going. That allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to find Alex Ovechkin who scored career goal No. 700.


T.J. Oshie: T.J. Sochi

Who could forget about Oshie's incredible performance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi?

Playing against Team Russia, USA leaned heavily on Oshie in the shootout. He would score four times on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as USA walked away victorious.

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The biggest 'what ifs' for the 2019-20 Capitals' season: What if Vrana had a top power play role all season?

The biggest 'what ifs' for the 2019-20 Capitals' season: What if Vrana had a top power play role all season?

We are looking at some of the biggest “what ifs” for the Capitals for the 2019-20 season.

Today’s what if: What if Jakub Vrana had a top power-play role all season?

Jakub Vrana may be having the best season that no one is talking about. When you are teammates with one of the best goal scorers of all-time and a bonafide superstar, other players tend to get overshadowed. Just ask Nicklas Backstrom.

Vrana scored 24 even-strength goals in the 2019-20 season, tied for 11th in the NHL. It’s only four behind David Pastrnak, three behind Leon Draisaitl, one behind Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, tied with Jack Eichel and more goals than players like Mika Zibanejad (23), Nathan MacKinnon (23), Connor McDavid (23) and Brad Marchand. So why isn’t Vrana viewed as the same caliber offensive player as those others? The answer is the power play.

While Vrana ranks 11th in even-strength goals, he ranks tied for 35th overall with 25 goals. That’s right, he has one single power-play goal this season. The 10 players ahead of him in the even-strength goals list averaged just over 10 power-play goals for the season. An extra 10 goals would have tied Vrana with McDavid for 10th in the NHL.

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Vrana did not start the season on the top player play unit. He was actually only moved there late in the season as Washington’s power play struggled. Relegated to the forgotten and rarely used second unit, Vrana only recently started to see more opportunity on the power play resulting in just one goal which came on Jan. 11.

But what if Vrana had been on the top power-play unit all season? Would he have racked up enough goals to garner national attention?

RELATED: 2003 NHL REDRAFT

Probably not as much as you may think.

First, let’s remember that the power play has been terrible this season. It ranks 17th in the NHL overall, but is actually 24th since Dec. 23. Second, there is not a natural spot where Vrana fits on the top power play. He is a sniper, his best asset is shooting and he is not going to replace the player tasked with taking the one-timer from the far faceoff dot, Alex Ovechkin. Vrana was playing the goal line in place of Evgeny Kuznetsov. Based on how Washington's power play has worked the last few years, this spot is primarily for setting up the slot or bouncing it back to the half-wall. Vrana is a better set-up player than many give him credit, but this role really does not put him in the best position to use his shot. More time on the power play should increase his goal total just as a result of him being on the ice more, but based on how the power play has played and how he is used, it probably would not have boosted his totals into being one of the top 10-15 scorers in the NHL this season.

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