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Keith Kinkaid bedevils Caps as Washington falls in shootout

Keith Kinkaid bedevils Caps as Washington falls in shootout

Keith Kinkaid stood on his head for the Devils earning his team the unlikely 2-1 shootout win in Washington on Thursday.

How it happened: Evgeny Kuznetsov took the puck into the corner off a faceoff in the defensive zone and inexplicably attempted a no-look behind the back pass into the high slot that went right to the stick of P.A. Parenteau. Parenteau wasted little time wristing the shot past Braden Holtby. Down a goal and down a man in the third period, Daniel Winnik pressured Beau Bennett at the blue line to force a turnover and started the rush with Jay Beagle. Winnik finally finished the play off himself knocking the puck past a sprawled Keith Kinkaid to tie the game at one. With no winner in overtime, Jacob Josefson finished the game in the shootout after Kinkaid stopped shots from both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

What it means: The loss was the Caps' fourth in their last five games and the first against New Jersey since Nov. 14, 2014, snapping a seven-game win streak against the Devils. Washington's record against the Metropolitan Division now sits at 4-5-4. The Caps' shootout record also dropped to 1-4.

Turning point: The Caps offense couldn't seem to solve Kinkaid until they were shorthanded and in desperate need of a goal. Winnik's goal in the third period was the Caps' third shorthanded goal of the season, already surpassing last season's total of two. With an assist on the play, Beagle now has three shorthanded points, tying him for second in the NHL. Though the Caps ended up losing in a shootout, the penalty kill earned the Caps a point in the standings.

Second to no one: Cory Schneider is considered one of the top netminders in the league, but it was his backup who stole the show on Thursday. Kinkaid was phenomenal in net with 39 saves in regulation, 43 for the game and he stopped both shots he faced in the shootout. He adjusted well against deflections, he stuffed Jay Beagle on a breakaway, he fought off a scrum in front of the net after losing his stick late in the second period and dove across the crease to get his glove in the way of a wraparound stuff attempt by Nicklas Backstrom in the third. He may be the backup for the Devils, but he sure didn't play like on against the Caps.

Message received? Justin Williams was not happy about the number of penalties the Caps took Tuesday against the New York Islanders. They did not allow any goals, but the penalties took the Caps out of their momentum. On Thursday the Caps again took four penalties including two in the third period, one with the team trailing 1-0 and the other with the score tied at 1. In both situations, it was an inopportune time for Washington to take a penalty.

No easy wins: The Metropolitan Division has established itself as the best division in hockey with teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. Given how difficult it will be for the Caps to gain ground on the teams at the top of the division, they cannot afford to lose to the weaker teams. Yet, those teams seem to be giving the Caps fits this season. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and New Jersy Devils sit 6th, 7th and 8th respectively in the division. The Caps have only managed a 3-3-1 record against those teams this season.

Look ahead: The Caps head to New Jersey for a rematch with the Devils on Saturday. Then they ring in the New Year with a quick turnaround against the Ottawa Senators back in Washington on Sunday.

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2015 NHL Draft: There is a lot riding on Ilya Samsonov

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2015 NHL Draft: There is a lot riding on Ilya Samsonov

The NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22. The Capitals hold the 25th overall pick and will be looking for future stars among all the hopeful prospects.

But just how successful has Washington been in finding those stars? How much value have the Caps found through the draft?

NBC Sports Washington will be looking at how Washington has drafted over the last 10 years. Today’s draft: 2015

22nd overall pick (first round): Ilya Samsonov G

The Caps made Samsonov the first goalie taken in the draft by taking him 22nd overall. He was the only goalie to go in the first round.

It is really hard to predict what will happen with goalies in the draft. For such important players, they are hard to project and a lot of teams elect to take fliers on late-round goalies rather than bet the farm with a high pick. Braden Holtby, for example, was a fourth-round pick. Washington, however, rolled the dice and went with Samsonov in the first round.

Samsonov’s numbers in the KHL were brilliant. His first season in North America got off to a rocky start in Hershey, but he played much better as the season went along and was dominant in the regular season by the end.

With Holtby entering the final year of his contract, this is a big year for Samsonov as well as he needs to prove he can take over as Washington’s starter by 2020. If not, the Caps are going to have to make a difficult decision regarding his future with the organization.

52nd overall pick (second round): Traded

The Caps traded this pick to the Calgary Flames for forward Curtis Glencross. Glencross was a rental who played 28 total games for Washington in the 2014-15 season and 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. He seemed like a good fit in the regular season with seven points, but his production disappeared in the playoffs where he tallied only one goal in 10 games. That season ended up being the final season of his NHL career.

The Flames traded this pick to the Boston Bruins as part of a package that netted them defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Boston would select defenseman Jeremy Lauzon with the pick. Lauzon played in 16 games with the Bruins last season.

57th overall pick (second round): Jonas Siegenthaler D

The Caps traded up in the second round to snag Siegenthaler, giving up their own fourth-round pick and a third-round pick from the Buffalo Sabres that they acquired at the 2015 trade deadline.

Siegenthaler is a big-bodied, stay at home defenseman in the mold of Brooks Orpik, but is more mobile and a better puck-mover. He went back and forth between the AHL and NHL last season. When he finally got a chance to get into the lineup in the playoffs, it took just one game before he was put on the top pair next to John Carlson.

62nd overall pick (third round): Acquired, traded

Washington acquired this pick at the 2014 trade deadline from the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo received Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla, who was acquired the day before. The Caps received Jaroslav Halak and the pick. Washington then traded this pick away to the New York Rangers to move up and grab Siegenthaler.

New York used the pick to select forward Robin Kovacs. Kovacs played the 2016-17 season in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack, but the Rangers terminated his contract prior to the 2017-18 season. He has been playing in the SHL ever since.

83rd overall pick (third round): Traded

The Caps traded this pick to Calgary as part of the Glencross deal. Calgary traded the pick to the Arizona Coyotes who selected forward Jens Looke. Looke spent the past two seasons in the AHL and signed a contract in May to return to play for Timra IK in his native Sweden. His NHL prospects look dim at this point.

93rd overall pick (fourth round): Acquired, traded

The Caps acquired this pick from the Arizona Coyotes at the 2014 trade deadline. They packaged it along with defenseman Jack Hillen to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Tim Gleason.

Gleason was a rental with a limited role who did not pan out. He averaged just 13:08 per game in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Washington.

Carolina did not fare much better in the trade as Hillen played only three games as a Hurricane. As for the pick, Carolina selected goalie Callum Booth who has been primarily an ECHL goalie since turning pro in 2017.

113th overall pick (fourth round): Traded

This was the second pick the Caps gave the Rangers to move up and take Siegenthaler. New York used the pick to select forward Brad Morrison. The Rangers no longer own Morrison’s rights.

143rd overall pick (fifth round): Connor Hobbs D

Hobbs was known as an offensive defenseman in the WHL with the Regina Pats. In his final season in juniors, he recorded 31 goals and 54 assists in 67 games. He has spent the past two seasons with the Hershey Bears where he has improved his defensive skill tremendously. The offense has tapered off, however, as it has been difficult for him to find the same kind of space in the AHL as he had to work with in the WHL.

Hobbs has a tremendous slap shot and you could see him being a third-pair NHL defenseman and power play specialist on the point if he can find his offense at the professional level.

173rd overall pick (sixth round): Colby Williams D

The Caps took Hobbs’ Regina teammate Williams in the following round. Williams is a very smooth skater. That is about the only part of his game that is NHL caliber and he looks at this point to be an AHL player.

203rd overall pick (seventh round): Traded

This pick was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in June 2014. Winnipeg took forward Matteo Gennaro. He was signed to an AHL contract the Tucson Roadrunners and in 2018-19, his first professional season, played in 58 AHL games.

Takeaways

The success of this draft will be dependent on Samsonov, obviously. If the Caps found their next starter who can take over for Holtby, great. With the Seattle expansion draft looming, however, Washington will need to know by the end of the 2019-20 season if Samsonov is ready to take over. Otherwise, the team would be put into a position where it may have to overpay to keep Holtby who is on the final year of his contract and trade Samsonov.

This draft is also a good reminder of why it always makes sense to move up if there is a player you like. The Caps gave up a third and a fourth-round pick to New York to take their pick and select Siegenthaler. Washington got an NHL defenseman out of the deal, the Rangers got squat with their two extra picks.

If a team sees NHL potential in a player and all it will take to move up in the draft are two mid-round picks, take the deal.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: How the Matt Niskanen trade sets up the rest of the Caps’ offseason

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: How the Matt Niskanen trade sets up the rest of the Caps’ offseason

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

There usually is no rush in re-signing restricted free agents since teams own their rights. Having said that, I thought the deal for Jakub Vrana would get done quickly so that Brian MacLellan would know how much money he had to work with under the cap. It would make sense for Vrana too because, with every signing, there is less money for him. Yet, we are still waiting.

This issue may get a little complicated with reports saying the salary cap could actually be lower than initially expected. Still, that probably does not affect Vrana’s final number, it just affects how much money the Caps will have to spend on other players. Whatever moves MacLellan still wants to make, he will have to leave enough room to get Vrana re-signed. I expect this deal to get done soon after the cap is finalized, but long before July 1.

As for Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, we could see a bit of momentum on the Backstrom front. Moving Niskanen did not just save cap room for this season, but for the following year. Gudas has only one year remaining on his contract while Niskanen had two. There is zero chance Holtby gets extended this summer, however. With the expansion draft looming and goalie Ilya Samsonov as the team’s No. 1 prospect, all decisions regarding the team’s future in net will be on hold until we see how both players perform this season. If Samsonov looks ready to step into the NHL, it may ultimately not make sense to re-sign Holtby at all. That’s just the reality of the business.

Darren L. writes: With the trade of Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas and the subsequent signing of Carl Hagelin, do you think there is still a chance, however slim, that Brett Connolly can be re-signed?

Benjamin C. writes: Now that we’ve sign Carl Hagelin does that basically end Connolly’s time in Washington?

Before the offseason, I was not sure it would be an either/or scenario between Hagelin and Connolly. When the realities of the salary cap set in, however, it seems pretty clear that re-signing Hagelin means Connolly’s tenure in Washington is over. The one caveat is that I did not expect Hagelin’s cap hit to be under $3 million as I thought there would be a market for him in free agency. He wanted to stay, however and was willing to take less per year for term. Kudos to MacLellan for getting Hagelin’s cap hit down to $2.75 million.

Connolly is coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals in a third-line role and limited power play time. Hockey-Graphs projects him to get a deal worth just over $3.5 million per year. To me, I think he could get more than that. I am of the opinion that there will be teams out there willing to offer Connolly more money and a bigger role than what the Caps can which will make it hard to keep him. If the offers all end up in the $3.5 million range, however, Washington could potentially afford that. So there is a chance, more than I would have thought, of keeping Connolly at $3.5 million per year. That’s about the limit I think they could afford and if his price tag goes up, that will be the end of that.

Darren L. writes: I keep reading that the Caps are very aggressive in the trade market. Do you think that there is an under the radar move that we, as fans, don’t know about yet?

In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman listed Washington among one of the most aggressive teams in trade talks saying generally of the NHL “we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”

Friedman also wrote, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”

The Niskanen trade was one we all saw coming, maybe not for Radko Gudas, but Brian McNally and I have been saying pretty much since the offseason began that Niskanen was going to get traded. I also wrote Tuesday on why the Caps could be players at the draft to move from their 25th pick. Anything beyond that, whether it means bringing in someone or sending someone out, I think we could label as unexpected.

Sure, there are players like Andre Burakovsky who it would be a surprise but not be shocking to see moved. If the Caps are as big a trade player as Friedman reports, I think we could be looking at a surprise move especially considering they would have to ship out cap space to get someone of significance.

Tyler A. writes: With Brett Connolly likely leaving Washington, how can the Capitals add some more offensive power to the bottom six this off-season?

Good question and it is an important one as depth offense is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. The Caps probably have enough cap room for one significant third-line signing in the $3-4 million range depending on the salary cap. They could probably get a Joonas Donskoi, Micheal Ferland type for that amount.

But it is also important to remember that the fourth line needs a boost as well. The team just did not seem to find the right combination for that bottom line. For most NHL caliber RFAs, there is usually little question as to whether they will be re-signed. For Washington, however, the questions needs to be asked if it makes sense to bring back Chandler Stephenson or Dmirij Jaskin when the offensive upside looks pretty limited. Do the Caps have enough money to go after free agent fourth liners like Noel Acciari or Brian Boyle? And then, of course, what do you do with Andre Burakovsky and that leads to the next question….

Benjamin C. writes: Do you think we can get Andre Burakovsky back?

Eric C. writes: With the signing of Gudas and Hagelin what do you think this means for Burakovsky and his future in D.C.?

This depends on whether Burakovsky will be willing to sign for less than the $3.25 million the Caps would have to offer to qualify him. To me, there is definitely room for Burakovsky with the probable loss of Connolly. He can be an asset to the bottom-six so long as he gets paid like a bottom-six player.

After three straight seasons of scoring 12 goals, at this point, it is time to view and judge Burakovsky like a bottom-six player. We saw in the playoffs that he boosts the fourth line as he provides more talent than most teams see when facing an opponent’s fourth line. But you cannot afford to spend $3.25 million on a fourth line wing. That’s the key.

Bob C. writes: Why do you and some others maybe feel that Andre Burakovsky deserves to come back to the team? Myself and other fans feel he will never develop any more than what he has been.

“Deserve” has nothing to do with it. I have been pretty consistent in the fact that I think the Caps should bring Burakovsky back only if they can get him for less than what it would take to qualify him. That is too much for a player who has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play throughout his career and who has scored 12 goals in each of the past three seasons.

With Connolly likely on his way out, that’s 22 goals coming off the third line. Washington’s bottom-six accounted for five goals in seven games in the playoffs. That’s not enough. In this day and age, you need players who can produce on the third and fourth lines. Burakovsky provides a dangerous offensive option in the bottom six, his skill set still has a high ceiling and the team is running out of options and cap space to improve depth scoring.

Lower the bar for Burakovsky and assume he is a bottom-six producer at this point. If he exceeds that expectation, great. If not, well then you paid a bottom-six forward a bottom-six salary.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.