If there is one thing we’ve learned about Brian MacLellan since he took over as Capitals general manager last summer it is this: He wants to win.
One year after addressing the Capitals’ blue line by signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to exorbitant contracts totaling more than $67 million, and four months after sacrificing draft picks for Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason at the trade deadline, MacLellan strengthened his forward group by signing right wing Justin Williams to a cap-friendly two-year, $6.5 million contract, then trading right wing Troy Brouwer, goaltender Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in 2016 to the St. Louis Blues for right wing T.J. Oshie.
Brouwer, who will turn 30 next month, was entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.66 million. He recorded 21 goals and 22 assists, primarily in a second-line role with the Capitals, missing just one game in his four seasons in Washington. Brouwer had no goals in 14 playoff games last season and totaled just three goals in 35 playoff games with the Caps.
Oshie, 28, has two more years remaining on a contract that carries a cap hit of $4.175 million. He recorded 19 goals and 36 assists in St. Louis last season, splitting time between the first and second lines. In 30 career playoff games for the Blues he has five goals.
By adding Williams and Oshie and losing Brouwer, the Caps now have $13.89 million in cap space, according to www.generalfanager.com. If we stick with the premise that Braden Holtby will earn roughly $6 million in his new contract and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson combine for roughly $6 million, the Caps would enter next season with about $2 million in cap space, a perfect cushion to account for injury call-ups and trade deadline acquisitions.
But the big question is this: Are the Caps better today than they were when they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 on May 13?
My answer is “yes” at the forward position and “no” on the blue line.
If you ask me if I’d rather have Williams and Oshie over Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr, my answer is “yes.”
If you ask me if I’d rather have Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney over Mike Green and Tim Gleason, I’d take Green and Gleason.
But we all knew the Caps couldn’t afford Green at $6 million and Gleason battled injuries through the playoffs.
MacLellan admitted Thursday that Chorney is a “gamble” and he believes it’s one worth taking. We’ll see how that plays out, but if the Caps feel at some point during the season they need to add a more reliable defenseman, MacLellan should have the cap space to add one.
In short, the Capitals addressed their needs without busting their bank account and with Alex Ovechkin on the brink of turning 30, the time is now for the Caps to make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference next season. Agree? Disagree?
Take a look at the lineup below and feel free to play a little line juggling in the Comments section:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Jason Chimera – Michael Latta - Brooks Laich
Extras: Stan Galiev, Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Chris Brown, Travis Boyd
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov
Extras: Taylor Chorney, Connor Carrick, Madison Bowey, Aaron Ness, Christian Djoos, Tyler Lewington
Braden Holtby – Philipp Grubauer
Extra: Justin Peters