It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.
Check out Part 2 below.
Have a Caps question you want to be answered in 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.
Jimmy H. writes: If Alex Ovechkin isn’t close to Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record, what do you think he will do? Do you think he will re-sign with the Caps or possibly sign with the KHL and retire on a Russian hockey team?
Let’s get some perspective on Gretzky’s record. With 658 goals, Ovechkin still trails Gretzky by 236. Even if Ovechkin scores 50 goals in each of the next two seasons, which would be absolutely insane given his age, he is still going to need 136 just to tie Gretzky.
I am not sure what you mean by “close” but Ovechkin is not going to be close when his contract is up in two years.
There are plenty of quotes this summer in which Ovechkin does not close the door on returning to Russia or even retiring once his current contract is up, but those were all Russian interviews. What is he supposed to say, no, this league isn’t good enough? I don’t think there is anything to worry about.
I have always believed that Ovechkin would finish his career in Russia, but only when he feels he is slipping at the NHL level. The NHL is by far the best league in the world and as long as he remains as good as he is, I do not think he will be satisfied returning to the KHL.
I do not foresee him being a Jerome Iginla and bouncing around teams to be a third or fourth-line winger scoring 10 goals a season. When he no longer is a top-line NHL player, then I think he will strongly consider a KHL return. Given his level of play now, however, I feel confident that he and the team can work out another deal that will keep him in Washington past his current contract.
Phillip M. writes: I think projecting Richard Pánik’s likely offensive production, you must consider who is feeding him the puck when he slides into the high danger areas he has a proclivity to slip into. Brett Connolly benefited from this greatly and his shot percentages are indicative of this production. I feel confident Panik will have a career year scoring goals in Washington because of the skill set we have at center and come close to the 20 goals that we lost when Connolly took the bigger paycheck. What are your thoughts on this?
Panik’s best season came in 2016-17 in which he scored 22 goals and 22 assists while playing with Jonathan Toews in Chicago. That is his only 20-goal season. I do not foresee him stepping into a second-line role right off the bat in Washington so that means he will play primarily with Lars Eller.
With all due respect, Eller is a tremendous player, but he is not Toews.
Several players come to Washington and enjoy a bump in offensive production. Given the team’s roster moves, however, I believe defense is going to a be a major focus for the team this season. The only way I see Panik reaching 20 goals is if he takes over a majority of the season on the second line. I think there would be a benefit to T.J. Oshie playing on the third, but I do not think that role will simply be handed to Panik. He will have to earn it first.
Phillip M. writes: Do you feel that the speedy duo of Jakub Vrana - Carl Hagelin and the T.J. Oshie - Richard Panik combos could afford the Capitals the best top 3 scoring lines this year? I like that Vrana Hags line. I think it could be explosive!
Well, first off I do not think those will be the lines. Over the course of the season, we will likely see many different line combinations. If I were to pencil in what I believe the line combos will be to start the season, I would not have the same lines you do:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
I actually believe the offense will take a slight step back this season because of the offensive depth the team lost. I do not think Panik and Hagelin will produce at the level of Connolly and Burakovsky.
Hagelin does a lot of things very well, but offense is not his specialty. He has never scored 20 goals in his career and he will be 31 by the start of the season. Putting him with Vrana would certainly be a hard line to keep up with, but I do not think this will instantly translate to a massive step up in offensive production for him.
Panik and Oshie, meanwhile will most likely both play on the right so I do not think we will see too much of them together.
The bottom line is that offense is expensive and the Caps could not afford to keep some of its depth producers on the roster. The team is better defensively and still dangerous offensively, but I do not see a team that replaced Connolly and Burkakovsky with Panik, Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway somehow getting better offensively.
Thanks for all your questions! 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.
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