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Possible defensive options for Capitals through PTOs

Possible defensive options for Capitals through PTOs

Assuming the Capitals go with seven defensemen next season, they have some holes to fill.

As of now, they have only five defensemen under contract from last season: Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney. That leaves two spots open for prospects, including a top-four role alongside Carlson.

The Caps have plenty of candidates in the system who will compete for those spots including Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Tyler Lewington, Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, among others.

But what if they aren’t ready?

RELATED: DJOOS HOPES TO PUT ON WEIGHT BEFORE CAMP

The team is banking on the hope that not one, but two players with little to no NHL experience will be able to step up and take an NHL spot. While teams groom their prospects to eventually step into the NHL roster, sometimes those players just don’t pan out or at least need more time to develop. Washington is not looking at this season as a complete rebuild. Re-signing T.J. Oshie and keeping the core intact is evidence of that. This is a team that still has its sights set on the playoffs. The Caps cannot afford, therefore, to have two spots on their blue line influx through the entire campaign.

One option, if there is some concern over the defensive depth, is to offer a veteran a professional tryout (PTO). PTOs are a way for teams to bring in players with no long-term commitment. You bring a player in for camp and, if he doesn’t work out, you simply release him.

If the Caps want more competition on defense or are worried about relying too much on unproven prospects, they could bring in a veteran on a PTO. There are a few options for Washington if they choose to go that route:

Roman Polak (31 years old), R
2016-17 season: 75 games, 4 goals, 7 assists with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Fedor Tyutin (34 years old), L
2016-17 season: 69 games, 1 goal, 12 assists with the Colorado Avalanche

Cody Franson (30 years old), R
2016-17 season: 68 games, 3 goals, 16 assists with the Buffalo Sabres

Mark Stuart (33 years old), L
2016-17 season: 42 games, 2 goals, 2 assists with the Winnipeg Jets

If your reaction to these options is to turn your nose in disgust, well, guess what? You’re not going to find a Brent Burns or a Shea Weber available in early September. There’s a reason why these players are still looking for contracts.

There are a few younger options such as Jyrki Jokipakka (26) and Cody Goloubef (27), but the Caps have plenty of untested youth. That’s what their prospects are. If Washington goes the PTO route, it will almost certainly be for a steady veteran.

Both Polak and Franson are physical, shutdown players with good size, but Polak may soon be off the market.

Tyutin spent last season with the dreadful Colorado Avalanche on a one-year $2 million deal. The fact that he could not earn a second look from a team that bad for a price that low is a bad sign for what he may have left to offer. But, that’s why you give him a PTO.

Stuart is an intriguing option because of his leadership. He has never been a remarkable defenseman, but he did spend time as an alternate captain for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets ultimately chose to buy him out of the last year of his contract which carried a cap hit of about $2.6 million.

But the biggest problem regarding any PTO defenseman the team brings in is figuring out just where that player would fit in the lineup. The Caps need someone to play alongside Carlson on the second pair and Orpik on the third. An Orpik-Polak pair, for example, is one that would struggle to transition out of its own zone. It’s not an ideal pairing. You could potentially bump one of those players up to the second pair with Carlson where they would be a better fit in terms on contrasting styles, but then the Caps are relying on a PTO defenseman to earn a top-four role. Not ideal.

But what do the Caps have to lose? A PTO offers a no-risk insurance policy in case the prospects just aren’t ready to step up. Considering how many questions there are surrounding the team’s defense this year, it won’t be surprising to see Washington go the PTO route just as a precaution.

MORE CAPS: WHAT WOULD THE CAPS' ALL-TIME ROSTER LOOK LIKE?

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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

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USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here’s a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: Carolina Hurricanes

2017-18 Results: 36-35-11, 83 points, sixth in the division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Micheal Ferland, F Andrei Svechnikov, D Dougie Hamilton, D Calvin de Haan, G Petr Mrazek, head coach Rod Brind’Amour

Notable departures: F Elias Lindholm, F Joakim Nordstrom, F Derek Ryan, F Jeff Skinner, F Lee Stempniak, D Noah Hanifin, G Cam Ward, head coach Bill Peters

When they will play the Caps: Dec. 14 in Raleigh, Dec. 27 in Washington, March 26 in Washington, March 28 in Raleigh

Offseason recap: The offseason was one of change for the Hurricanes as new owner Tom Dundon tried to make his mark. Peters and Ron Francis are out, Brind’Amour and Don Waddell are in as coach and general manager. Carolina’s new front office had a busy offseason with a number of splashy moves.

Hanifin, Lindholm and Skinner all will have new homes next season as the Hurricanes traded all three players in two big-time trades. Hanifin and Lindholm netted the team Hamilton, Ferland and a prospect while Skinner brought back a prospect, a second, a third and a sixth-round pick.

In addition, Carolina also added Svechnikov with the second-overall pick in the draft.

Biggest strength: Defense

Carolina was solid defensively last season, it just didn't seem that way because of how bad the goaltending was. Adding de Haan and Hamilton bolsters what was already a formidable blue line.

Biggest weakness: Goaltending

Did I mention how bad their goaltending was last season? Darling and Ward combined for a .909 save percentage, better only than the Buffalo Sabres. Ward put up better numbers (2.73 GAA, .906 save percentage) than Darling (3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage), but he has moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks. To replace him, the Hurricanes picked up Mrazek who also struggled last season (3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage).

So to recap, Ward and Darling both had subpar years, but to replace Ward the Hurricanes picked up a goalie who was worse.

It makes sense that Carolina would want to give Darling another shot at earning the starting job considering they traded for him to be their starter of the future, but just because the goaltending could not get much worse than last season is no guarantee it will be better.

2018-19 season outlook: The Hurricanes enter the season with a lot of question marks.

Can Brind'Amour handle the responsibilities of being a head coach in the NHL with zero head coaching experience at any level? Did they do enough to address their scoring woes? Will someone play like a starting-caliber goalie? Is Dundon breaking the mold of an NHL owner or will his meddling negatively impact the team? Will Hamilton adjust to his new team? Is Svetchnikov ready for a top-line role in his rookie season? Is Sebastian Aho a center?

If they can find positive answers to all of those questions, this is a team that could surprise. More likely, however, there are simply too many issues in Carolina right now for this team to make any real noise.

A new owner, new general manager, new head coach and a new-look roster are too much for one team to adjust to in one season.

2018-19 season prediction: The Hurricanes miss the playoffs and it's not close.

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Heroes on the ice: Every Capitals player's superhero character

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USA TODAY Sports, Marvel and DC Comics

Heroes on the ice: Every Capitals player's superhero character

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Washington Capitals!

It's not hard to picture your favorite athletes as superheroes. What the Caps are able to do on the ice seems almost superhuman at times.

Heck, they even have uniforms!

SEE EVERY CAPITALS PLAYER'S SUPERHERO CHARACTER HERE

But the similarities don't just end with the physical attributes and abilities. When you begin to really think about each player, you can see a lot of similarities between each of them and some well-known superheroes.

If each Caps player was a superhero, which one would they be? Check out each player's superhero character here.

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