Welcome to our summer edition of the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Saturday six-pack, where we answer your questions on the Capitals. Let's get started.

six pack: on the Connolly project: has a 1st round "bust" ever lived up to potential on another team? -@KansaiGuy

When the Capitals signed right wing/left wing Brett Connolly to a one-year, one-way, $850,000 contract last week, it was clearly a “Show Me” deal because Connolly has not shown his previous two employers enough for them to keep him. After being taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the sixth pick overall in 2010, Connolly has scored a total of 27 goals in 210 NHL games with the Lightning, who traded him, and the Boston Bruins, who declined to offer him a contract after seeing him record nine goals and 16 assists in 71 games last season. To answer your question, most NHL reclamation projects, dating back to 1993 first pick overall Alexandre Daigle, have a tendency of disappointing their new teams. In recent years, defenseman Griffin Reinhardt, taken fourth overall by the Islanders in 2012, has been a disappointment after being acquired by the Oilers. Forward Mikhail Grigorenko, taken 12th overall in 2012 by Buffalo, had just 27 points in Colorado last season. The Oilers are hoping Adam Larsson, taken by the Devils with the fourth pick overall in 2011, is better in Edmonton than he was in New Jersey. We all know what happened in Nashville after the Predators traded for Filip Forsberg, who was taken 11th overall by the Caps in 2012.  But Forsberg was never given an opportunity with the Capitals. There are a few success stories. Kevin Hayes, taken 24th overall by the Blackhawks in 2010, was picked up by the Rangers as a free agent four years later and has been productive in New York. And Tyler Seguin (second overall in 2010) has been a force for the Stars since the Bruins traded him to Dallas, where he’s averaged close to 80 points the past three seasons. The Caps would like to see Connolly have a similar trajectory as someone like former first-rounder Eric Fehr, who turned himself into a productive bottom six forward.



What is the Caps biggest weakness going into the (next season)? What do we need to do in order to make it 3rd round? @its2shainz

That’s a good question. Last year, they replaced Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer with Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie and ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy with 120 points. This summer their losses are less significant (Jason Chimera, Mike Richards, Mike Weber) but so are their additions (Lars Eller, Brett Connolly). I think the Caps need to get better on the blue line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to add different players. Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov should be better after a full NHL season under their belts and so should John Carlson and Brooks Orpik, who battled through surgeries last season.

This being the 2nd year of the "window" what direction do the caps go in if we don't win the cup this upcoming season? @sgordonn

After next season Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner and Daniel Winnik are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, while Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Stan Galiev, Brett Connolly, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer will be restricted free agents. (The jury is still out on the contract statuses of current RFAs Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov). If you factor in losing one player to the expansion draft, you’ve got a skeleton roster anchored by Alex Ovechkin and Matt Niskanen, who will have four years remaining on their current contracts, and Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, who will have three. Brian MacLellan has been very mindful of signing or acquiring support (Williams, Oshie, Eller) to short-term contracts, so the Caps’ second-tier players could look very different in 2017-18.

Some folks think that Wilson is a top six FW and should play on the 2nd line. I believe he is perfect for the 3rd line. ?? -@8CapsFan19

I agree with you … until I look at the right wings ahead of him. Unless you pull Marcus Johansson or Andre Burakovsky off the second line – and one of them would have to be very unproductive for that to happen – my depth chart at right wing reads:


T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky (or Johansson)

Justin Williams

Tom Wilson

Stan Galiev

In my opinion, it would take an injury or a lack of production for Wilson to move up in the lineup, even though that’s ideally what the Caps would like after seeing him improve his offensive production to seven goals and 16 assists last season. (Those are fourth-line numbers, by the way). In my opinion, if Wilson is going to have a breakthrough season with the Capitals it should come in 2017-18 when he takes over for Williams as the Caps’ third-line right wing.  

Is it realistic to think we could sign both Oshie and Kuznetsov after this season ends? -@Hula_Connor

Possible, yes. Realistic, no. The Caps’ salary structure will dramatically change with next year’s signing of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who could get a deal similar to the one signed by Braden Holtby last summer (five years, $30.5 million/$6.1 million cap hit). Of course, those numbers will be directly tied to Kuznetsov’s production in 2016-17. If Kuznetsov has another strong season and receives a deal in the $6 million AAV range, that would mean the Caps will have allotted $22.2 million to Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million), Nicklas Backstrom ($6.7 million) and Kuznetsov ($6 million). If you add in the $6.1 committed to Holtby and $5.75 million committed to Matt Niskanen, you’ve got roughly $34 million of an estimated $75 million payroll (45 percent) committed to five players. If we also assume Oshie puts up similar numbers as he did last season (26 goals, 25 assists), he could get somewhere in the $5 million range on a new deal. If we take this one step further and include Marcus Johansson in the conversation, who would you rather pay $5 million – Oshie or Johansson? That might provide the answer to your question because I don’t see both Oshie and Johansson in a Capitals uniform in 2017-18.

When will we see more of the Hershey players get a shot other than Vrana, such as Barber or Boyd and even the Bourque bros. -@luhMann6

Three years ago, Tom Wilson literally fought his way onto the Capitals’ roster at the age of 19. Two years ago, Andre Burakovsky wowed his way onto the Caps’ roster at the age of 19. Since then the Caps have not had a rookie forward crack the lineup as a regular. Bears coach Troy Mann believes 20-year-old Jakub Vrana, who has great speed and a lightning-quick release, is the closest forward prospect to playing in the NHL. Vrana probably needs a little more muscle to handle the physicality of the NHL but he could challenge Brett Connolly for ice time on the Caps’ third line, especially in a training camp where the World Cup commitments of Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom and Oshie will leave plenty of ice time for forward prospects. That said, Travis Boyd, Riley Barber and Chandler Stephenson all stand a chance of seeing playing time with the Capitals next season, with Boyd being the most likely to fill an all-purpose role as a versatile, two-way forward who has the trust of head coach Barry Trotz. And if you’re looking for a dark horse candidate in training camp, keep an eye on 6-foot-4, 191-pound center Zach Sanford, who put up 39 points in 41 games for Boston College last season and at 21 looks physically ready to challenge for a spot. Sanford said he plans on returning for his junior season at BC, but that could change with a strong rookie tournament.