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Season preview: Columbus Blue Jackets


Season preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Columbus Blue Jackets

2014-15 record: 42-35-5, 5th in the Metropolitan

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Todd Richards (5th season)

Notable additions: LW Brandon Saad, C Gregory Campbell

Notable subtractions: C Artem Anisimov, RW Marko Dano, C Mark Letestu

RELATED: A healthy Orlov can't wait for the season to start

Schedule against the Capitals: Fri. Oct. 30 at Washington, Sat. Jan. 2 at Columbus, Tue. Jan. 19 at Columbus, Mon. Mar. 28 at Washington

Outlook: The story in Columbus is injuries. The injury bug bit the Blue Jackets and bit hard as Columbus lost an NHL-high 508 man-games last season. Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Matt Calvert, Mark Letestu, Ryan Murray and, most importantly, Sergei Bobrovsky all played in 56 games or fewer which quickly erased a strong start and had the Blue Jackets on the outside of the playoff window looking in for much of the season.

Even players they traded for weren't safe. Columbus brought in David Clarkson mid-season, but he played a whopping three games before he tore an oblique muscle and sat the rest of the year.

Even with all the injury issues, however, Columbus still fell only nine points shy of the final wild card spot. The injuries can't possibly be as bad this season. Just by getting a healthy Bobrovsky back, this is a team that should be in the mix for the playoffs.

Murray is also a player to be excited about. He is the future at blue line for this team and I can't wait to see him for a full season (hopefully).

Columbus made headlines this summer with a major trade to bring in Brandon Saad. Not only does Saad and free agent signing Gregory Campbell both bring Stanley Cup winning experience to the roster, but Saad is a rising star who should immediately step into the Blue Jackets' top line. Saad made a name for himself on a Chicago team with notable stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. That's saying something. Expect a breakout year from Saad on the top line playing with Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen.

Expectations: Even if the Blue Jackets did nothing over the offseason, they would be in a good position to challenge for the postseason just by getting healthy.

But Columbus didn't just sit on their hands this summer, they added an up and coming star in Saad. Assuming they can stay healthy this year, this is a clear playoff team and a dark horse to win the division. Their championship window isn't open yet, but they took a big step in the right direction.

MORE CAPS: Galiev on eating a still-beating cobra heart

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.


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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL


2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.

4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.

6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.

7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.