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Six UFA defensemen who could help the Caps

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Six UFA defensemen who could help the Caps

On Friday, we took a look at six free-agent forwards the Capitals might consider when the curtain for signing unrestricted free agents rises at noon on Sunday.

Today well take a look at the defensemen that might receive consideration from the Caps.

General manager George McPhee said Wednesday hed be satisfied heading into the 2011-12 season with the eight-man defense corps the Capitals have now.

That depth chart currently looks like this:

Karl Alzner -- John CarlsonRoman Hamrlik -- Mike GreenDmitry Orlov -- Jeff SchultzJohn Erskine -- Cameron Schilling
The Caps have high hopes for the 23-year-old Schilling, a solid, two-way defenseman whom they signed out of Miami University Ohio in March. Schilling played four years at Miami and recorded one goal and 13 assists in 39 games last season before joining the Hershey Bears for seven games.

But if they can land a top-four defenseman who can bump Hamrlik down to the third unit and allow Schilling some time to grow, they may do it, especially if they fail to land the top winger theyre seeking.

Heres a look at six free-agent blue liners that might draw some interest from the Caps:

Ryan Suter, PredatorsAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 7 goals, 39 assists, 46 points, plus-15
2011-12 salary: 3.5 million
Skinny: The Predators are still hoping to keep their big three of goalie Pekka Rinne, and the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Suter, but Suters price on the open market will be obscene. The Penguins and Red Wings are expected to make the strongest pitches for Suter, who, like Zach Parise, is in the prime of his career at 27. Some believe the Penguins might be able to lure both Suter and Parise. The Caps have the money to land Suter, but theyve got strong competition.

Matt Carle, FlyersAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 4 goals, 34 assists, 38 points, plus-4
2011-12 salary: 3.8 million
Skinny: Carle is not at the same level as Suter, but he can log 25 minutes a night and is quietly effective in all areas. Two seasons ago he was paired with Chris Pronger on the Flyers top unit and helped get the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. Hes good enough to step into the Capitals top four and give them significant depth.

Jason Garrison, PanthersAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points, plus-6
2011-12 salary: 700,000
Skinny: Garrison finished third among NHL defensemen with 16 goals last season and as a result, hell cash in on a significant raise. Garrison has an excellent shot from the point and would be a nice power play addition for the Capitals, especially with Mike Greens injury history.

Bryan Allen, HurricanesAge: 31
Position: Defense shoots left
Last season: 1 goal, 13 assists, 14 points, minus-1
2011-12 salary: 3.15 million
Skinny: At 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, Allen might be the most physical defenseman on the open market. When he was taken fourth overall in the 1998 draft, Allen was compared to Derian Hatcher. He has not lived up to that comparison but he would give the Caps the snarly defenseman they could use on the back end.

Bryce Salvador, DevilsAge: 36
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points, plus-18
2011-12 salary: 2.9 million
Skinny: Salvador went the entire regular season without scoring a goal, then exploded for four goals and 10 assists in 24 playoff games for the Devils. He took some crucial penalties in the Final, but, like Allen, he plays a nasty game. He also played under Caps coach Adam Oates, who could pull off quite a trifecta by luring Parise, Salvador and Marty Brodeur to D.C.
Michal Rozsival, CoyotesAge: 33
Position: Defense, shoots right
Last season: 1 goal, 12 assists, 13 points, plus-82011-12 salary: 3 million
Skinny: Rozsival is one of those defensemen you usually dont notice, in a good way. Much like Roman Hamrlik, his days as a point producer are behind him, but he plays a solid two-way game and would be a steady No. 4 or No. 5 addition if the price was right.

Which leads us to McPhees theory on free agency spending:

If you do something, its always more than the guys worth, he said. The question is how much more and are you trying to trade him by November because he cost too much.

So, of those six defensemen, which do you think would be the best fit in D.C. Or do you have one of your own? Join the conversation below.

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In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

TAMPA—Head Coach Barry Trotz skated the hot lap prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 at Amalie Arena, taking over the superstitious tradition from captain Alex Ovechkin.

Why the change?

The Caps lost Game 5 here on Saturday. And when the Caps lose on the road—the only place where the morning-skate-starting hot lap takes place—a new skater is selected.

The weird tradition began in the first round at Nationwide Arena in Columbus when Jay Beagle grew tired of waiting for the ice to freeze over following a fresh Zamboni cut. Beagle's teammates implored him to wait a little longer for the ice to cure, but he grew impatient and took it upon himself to kick off the skate by racing around the rink, a la the fastest skater competition at the All Star Skills competition.

Ovechkin took it over prior to Game 6 in Pittsburgh because the Caps had lost Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena.

Ovechkin proudly carried on the tradition as Washington won three in a row—Game 6 in Pittsburgh and Games 1 and 2 of this series vs. Tampa Bay.

Following the Caps’ 3-2 defeat in Game 5 here, though, it was expected that a change would be made.

And on Wednesday morning the baton changed hands, with the least obvious of all the Caps busting his 55-year-old hump around the rink much to the delight of his players and assistants.

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Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

These are not the same old Caps.

Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday, there was a lot of handwringing around Washington and with good reason. The Capitals were facing elimination for the first time this postseason. Of course the fans were on edge; no one wanted this run to end.

But even though the Caps are competing for the conference crown and have gotten past their archrivals to get here, the refrains leading into Game 6 were the same ones we’ve heard from past years.

 “They don’t want it enough.”

“There’s no heart.”

“Totally outcoached.”

“Chokers.”

And perhaps most damning, “Same old Caps.”

Stop it already.

Seriously, how can anyone have watched this postseason and walked away thinking this is the same Caps team?

Does no one remember the start of the season? Some people didn’t even think they would make the playoffs. Others were advocating the team trade Alex Ovechkin and start over. Yet here they are.

Finally, finally they got past the second round hump. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins—ending their two-year reign as Stanley Cup Champions—and handed Mike Sullivan his first ever series loss as the Penguins head coach.

And no, Mike Wilbon, just because they made it past the second round doesn’t mean it’s OK to lose in the Conference Finals. But considering how they got there, they showed they have at the very least changed the narrative surrounding the Capitals.

Washington lost the first two games of its series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and went on to win four straight to advance. In the second round, they faced the two-time defending champions, a team they had beaten only once in the playoffs in franchise history and a team that had not lost a playoff series since 2015.

And they won.

And yet, people are acting like nothing changed with the Caps. Why? Because they lost three in a row to Tampa Bay?

OK, you've got a point. What kind of a team loses three straight in the playoffs? Hard-nosed teams with tough coaches that play the right way like Columbus or Anaheim wouldn’t let that happen to them. Oh, actually Columbus lost four in a row to the Caps and the Ducks got swept in the first round. Never mind.

Well, certainly not a team with a championship history like the Los Angeles Kings. Oh wait, never mind, the got swept by Vegas. Bad example.

Well, surely an original six team with a championship pedigree like the Boston Bruins would never let that happen. Oh yeah, they lost four straight to the same Tampa Bay team.

OK, OK, but were any of those teams really contenders this year? I mean, none of those teams were as good as Winnipeg and they won’t let themselves lose three in a row in the playoffs.

That’s because they lost four straight to Vegas in the conference final.

You see where this is going, right?

It just boggles the mind that anyone could see the game plan Barry Trotz put together in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, without three top-six forwards including Nicklas Backstrom, and win in overtime and still complain that he is always outcoached in the playoffs. He certainly wasn’t outcoached in that game or that series.

It’s baffling that anyone can see how Washington rallied past Columbus after losing Game 1 and Game 2, recovered from a disastrous Game 1 to Pittsburgh and won the first two games in Tampa Bay against a favored Lightning team and complain that this team “doesn’t want it enough.”

Chokers don’t advance to the third round. Chokers don’t beat the two-time defending champions when no one else could. Chokers don’t force seven games against a Tampa Bay team that finished off both of their prior series in just five games.

Just stop. Find a new storyline to push because this one is lazy and played out. It’s been done.

Don’t get me wrong, losing four in a row after winning Game 1 and Game 2 on the road would have really stung. With the history this team has, the fact that they finally got past Pittsburgh gave this team a feel of destiny. If they go on to lose Game 7 and end their run without a Stanley Cup or even a conference crown to show for it, that would be disappointing. No question about it.

But to say these are the “same old Caps” if they lose to Tampa Bay? That’s ridiculous. They have already put those demons to rest. Three straight losses to the Lightning don’t change that and neither will whatever happens in Game 7.

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, whether the Caps win or lose, no one should come out and say these are the same old Caps. They have already proven that’s not the case.

Those Caps are gone. Now let’s see how far these Caps can go.

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