For many seasons now, Capitals coaches have tried out numerous players on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Whether it be a trade at the NHL trade deadline, or signing a free agent in the offseason, or even a player already on the roster or in their development system, management has yet to come up with the perfect fit to skate alongside 2014-15’s (NHL) top goal scorer (Ovechkin) and point leader (Backstrom.) So Jon and I (Zach) from ‘Washington Capitals Fans of Northern Virginia’ will talk about it:
Free agency begins on July 1st, is there a player that stands out as a credible option to play alongside 8 and 19?
Jon: I think it will depend on the money left after signing Holtby, Kuznetsov, Johannson and Schmidt. An early guestimate puts remaining money at $4-5 million, barring the unlikely unloading of a contract. With that kind of money, top tier free agency could be out. We could be looking at middle tier talent. If that’s the case, we may want to take another look in-house at Ward.
Zach: I agree Jon. To me, this year’s free agent wingers aren’t worth pursuing over our own free agents. After watching Barry Trotz put his system in to place and watching Ward buy in and play in it, I think Brian Maclellan would be foolish not to do everything possible to resign Ward. He’s an all around pro and I think if he’s resigned you’ll see him play alongside 8 and 19 for the whole 2015-16 season and most likely have career highs in goals and assists. I hope they can afford him.
There’s a multiple Stanley Cup winning player named Patrick Sharp that Chicago could be looking to trade. Though, the asking price is quite high, should the Caps look to trade for Sharp or perhaps another veteran with playoff experience?
Zach: Personally, I think Caps management should stay away from 33 year old Patrick Sharp. Mark my words HE IS NOT THE ANSWER! His cap hit is too high and he’s on the decline. I think people tend to overreact to the possibility of Sharp being in a Caps jersey because there’s a recent picture of him holding the Stanley Cup. If the Caps make a trade for a top tier player, chances are they’ll over pay.
Jon: I agree, Sharp is not the answer. His age and cost are too much for me. If we were placing all of our eggs in next season’s basket, I could possibly understand this, but that’s not what the Caps are doing. The Caps have a good mix of young and aged veterans that will make us contenders for the next 3-5 years. I like our odds over that time period.
If the Caps don’t sign a free agent to fill the spot, is there someone on the roster or perhaps a player in their system you think could emerge as the answer?
Jon: As far as in-house solutions for 1RW, Burakovsky or Ward are really the only options. Now that it looks like the Ward ship may be sailing, it really centers on Andre Burakovsky. But personally, I think the line needs a bit more grit. Hershey is barren with players that could fit the bill. That gets me back to looking at a middle-tier talent via trade or free agency.
Zach: If we are able to resign Ward, then the job should be his. If not, I think Tom Wilson will get the 1st line duties at the beginning of next season. There, I said it. He isn’t known for his offensive skills or his stick work but I think Trotz and company will be smashing it into him this off season. He’s still young and has a lot to learn but I predict we will all see a huge bounce in Tom’s game next season. Together, Ovechkin and Wilson will wreck your scoreboard and your stamina. But also, Burakovsky has another offseason to grow and will probably alternate duties with Wilson during the game which is a luxury for the Caps.
I think after free agency is over we’ll have a better idea of how things could pan out for the Caps and the 1st line. We shouldn’t rule out Vrana making the team yet and if he does it will be a big shakeup for the Caps first three lines. But while we wait for things to become clear, it’s always fun to give our predictions. CAPS!
Jon and Zach
Who do you think ends up with Nicky and Ovi ?