The summer is moving rapidly and all hockey fans are gearing up for the beginning of training camp which is about a month away.
The Washington Capitals have made several tweaks to their roster this offseason, and they will have a new look for the upcoming season. When the Capitals hit the ice this fall, they should be quicker, more skilled, and they should be improved in-goal scoring. While the final opening night roster has not been determined yet, let’s take a look at the current roster as it sits today:
11 Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams, Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Tom Wilson.
-The 12th forward could be Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev, Zach Sill, or Chris Brown
6 defensemen: John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt
-The 7th defenseman could be Ryan Stanton or Taylor Chorney
2 goaltenders: Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer
-Justin Peters will most likely be sent down to Hershey (AHL)
Projected Line Combinations (Opening Night)
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom (assuming he is healthy) – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson – Brooks Laich – Tom Wilson
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Michael Latta
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt
Help From the Outside?
According to General Fanager, the Washington Capitals have about $469,000 in cap space for the upcoming season.
While the Capitals have little wiggle room to add anything else right now, they will gain a little bit of cap space back once they send Justin Peters and a few others down to Hershey after the preseason concludes. In the reality of the Capitals salary cap world, the Capitals may actually have closer to $2 million in available cap space.
Since $2 million is not a whole lot of cap space either, the Capitals need to be careful if they decide to bring in a player from outside of the organization.
Ideally, the Capitals would probably like to add another bottom-nine forward to their lineup, preferably a skater who can play the center position. I do not believe the Capitals want to have too many young players in the lineup all at once, which is why adding a cheap NHL veteran may not be a bad option for the club.
The Free Agent Market
There are not many high-profile names on the NHL Free Agent market right now. If the Capitals were to sign a free agent, they would probably like to only spend $1-1.5 million on that player in order to give them some cap space flexibility.
Current NHL Free Agents that could provide some bottom-nine help for the Capitals. Included in this list are the players’ ages and their 2014-15 statistics:
Mike Santorelli (NSH) – AGE: 29 – 12 G, 21 A, 33 PTS
Stephen Weiss (DET) – AGE: 32 – 9 G, 16 A, 25 PTS
James Sheppard (NYR) – AGE: 27 – 7 G, 11 A, 18 PTS
Marcel Goc (STL) – AGE: 31 – 3 G, 6 A, 9 PTS
Jiri Tlusty (WPG) – AGE: 27 – 14 G, 17 A, 31 PTS
While none of these players are big household names around the NHL, they are established veterans who can contribute for any club’s bottom forward rotation. The players listed above all have the capability of playing the centre position, which is what the Capitals would be targeting first.
Adding a veteran free agent to the lineup will be a tricky situation for the Capitals since they have such limited cap space. The price has to be right to where the Capitals management feels comfortable. If the Capitals do look outside the organization for a veteran forward, I am certain that they would like to keep the term short since they will have some of their younger players to re-sign after this upcoming season (Marcus Johansson, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov, Michael Latta)
The Washington Capitals could certainly go into the regular season right now with what they have and feel pretty comfortable. The thing the Capitals brass will be looking for during training camp and preseason action is if some of their young prospects will push from the bottom.
Can the Capitals young prospects like Jakub Vrana, Chris Brown, Stanislav Galiev, or Chandler Stephenson make a good impression at training camp and during the preseason games? Could one of these young prospects challenge for an NHL roster spot on opening night? If one of the Capitals young guys can challenge for an NHL roster spot, will the Capitals need to bring anyone in from the outside? The Capitals may still decide to choose to bring in another veteran, but this could also move a current Capitals veteran out the door.
The Capitals are in no rush to make a move at the moment, waiting to see how things shake out at Training Camp before they make a final decision about their opening night roster.
There are plenty of options for the Capitals to still fill out their lineup. The Capitals have a lot of depth at most of their positions throughout the organization. Everything will now come down to the right fit and it will come down to chemistry within the organization. There is plenty of optimism surrounding the Capitals for the upcoming season. Even if they do not make any more moves anytime soon, the Capitals should still be in the mix for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
By George Foussekis