The first question of course will be does he fit at all? That’s what we’ll need to find out in camp. Finishing up 2014–15 in Edmonton, Roy was making an even million. With limited cap space available, that’s a number the Caps can work with if they choose.
So where could he fit? The most obvious spot, and the reason he’s here at all would be for center depth. It’s hard to see him pushing anyone on a wing for a job. With Backstrom and Kuznetsov taking hold of the first two center spots, that leaves just two open. We know Jay Beagle has the inside track for one of them but he’s also been solid on the wing. Michael Latta and Brooks Laich are also in play.
Given that either Marcus Johansson or Andre Burakovsky will lose out on the second line left wing position, one of them will slide down to the third line. Neither seems a likely candidate for the fourth line. They have the kind of skill you just don’t hide on a fourth line. That also means we won’t likely be seeing the third line function as a shutdown line as it has in recent years. With that in mind and given Roy’s past, he seems to fit on the third line fairly well if he can stick with the team through camp. Tom Wilson should be stepping up to fill the wing opposite Johansson or Burakovsky.
The good news is, that makes the fourth line better as a shutdown line. The current thinking, minus Roy, would probably have Laich on the third line playing center or left wing. Pushing him down to the fourth line with Beagle makes that line instantly better as a shutdown line. Either can play center and while Beagle is the clear preference for face-offs, Laich is another option to slide in if Beagle gets kicked out of the circle. For defensive zone starts, that’s the makings of a pretty solid line. Throw in either Jason Chimera or Latta, and you have a pretty physical line with good defensive responsibility. It’s worth noting that both Chimera and Latta also have better face off numbers than Laich.
So what does Roy need to show to stick? I think it really comes down to chemistry. Roy has the talent. He’s scored 32 goals in the past and had an 81 point season. It’s been a while however (2007–08 for both), and he hasn’t topped 20 goals since 2009–10. His last few years have been well off of those numbers. Last season he bounced between Nashville and Edmonton spending the bulk of the season with the Oilers. On a team loaded with former number one picks at center, he wasn’t given the best wingers to play with. Edmonton was also playing for their next number one pick, which wouldn’t help anyones numbers. He still managed 11 goals in 46 games at the end of the season, albeit with a not so pretty minus 13. By far the worst plus minus of his career. He’s been as high as a plus 37 in 2006–07, but more recently hovers around even.
He does however bring some other intangibles, and we should take his numbers last year with a grain of Edmonton salt. He’s seen time on the power play and has been productive in the past. You wouldn’t think he’d get much power play time with the Capitals, but it’s still a plus to have options. Where he might see more time and also has experience, is on the penalty kill. His overall experience might also be just what coach Barry Trotz is looking for. Sliding him in between the two young wingers could be a good thing, and the group would benefit from some sheltered starts. What he is not however, is great at face-offs. His career high is just 51.2% (2007–08) and last season he was just 44.8% for the year. One caveat is over his career you can see that the more face-offs he takes, the better he is. If he hits a thousand, he’s over 50% every season. Less than that and he’s never hit 50%. The catch is only Nicklas Backstrom took over a thousand face-offs for the Capitals last season. No one else was even close. It’s not a deal killer (Kuznetsov’s numbers are similar) but it is a consideration.It’s hard to see which way the Capitals might go with Roy. Without building some chemistry in camp it seems far from certain he’s the answer at third line center. If Trotz goes that direction it’s likely for the experience and potential and Roy has both. He may just be the best option at the right price.
By Ernie Mudd