Photo: Geoff Burke
The draft and development camp have passed with only a few, worth-it, free agents remaining. As of now, the Caps have 20 players on their roster: 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies. General Manager, Brian McLellan, already said they probably won’t do much more besides get their two major restricted free agents, Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov signed. The Caps have a little bit more than $8M in cap space to sign those two, so assuming Orlov signs for about $3M and Mojo about $4.5M the Caps will be right up against the cap.
Signing Orlov and Mojo is not a bad move. The Caps were the Presidents Trophy winners last year and barely lost to the steaming hot Cup winners, so bringing back a very similar team isn’t the worst thing in the world. As I wrote before, a lot of bad luck influenced their early exit in the playoffs so there shouldn’t be a huge overhaul to the roster just for the sake of it. It is very hard to win the Stanley Cup so teams shouldn’t panic every year they don’t win it, because much more likely than not, they won’t. That being said, this is the last year for the huge open window for the Caps to snag the elusive prize. So, maybe they should beef up their roster as much as they can.
If the Caps resign Mojo, the 3rd line will probably look like this: Mojo-Eller-Wilson. That isn’t a bad line but it’s also a smorgasbord. It has Tom Wilson, a 22 year old who has the ability to be a force in front of the net that can put up 15-20 goals a year but is still unproven. On the other wing, Mojo, is a speedy, skilled player but he always seems to be a much better center than winger. They are centered by new comer Lars Eller, who looks to be a stable addition at 3C, but who hasn’t played a day with the Caps. Add to the list that all them have never played with each other, ever, besides a couple shifts between Mojo and Wilson when their lines were switching out, it’s easy to see why there is a little bit of a worry with that line. Again, it isn’t a bad line, it just isn’t proven.
I wrote last month that the Caps should go after a legit top 6 player to play on the 3rd line much like Pittsburgh did with Phil Kessel. That way, the Caps can have major threats on each line, making it very difficult for oppositions to match. Originally, I suggested one of Matt Duchene, Bryan Little, or Tyler Ennis but now that the Caps have their 3C in Eller they should add a legit top 6 winger to play on the 3rd line. Going back to Duchene, the Caps should inquire about his teammate, Gabriel Landeskog, from the Colorado Avalanche. Darren Dreger suggested something is going on with the Avalanche and it’s top end talent like Duchene, Landeskog, and Tyson Barries; all three have been rumored to be on the trading block. The Avalanche are not a well run organization which shows by keeping a terrible head coach, Patrick Roy, and getting rid of very good players, like Ryan O’Reilly. The Caps should take advantage of this chaos, swoop in, and take Landeskog off their hands.
Landeskog is 23, was a 2nd overall pick, has skill and plays a very north-south hard nosed game and that is something the Caps really need. He has put up 20+ goals in all five of his NHL seasons, with the exception of the 2012-2013 shortened season. He’s also under a pretty good contract that has him $5.5M AAV for another 5 years, very doable. A trade to get Landeskog would probably look like Mojo+Orlov+1st. But, keeping in mind that Colorado isn’t the best run hockey team, I would try to have them take Orpik. Before we signed Orpik to a 5 year $5.5M deal Colorado offered him even more money, so they may still want him; even if we have to eat some salary it’s worth it. The following forward lines would look really good:
And it doesn’t have to be Landeskog, but any other top 6 winger that would do well on the 3rd line and who’s available. Someone like Patrick Sharp comes to mind, so does Cam Atkinson, or even Evander Kane (who might even be bought out by Buffalo for legal trouble). Whoever it is, they should be deadly enough that other teams need to fear and respect that line, because at least on paper our 3rd line does not demand that.
Another option is to trade Mojo in a package for a top 4 left handed defenseman. That way, the Caps could go out and sign either Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, or Kris Versteeg to play at the 3LW or even trust Brett Connolly or Stanislav Galiev to play there. Those additions wouldn’t make that scary of a 3rd line but it would look mighty good with one of those three slotted next to Eller and Wilson. Then, on top of that, the Caps really shore up their defense because, as of now, it’s a bit of a question mark. Carlson, Alzner, and Niskanen make up a fantastic top 3 but who will be that 4th defenseman? Orpik is getting older/slower and Orlov had a rough last 2 months of his season. Can he become what he’s supposed to and thrive on the 2nd pair? There isn’t much harm in finding out what Orlov can do and make a trade if one is needed. But it’s always best to make moves before the season rather than in the middle.
Someone like Hampus Lindholm could be had because Anaheim needs to choose 2 of Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Sami Vatanen. They’ve already signed Vatanen which means it’s down to Fowler and Lindholm, who is a RFA currently waiting on a deal. The league seems to hold Fowler in high regards when he is maybe one of the most overrated defensemen in the league. Lindholm is a smart, strong possession player. Or what about Kevin Shattenkirk? His name has been thrown around a lot in trade discussions. He’s very similar to Lindholm but with a couple more years of experience. He has one more year on his deal at $4.25M which is more than doable. A Lindholm/Shattenirk-Carlson, Alzer-Niskanen top 4 would be maybe the strongest in the league.
Again, it isn’t a bad thing to resign Mojo and Orlov, they were part of a team that dominated everyone and never lost two regulation games in a row in the regular season. But considering the window is about to shut on these current Caps, should they be okay with that? Should they go out and really beef up their top 9 and/or top 4 to really increase their chances of bringing home the Cup? I’m sure that’s something Caps brass are highly considering.
By Luke Adomanis
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