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As the Capitals are in summer mode right now, the Capitals roster is still up in the air heading in to the 2016-17 season. The Capitals are still negotiating with forward Marcus Johansson, and there is still intrigue as to if he is in the Capitals plans moving forward.
Over the past few weeks, the Capitals have attempted to bolster their lineup. They made a trade at the NHL Draft with the Montreal Canadiens and acquired forward Lars Eller. In free agency, the Capitals added forwards Brett Connolly and Brad Malone for additional depth. While the Capitals added some younger guys, they let veterans Jason Chimera and Mike Richards walk.
While these additions are good moves, it is still fair to question whether GM Brian MacLellan solved all of the Capitals main needs.
It has been almost two months since the Capitals were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the NHL Playoffs. The Capitals aimed to get younger and quicker over the offseason, and their latest transactions reflect that goal.
Right after the Capitals playoff series ended, Brian MacLellan said that Joel Ward was missed. MacLellan referenced Ward’s play and his ability to go to the dirty areas, and his know-how to get in front of the net.
THE CAPITALS STILL HAVE NOT FOUND WARD’S REPLACEMENT
While the Capitals and Penguins played a competitive playoff series against each other, the Capitals played too much of a perimeter game in the series. The Capitals 2nd line really struggled to generate any quality chances against Penguins goaltender Matt Murray in the series.
The Capitals struggled to attack the middle of the ice, and there were many instances where the Capitals did not get any traffic in front of Matt Murray. The Penguins defense did a good a job of closing down the middle of the ice, and forcing the Capitals to take outside shots.
This is still an area of need for the Capitals, especially in the top 6 forward group. Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov both struggled to get to the middle of the ice against the Penguins in the playoffs.
CAN THE CAPITALS STILL ADDRESS THIS NEED?
The free agency market has dried up a bit, and the player that the Capitals are looking for is very hard to find. If the Capitals are going to add what they need to their lineup, it will have to probably be done via trade.
Who are some current players around the NHL that could help fill this void for the Capitals?
GABRIEL LANDESKOG (COL)
The 23-year old Swede is a rambunctious winger that has a strong nose for the net. He is a player that can play a skilled game or physical game. The 2011 2nd overall pick tallied 20 goals and 53 points in 75 games for the Avalanche in 2015-16.
Colorado has been a team that has been in the rumors recently because their management might want to shake things up with their roster. The Capitals could have some defensive pieces that might interest the Avalanche. This could be a match for the Capitals as a trading partner.
SCOTT HARTNELL (CBJ)
Hartnell is 34 years of age, but is still a serviceable player. While he has a bad cap hit at $4.75 million, he is the prototypical rugged, tough winger that can get to the dirty areas near the net. Hartnell was a fan favorite when he played in Philadelphia because of his in-your face style.
In order for the Capitals to pull a Hartnell deal off, the Jackets would probably have to agree to eat some salary in this deal. Hartnell’s age is definitely a concern, but probably not a deterrent.
CAM ATKINSON (CBJ)
Hartnell’s teammate Cam Atkinson is a tiny player on the ice. Standing at 5’7” tall, he is much smaller than most of the players he faces on a nightly basis. But with his lack of size, he makes up for it with his nose for the net. Atkinson is quick and does a good job at getting to loose rebounds near the opposition’s net.
Atkinson was one of the Jackets top producers in 2015-16. He tallied 27 goals and 53 points in 81 games. It is highly unlikely that the Jackets would part with Atkinson, but he is one of their nicer assets because he is young (27) and he is on a manageable contract.
ALEX KILLORN (TBL)
Killorn is a reliable winger that is currently a restricted free agent with the Lightning. He is a jack of all trades player, and can play in many roles.
Killorn put up 14 goals and 40 points for the Lightning in 2015-16, but his playoff production the last 2 years has been even more impressive. He netted 5 goals and 13 points in 17 playoff games for the Lightning in the 2016 postseason. In the 2015 Lightning playoff run, he put up 18 points in 26 games.
It is unlikely that the Lightning will trade Killorn, but he might be someone that might have to be sacrificed since they are right up to the salary cap maximum.
By: George Foussekis