NoVa Caps is very excited to see many of our followers who took the summer off re-engaging with us via our social media outlets! We missed you all and wanted to get all of you caught up with the “Best Of” the off-season activity, aka the “silly season”.
We asked the NoVa Caps’ writing team to provide you with what they believed were the most significant events of the post-season. The following covers our Washington Capitals and a handful of our writer’s favorite teams or those teams where they believed the most noteworthy trading activity occurred. Here’s what they had to say.
JUSTIN GREEN, will get us started and will provide his thoughts on the Washington Capitals, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild and a few noteworthy/internet crashing trades:
For the most part, the roster for 2016-17 will look very similar to the way it did in the season prior. Jason Chimera, the Caps’ oldest player, ended up signing a contract with the NY Islanders, where he will probably end his career, and Caps fourth liner, Michael Latta, ended up signing a one-year contract with the LA Kings as a UFA. The biggest acquisition the Capitals made over the offseason was trading two second-round picks for Canadiens Center, Lars Eller. Eller will most likely land a role as the third line center, with Marcus Johansson and offseason acquisition, Brett Connolly. Connolly, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, was also signed by the Caps as a free agent.
Marcus Johansson took the Washington Capitals to arbitration again this offseason, and the two groups eventually settled on a three-year, $13.75 million contract just before the arbiter had to step in. Johansson will likely take the role of third line left wing, centered by Lars Eller. The Capitals also finally – just a few days ago – settled with RFA Dmitry Orlov with a one-year, $2.57 million contract. Orlov, who had an ice-time and team role dispute with the Caps, will have to prove himself this year if he wants to have a bigger role with more ice time on this team.
The lack of major moves, despite a disappointing post-season in 2016, means the Capitals will be heavily relying on the development of their younger guys, primarily Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Kuznetsov, who scored nearly a point a game in the 2015-16 season, will likely start as the first-line center with Ovechkin and Oshie. One main point that Kuznetsov has to focus on is staying fresh on the ice, and not letting his moves get stale. He’s a young, talented puck handler and skater, and he has to utilize his talents to keep the opposing defense on their toes. His teammates love playing with him since he can feed them the puck from pretty much anywhere, but he will have to work on not over-handling the puck deep in his own zone. Fortunately, if he’s on a line with Ovechkin and Oshie, he will have talented forwards that he can rely on for help.
Andre Burakovsky will be coming off of his first full season as a Washington Capital, and will be looking to improve on the areas that he struggled with in years prior. While he was an absolutely stunning player at different points during the season, his play was inconsistent and he never seemed to fully mesh with his line mates. His neutral zone play was also shaky, and he made some bad passes here and there. Traits like this aren’t exclusive to just him, though, and as a rookie, players are expected to make some mistakes. There will be less leniency on the first-round 2013 pick this year, and he will be fully expected to fill the role of second line left wing, and will likely be centered by Backstrom.
You can expect to see players like Madison Bowey and Jakub Vrana make their NHL debuts this year as well, but they will primarily stay in the AHL to develop a bit more before they will become full time NHLers.
The Capitals will begin their season in Pittsburgh on Thursday, October 13th, at 8 PM.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS – “OFF-ICE”
The Capitals and their families kept active during the off-season, with many of our players’ sharing significant “off-ice” news. A few noteworthy items to share with you include new family members and spouses!
The Oshie’s welcomed their second baby girl: Leni who joins big sis, Lyla.
The Alzners also welcomed their second baby, a boy named Anson, who joins big sister, Stella. And, Nicklas Backstrom and his girlfriend Liza welcomed a new addition, their second baby, a boy named Vince who also joins his big sister, Haley.
Dmitry Orlov married his fiance, Varvara Amosava in Russia, in mid-July.
And perhaps the biggest “off-ice” event of the off-season was the marriage of our Captain, Alexander Ovechkin and Nastya Shubskaya in what was referred to as a “small private wedding” in late August.
With this being Shane Doan’s 20th consecutive season with the franchise, and likely his last year in the NHL, the Coyotes are going to come out swinging this year. Dave Tippett and the Arizona squad are going to do everything in their power to ensure a post-season appearance this year.
Back in the 2011-12 season, the Yotes won their first division championship and made it to the third round of the playoffs, but fell to their rival, the LA Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. The Coyotes haven’t made too much noise since that season, failing to make the playoffs each of the following years. After the end of the previous season, their GM, Don Maloney, was fired and replaced by the NHL’s youngest ever GM, John Chayka.
Despite the problems with the city of Glendale, the ownership debacle, and countless rumors that the Coyotes would be moved to another city, the team is looking stronger now than they have looked in the previous five seasons. The Coyotes have had a massive influx of young talent from drafts and trades over the past few years. Young players like Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Anthony Duclair, Anthony DeAngelo, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson show hope for the future of the franchise.
Goaltending seemed to be an issue coming into the 2015-16 season for the Yotes, with Mike Smith dealing with sub-par performances and recurring injuries, and backup goalie Anders Lindback failing to live up to the expectation of back-up goalie, Springfield Falcon’s goalie Louis Domingue had to step up to the plate and played admirably for being thrown into the position. Now with a healthy Mike Smith, a capable Louis Domingue, and a third string Justin Peters, the team is hoping their goaltending troubles won’t resurface.
The Coyotes aren’t anticipated to do anything special this season, but look out! With budding young talent showing promise, a young GM who’s relentless on proving the nay-sayers wrong, and a Captain who is willing to do anything to fulfill his promise of bringing the Cup to the desert, the Coyotes are certainly a team to watch this season in the Pacific Division.
Bruce Boudreau may not be the best Xs and Os coach in the league, but he’s certainly good at taking teams to the postseason. In 2007-08, the Washington Capitals relieved coach Glen Hanlon of his duties after a dismal start of 6-14-1. They hired Hershey Bears Coach Bruce Boudreau, who led the team to a massive rebound, eventually getting the Capitals to the post-season for the first time since before the lockout. After Dale Hunter replaced him behind the bench, the Anaheim Ducks were quick to act and hired Boudreau, who eventually led the team to four consecutive divisional titles.
Besides former Carolina Hurricane, Eric Staal, and the reacquisition of former Sabres rental Chris Stewart, the Wild have not made any roster moves. In fact, all but seven players on that roster have been on the team for at least three years, showing the General Manager Chuck Fletcher has confidence in the talent and depth of this team. Despite the goaltending issues and injuries the team has faced in the recent past, the Wild are hopeful that they can rely on Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper without being plagued by more bad luck.
Now the Minnesota Wild have signed Boudreau to hopefully give the team what they need to win their first ever Stanley Cup. The Wild, who have made the post-season the past four years, will utilize Boudreau’s level of energy to hopefully get the team past the second round of the playoffs. Goaltending aside, the Wild seem to have all the necessary pieces to bring a Cup to the “Home State of Hockey.”
One for one: P.K. Subban for Shea Weber
Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 was seemingly the day for blockbuster trades in the NHL. However, no one expected the announcement that the Montreal Canadiens would be trading franchise player and fan-favorite, P.K. Subban, for Nashville Captain Shea Weber.
Outraged Montreal fans were looking for a good answer as to why their franchise defenseman was traded for someone whose contract won’t be expiring until he’s in his 40s, why the failures of the Canadiens team had been projected on their most beloved player. Coach Michel Therrien and General Manager Marc Bergevin expressed nothing but optimism regarding the trade, saying that Shea Weber fit in better with the Habs system, style of play, and team chemistry.
The truth of the matter may never officially be revealed to the public. Perhaps Bergevin truly believes that Weber is a better fit for the squad, so much so that he was willing to take on Weber’s contract until he is 41. But many journalists and fans speculated the heavy media attention on P.K. Subban was causing issues for the organization, primarily Bergevin and Therrien. Therrien didn’t hesitate to blame team losses on Subban, even attributing their loss to the Avalanche in February entirely to the defenseman. Regardless of the reason, seemingly bigger motives forced Bergevin’s hand on the Subban/Weber trade.
The Nashville Predators were quick to jump on the opportunity of picking up defenseman P.K. Subban, relinquishing their responsibility of the 14 year contract they had signed Weber to in the 2012 offseason. On the other end of the deal, P.K. Subban’s contract would end in 2022, when the defenseman would be only 33. The Predators now have a young, quick, offensive minded blue line that will thrive under coach Peter Laviolette’s offensive powerhouse.
GEORGE FOUSSEKIS, will continue and provide his thoughts on the New York Islanders and the Vancouver Canucks:
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders have made a few changes to their roster during the offseason. Forwards Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen departed Brooklyn, and signed new long term deals with other clubs.
To replace Okposo and Nielsen, the Islanders signed 2 veteran NHL forwards with Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. A lot of production was lost with the Okposo and Nielsen departures. In the meantime, the Islanders replaced Okposo and Nielsen with 2 older forwards.
The Islanders may take a step back because of these moves. They should still be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but they could be on the bubble for most of the year.
Canucks management has not fully embraced the rebuild that everyone has been hoping for. During the offseason, they traded one of their top forward prospects Jared McCann to Florida in exchange for defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
It was a move that was heavily criticized, due to the fact that they traded for an older player. However, Gudbranson will add some much needed toughness to a Canucks team that desperately needs it.
The big free agency splash the Canucks made this summer was the signing of former Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson. Eriksson, 31, signed a 6-year deal with the Canucks after scoring 30 goals and 63 points with the Bruins in 2015-16. The Canucks desperately needed additional goal scoring in their lineup, and the addition of Eriksson should help.
While the Canucks should be improved, they are still probably not going to make the playoffs this year. Their forwards still lack some size, and there is not much of a scoring threat after the Sedins.
DIANE DOYLE, provides her thoughts on the St. Louis Blues:
ST LOUIS BLUES
During the 2015-2016, the Blues finished second in the Central Division, behind the Dallas Stars but in front of the Chicago Blackhawks. They advanced to Round 3 (Conference Finals) of the Stanley Cup playoffs, beating the Blackhawks in Round 1 and the Stars in Round 2 but they ended up losing Round 3 to the San Jose Sharks. That is the furthest they’ve advanced since the 2000-2001 season, where they had also lost in the Conference Finals.
But along came the off-season where there were many major changes to both the coaching staff and the team roster. Head Coach Ken Hitchcock announced he would return for one final year with the Blues before retiring. “I’m not coaching after this year,” Hitchcock said. “This is it. I’m done.” Two of the coaches on Hitchcock’s staff also left the team. Associate Coach, Brad Shaw, who had been with the team since 2006, decided to leave the team to pursue other opportunities. Assistant Coach Kirk Muller left to become an associate coach with the Montreal Canadiens. They were replaced with Mike Yeo, the recent Head Coach of the Minnesota Wild and Rick Wilson, a former Wild assistant. Yeo would be Associate Coach and the plan is for him to succeed Hitchcock in 2017-2018.
In addition to the changes in the coaching ranks, there were changes in player personnel, as well. Several players had expiring contracts and left the team as Unrestricted Free Agents. This included David Backes, the team’s long time team Captain who had been with the team since 2006 and had been Captain since 2011. He signed a 5-year contract with the Boston Bruins. Another free agent was Troy Brouwer, a former Capital, who had scored the game winning goal in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks. He signed a 4-year contract with the Calgary Flames.
With the departure of Backes, a new Captain for the Blues was appointed – defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who served as an Alternate Captain the previous year. Forwards Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were appointed Alternate Captains for this coming season. Pietrangelo was presented with a jersey bearing the “C” by former Blues captains Bob Plager, Al MacInnis and Bernie Federko at a press conference at Scottrade Center in late August.
The Blues also traded Brian Elliott, one of their two goalies, to the Calgary Flames for the Flames’ Second Round pick (35th overall) on June 24. The pick was used to pick Center Jordan Kyrou. For most of the previous two years, they used Elliott as part of a tandem, along with Jake Allen. With Elliott gone, it appears they are giving the Number 1 goalie job to Allen. This was confirmed by the fact that they signed Allen to a 4-year contract extension on July 1. The Blues opted to go with the younger Allen, who turned 26 over the summer, as opposed to Elliott who is 31. Carter Hutton, formerly with the Nashville Predators, is expected to be the backup.
Other personnel moves included re-signing forward Jaden Schwartz to a 5-year contract. They also re-signed forward Dmitry Jaskin to a 2-year contract and forward Magnus Paajarvi to a 1-year contract. They signed Kyle Brodziak to a 2-year contract extension. They also signed forward David Perron to a 2-year deal. Perron had formerly played with the Blues but had been traded away earlier.
In short, it was a very interesting off-season for the Saint Louis Blues.
STEPHANIE JUDGE, provides her thoughts on the Winnipeg Jets:
Winnipeg used its draft pick (second overall) to bolster its top line with the explosive speed and scoring potential of 18 year old Finnish superstar Patrik Laine. Laine’s imposing 6’5″ frame and his lethal right-hand shot made him a dominant player on the junior hockey circuit where he earned a spot on the World Junior Championship Team All-Star Team. Despite his young age, his style of play and talent are frequently compared to Alex Ovechkin. He is a solid choice for the Jets where he is expected to continue to mature into a top line right winger during his three year entry level contract.
Other significant moves included signing dynamic center Mark Scheifele to an eight-year contract and bringing on Jamie Kompon as assistant coach. After trading their former Captain Andrew Ladd last February, the Jets have finally awarded the title to Blake Wheeler. Scheifele and hard-hitting defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will serve as assistants. Just as impactful as who the Jets have signed to its roster is who they have not – including restricted free agent Jacob Trouba. It is unclear if Trouba will attend training camp after his stint on Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey or sit it out until he has a signed deal with the Jets. Trouba is a key member of the Jets’ blue line primarily for his offensive and quick style of play.
UPDATE: Restricted free agent and defenseman, Jacob Trouba has requested a trade and will not be reporting to training camp.
JULIA KARRON, continues and provides her thoughts on the Boston Bruins:
As we all know, this off season and free agency was crazy. Hundreds of millions of dollars dropped on the first day alone, crazy trades that were utter nonsense passed management, and here we were as Caps fans just waiting for a 3rd line center or a decent 4th line winger that didn’t break the bank. I wrote about how the Capitals managed their silly season appropriately, and one of my main points is that they didn’t overspend.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins made a splash by signing former Blues captain David Backes to a five year, $30 million contract. What else have the Bruins accomplished this off-season, and how will it affect their upcoming season?
These are all of the transactions the Bruins have made up to September 7th. They are your run-of-the-mill picking up and dropping 3rd and 4th line players and rookies. And then there were the bigger signings: David Backes, John-Michael Liles, and Torey Krug, while losing Loui Eriksson. Let’s break some of these down:
Torey Krug. With Dougie Hamilton’s departure to Calgary a season ago, re-signing Torey Krug was a top priority for Bruins management. Krug is a young, feisty defenseman who models his game after his teammate, Zdeno Chara. Hopefully he will be worth every penny of his 4-year, $21 million contract with the solid play that his made him a Bruins staple.
John-Michael Liles. Liles was signed to a one-year, $2 million contract with a $2.25 AAV during the off-season. This was an interesting move by the Bruins. The B’s need solid defensemen, but Liles age will be a key factor. At 35 years old, how effective can he be with a defense corps that also has an aging Zdeno Chara? It’ll be interesting to see how Liles will be utilized.
David Backes. The former Blues captain signed a 5-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins, and was one of the splashier moves this silly season. Backes will skate with the B’s after a stint on Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey. If you watched Team USA, there was a lot left to be desired, and arguably Backes’ roll is a prime reason. Backes is more of a power forward who played in the heavy fore-check system of Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis and John Tortorella’s Team USA. That’s good when employed correctly, and Claude Julien is a smart coach who will probably deploy Backes as the primary forechecker. However, Backes’ contract is 5 years, and he is currently 32 years old, so if Backes’ body doesn’t hold up with that style of play, this could be seen as a flop move.
Anton Khudobin. While the Bruins are undisputedly backed by an outstanding goaltender in Tuukka Rask, the signing of back up Anton Khudobin could be a stealthy move. Khudobin played with the Anaheim Ducks last season behind John Gibson, but has bopped around the league for years. Last year, Khudobin picked up three wins and averaged a .909 save percentage, so he could fill in for Rask and steal a game if necessary.
These signings leave many questions. Why go for older, journeyman players during free agency? Who else did they pursue? Who will make their team out of training camp? How will they fill the void Loui Erikkson leaves? While these questions will only be answered during the season, the Bruins always present a tough game against the Caps. We’ll see how former Bruin Brett Connolly will fare against his old team.
LUKE ADOMANIS, provides his thoughts on the Carolina Hurricanes:
The Hurricanes have never been the same since their 2006 Stanley Cup win. They have made the playoffs only once since then, none in the last 7 seasons, while usually settling on the bottom of their division. But with a new GM Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters, Carolina is trending in the right direction. If they can continue to progress Hurricane fans will have something to cheer for sooner than most think.
The Hurricanes had one of the best off season trades in acquiring Teuvo Teravainen, a top 6 young player, with the condition they take on Bryan Bickell and his poor contract. But this isn’t like taking on Brooks Laich, because Bickell can actually be a 3rd line threat (though who knows if they start him there) and his $4M contact only lasts 1 more season. They also grabbed the much underrated Lee Stempniak, a top 6 winger for cheap who should help with the young, blossoming players. They also added on the speedy Viktor Stalberg to their bottom 6 who will help with the possession game. But probably the best addition this summer for Carolina is Sebastian Aho. He was a steal of a 2nd round pick in 2015 and looks to be a threat in the NHL this season. Adding thriving young talents like Teravainen and Aho to other young, skilled players such as Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, and Haydn Fleury will do wonders for the Hurricanes this season and in the years to come.
The Hurricanes biggest gaff of the summer was re-signing aging, mediocre at best goaltender, Cam Ward. They finally got out from under his terrible contract, and then they chose to re-sign him? That doesn’t make sense, but they have the cap space so it doesn’t hurt them and it’s only a $3.3M cap hit for 2 years. What they really need is Eddie Lack to step up and stop some pucks. The Hurricanes are very good at generating shots and possession while limiting shots on their own goal, so the most important player (as it is with every team) is the goalies. Ward hasn’t posted above a .910sv% in the last 4 years and Lack in his first years with Carolina wasn’t impressive, settling with a .901sv%. If the Canes want to move up in the standings they must get some help from their netminders, if not, they’ll continue to stay out of the playoffs.
The Hurricanes were probably the best non-playoff team last year and didn’t get the recognition they deserved. They finished 14th in shots for and 5th in shots against, yet they were 27th in goals for and 18th in goals against, that doesn’t add up at all. Also, they were 11th in possession when their team wasn’t anywhere as deep as 2/3rds of the rest of the league. If you add all of that together, you can see the Hurricanes are on the right track. The future is looking bright for Carolina fans. They have a tremendous coach in Bill Peters and some young, thriving prospects. They just need to stay on track and improve. The offense needs to convert on their chances and their goalies need to stop the shots that they need to stop. If they can get a mix of both of those and continue to put up the great underlying numbers, they could be a dark horse to make the playoffs this season.
MATTHEW JACOBSON, provides his thoughts on the Calgary Flames:
2 seasons ago, the Calgary Flames snuck into the playoffs, even winning a round against the Vancouver Canucks. They looked like they were a team on the rise, with young talented forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau leading the way offensively, and captain Mark Giordano anchoring the defensive unit. Yes goaltending was an issue, but as the numbers have shown, even average goaltending (paired with the right offensive numbers) can carry a mediocre team into the playoffs. The 2015-16 season for the Flames was not a good one, as they failed to replicate the success they had in 14-15, despite adding young defenseman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Their goaltending really weighed them down, ranking dead last in the league with a combined save percentage of .898. To put this into perspective, the Dallas stars had a combined save percentage of .915, not even a 2 percent difference, and were a playoff team.
The offseason for the Flames and GM Brad Treliving was a very good one. They hired Glen Gulutzan to take over for Bob Hartley (Caps associate head coach Todd Reirden was one of the finalists, but did not end up getting the job). They carried positive momentum into the draft, acquiring goaltender Brian Elliot from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a second round pick. With their first round selection, Calgary selected American-born forward Matthew Tkachuk (yes, he is the son of former NHL great Keith Tkachuk), who even if he doesn’t crack the lineup this year, could be the winger they need to play with Monahan and Gaudreau.
With the core they already have in place (Giordano, Elliot, Monahan, Gaudreau [who remains unsigned at the writing of this piece], Hamilton) and depth they’ve created both offensively and defensively, the Flames should thrive in a fairly weak Pacific division. Expect Brian Elliot to have the same success he had in St. Louis, Gaudreau and Monahan to both score at least 30 goals, Hamilton to produce between 40 and 60 points, and the Calgary Flames to go back to the postseason in 2016-17.
MICHAEL FLEETWOOD, finishes up and provides his thoughts on the Taylor Hall trade:
TAYLOR HALL TRADE
It was the deal that shook Alberta to the core: Taylor Hall Gets Shipped Out of Edmonton and dealt to New Jersey in exchange for Adam Larsson. After the P.K. Subban-Shea Weber trade, this blockbuster was the biggest headline grabber of the summer.
After stockpiling first overall draft picks in the last seven years, the Edmonton Oilers have yet to make it back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; a place they haven’t been since losing the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Current Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is no stranger to big deals: three years ago when he was General Manager of the Boston Bruins, he sent 2010 second overall pick Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars for a package of players. With the Oilers showing no major signs of improvement and in need of a Top 2 defenseman, he decided to shake things up and traded young superstar forward Taylor Hall (who was the first overall pick in 2010) to the New Jersey Devils for young blueliner Adam Larsson.
The Devils have struggled offensively the past few seasons and desperately needed an offensive booster. What they got is one of the NHL’s most productive young scorers, who has been nothing short of brilliant in his first six seasons in the league (132 goals, 196 assists, and 328 points in 381 career games).
In Larsson, the Oilers are getting a young defenseman who can play heavy minutes on a nightly basis. Last season he averaged 22:31 minutes a night and has an average of 20:39 for his career. If all goes right, both teams will get exactly what they need.
Pre-Season Hockey begins tonight with the Capitals hosting the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center with the puck dropping at 7pm. All preseason games will be carried via WashingtonCaps.com and Caps Radio 24/7, and select games will be broadcasted on 106.7 The Fan.
Many thanks to all of the collaborating NoVa Caps’ writers who provided the content for this article: Justin Green, George Foussekis, Julia Karron, Stephanie Judge, Matthew Jacobson, Michael Fleetwood, Luke Adomanis and Diane Doyle.