Photo: LV Review-Journal
It has been reported that Washington Capitals‘ GM Brian MacLellan‘s top priority entering free agency next week is to improve the team’s fourth-line, which was a revolving door during the 2018-19 campaign. The line’s spotty performance during the regular season was followed by a poor offensive performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they scored only one goal (which came on a penalty shot) during the team’s seven-game series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 1. NoVa Caps takes a look at five UFA targets that could help the Capitals’ fourth-line.
Bellemare, 34, is a guy who is not going to produce offense but brings a lot to the table. His 54.7% faceoff-winning percentage was tied for 31st in the NHL this past season. That would help a Capitals team that had an NHL-worst 45.7% faceoff-winning percentage. He also averaged 1:57 worth of ice-time per game on the penalty kill, another area where the Capitals struggled for much of the season.
Bellemare, who recorded six goals, 15 points, and a +2 rating in 76 games this past season, is responsible defensively, notching at least 15 more takeaways than giveaways in each of the past two seasons.
He is expected to have a cap hit around the neighborhood of $1.5 million.
Lindberg, 27, has offensive potential as he has recorded at least eight goals in every season of his NHL career, including nine in each of the past two seasons. He split last season with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators and tallied nine goals, 20 points, and a +4 rating in just 55 games. He averaged 0.55 points-per-game last season.
Lindberg recorded 27 blocked shots, 104 hits, 22 takeaways, and 25 giveaways on the defensive side of the puck this past season and played an average of 11:54 per game.
With forward Brett Connolly likely leaving, Lindberg could be a nice low-risk, high-reward signing. His cap hit will likely be close to $2 million.
Hartman, 24, was not given a qualifying offer from the Dallas Stars as a restricted free agent after they acquired him from the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. It’s a confusing move after he scored 12 goals, 26 points, and a +1 rating in 83 games with the Flyers and Nashville Predators this past season and he’s still relatively young. He has hit the 10-goal mark in each of the past three seasons, including a 19-goal output with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016-17.
Defensively, he posted 107 hits, 39 blocked shots, 35 takeaways, and 36 giveaways this past season. He has averaged at least 12 minutes in each of the past two seasons, including 13:07 this past one.
Hartman’s next cap hit will likely be in the $2.1-2.2 million range.
The 25-year old was another player who did not receive a qualifying offer from his club, the Minnesota Wild. Aberg recorded 12 goals, 25 points, and a -14 rating in 59 games with the Anaheim Ducks and the Wild this past season. He also stepped up during the Nashville Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 as he recorded two goals, five points, and a -1 rating in 16 games during center Ryan Johansen’s absence due to injury. Aberg scored at least 25 goals in each of his first two seasons in the AHL.
He was also trusted enough to earn a reasonable amount of playing time as he averaged 14:39 worth of ice-time this past season. Aberg recorded 11 blocked shots, 45 hits, 15 takeaways, and 36 giveaways.
Aberg’s next cap hit will likely be around $1.5 million.
Pirri, 28, played only 31 games at the NHL level but he took advantage of the opportunity, recording 12 goals, 18 points, and a +6 rating with the Golden Knights. At the AHL level, he posted 18 goals, 42 points, and a +7 rating in only 29 games. Pirri has recorded at least 40 points in each of his four AHL seasons. He has shown his scoring touch in the past too, as he recorded 22 goals in only 49 games with the Florida Panthers in 2015-16. He has hit the double-digit point-mark in each of the six seasons where he has played in at least 20 games.
Pirri has played at least 12 minutes a game in each of the past two seasons when he has been up at the NHL level and played an average of two minutes on the power-play this past season. Defensively, he recorded 29 hits, 13 blocked shots, 14 takeaways, and 11 takeaways this past season.
Pirri’s next contract will likely have a cap hit close to $1 million.
By Harrison Brown