What’s Next for the Capitals in Free Agency?

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game FivePhoto: Zimbio

Earlier this afternoon the Washington Capitals finally announced that they have re-signed top-six winger Jakub Vrana. With a contract of two years worth $6.7 million ($3.35 million AAV), there remains a little under $1 million left of cap space. Two players still remain unsigned – defenseman Christian Djoos and forward Chandler Stephenson. The two players filed for arbitration sequentially just before the deadline on July 5. With the two players getting ready for their arbitration meetings in the coming weeks, the Capitals are forced to make a decision on who to re-sign.

For Djoos, he looks like the likely choice for the Capitals. Djoos played a big role on the bottom defensive pair during the 2017-2018 season. Showing great signs of improvement and consistent play, he became a great choice as a bottom-six defender. After Djoos had a lengthy recovery from thigh surgery and missed two months of the past season, it gave defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler a chance to earn his place in the lineup. Siegenthaler performed well paired with team leader Brooks Orpik. Should the team re-sign Djoos, they will be forced to make a decision between him and Siegenthaler. While this may not seem ideal for the Capitals, it may not be the worst idea. The Capitals have been reworking their defense this offseason and having two young consistent defensemen on the roster could provide some needed balance. This will also give the Capitals some added support in the unfortunate case of injuries. Given the significant defensive struggles endured by the Capitals recently, some extra talent in Djoss would make for a quality final piece of the lineup. In the 2017-18 season, Djoos posted three goals, 14 points, and a +3 rating in 63 games.

For Stephenson, the situation looks dark. The fourth line forward had a very underwhelming season last year and was cycled around with center Travis Boyd and forward Dmitrij Jaskin. The fourth-line proved to be among the Capitals’ biggest disappointments last year after having a strong season in 2017-18. The Capitals focused on reworking their fourth-line along with their defense and signed some veteran players. Forwards Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic were all signed by the Capitals in the past month as the bottom-line overhaul. With these signings, it seems that Stephenson will be pushed out of the lineup in Washington this season. The center was held scoreless and had a -2 rating in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he served as a healthy scratch one game. In the regular season, Stephenson appeared in 64 games and only scored five goals and 11 total points. In addition, his -13 rating was the worst on the club.

The choice for the Capitals should be easy. Djoos remains a stronger player and will add the extra support to the team’s blueline that they lacked last season. The signings made in the offseason prove to be better options as depth forwards on the third- and fourth-line to take the place of Stephenson. His lack in scoring has been his biggest problem and with the additions of solid penalty killers like Hathaway, Panik, and forward Carl Hagelin, the Capitals really don’t have any need for Stephenson anymore. Djoos, who is also the younger player out of the two, has more potential to develop and can remain a quality defenseman towards the bottom pairings. The biggest concern the Capitals may have with him is whether he can bounce back from his injury and return to the level he was at two seasons ago. Hopefully, his injury will not set him back like what forward Andre Buralovsky’s hand injuries did to him.

The two players have their arbitration dates set. Djoos’s hearing will go forward on July 22 and Stephenson on August 1, if they don’t sign new deals before then.

By Zach Herr

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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5 Responses to What’s Next for the Capitals in Free Agency?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I could see Caps signing both, going over the Caps (10% legal until night before season starts). Then let the 4th Line battle play itself out in training camp. Waive one in hopes they would clear and report to Hershey.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    4th line doesnt decide many games…

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Other than Dowd’s solid play, the wingers were of no help. They need an effective 4th line if they want to go far. That’s how Mac/Trotz built this Stanley Cup Champion.

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  4. hockeydruid says:

    I see them offering Chandler a 2-way contract and sending him to Hershey regardless of what he does in training camp. They signed 3 forwards for the 4th line and are not going to cut them. Chandler and possibly Boyd will have to work their way back up and prove that they are better than they players that the Caps signed.

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  5. Day One Caps Fan says:

    Attention Caps Fans: Let’s get something straight, right now:

    The Caps do not have “blueline problems”, D Jensen is not “struggling” nor a disappointment. The Caps don’t have “depth problems” with any of their Forward lines, and even their goalies are absolutely solid. But many “eyes” will be trained on the Caps this season to see if they can overcome their REAL problem.

    The Caps’ REAL problem in the 2018-19 season was the fits and starts, blunders and “learning experiences” of their Rookie Head Coach and his uncomfortable-looking staff of assistants. For once the local DC NHL media was, at least, looking in the right direction in the quest for “answers” in the upcoming season. NBCSports in DC has it right in their headline, “Burning questions: What adjustments will Todd Reirden make?”

    NBCSports in DC is all over it: Last year’s problems and this year’s questions are laid squarely at the feet of the Caps’ coaching staff, now in its Sophomore year of operations. The Capitals’ ownership and General Manager functions have proved their mettle under fire, and they delivered a sparkling NHL Stanley Cup Championship to the success-starved franchise. The Rookie Coaching staff has delivered an embarrassingly unsuccessful opening season. Maybe they will fare better in 2019-20. Yes, they must make adjustments — to themselves.

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