Catching Up With The Capitals
We are now a few weeks into the off-season and although the Washington Capitals have been relatively quiet, there have been a few key events.
Heading into the draft on June 25th, there was speculation over what the Caps might do. Would they trade their first round pick? Would they trade Semin? Would they bring in a top d-man? In the end, they did nothing but make the 26th selection. The Capitals selected Evgeny Kuznetov, an exciting forward from Russia. GM George McPhee in fact said he was looking to trade up as many as ten places to get their man, but in the end there was no need. The center played 35 games in the KHL last season, but really impressed in the World Under-18 Championships, captaining Russia and finishing with twelve points in seven games. With the 86th overall pick, the Caps then selected Stanislav Galiev. I for one was excited before the draft about the prospect of drafting Galiev in the first round, as he seemed like a perfect fit for the Caps – a young Russian winger who is familiar with the Western style of play. So to see him selected in the third round was a welcome surprise. Galiev managed sixty-two points in sixty-seven games in the QJMHL last season. In the rest of the draft, the Caps traded their fourth and fifth round picks to Toronto to move up four places and select German goaltender Philipp Grubauer of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Center Caleb Herbert and defenseman Samuel Carrier rounded off the Caps picks in an overall successful draft.
With no players traded in or out at the draft, moves on July 1st seemed even more likely, especially given the high number of potentially top-line d-men available. But the big-name defensemen all found their new teams without as much as a whisper of the Caps’ involvement. On July 2nd though, George McPhee signed veteran goalie Dany Sabourin to a one-year, two-way deal worth five-hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. Sabourin will spend the vast majority of the season in Hershey, though, only stepping into the Capitals roster if either Varlamov or Neuvirth is injured, after McPhee has asserted that the two youngsters will be the Caps’ number one and number two this year. As exciting as these prospects are, the lack of an experienced goalie to step in if there is an injury, a definite possibility given Varly’s injury problems, is worrying. However Sabourin is a capable backup if needed.
A big reason for the lack of activity in Washington is the team’s RFAs. With Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Jeff Schultz and Boyd Gordon all restricted free agents, the organisation were wise not to spend much (or any) of their roughly 15 million dollars in cap space. But now all but Fleischmann have been signed to extensions. First Gordon signed a one-year contract worth $800,000, a good deal for both sides. Schultz then signed a four-year deal at $2.75million per year; fantastic news for Caps fans as the team gets a key member of their young defensive core locked up for the next few years. And Eric Fehr signed a two-year extension worth $4.4million. Fehr still has something to prove, after not quite living up to his potential just yet, despite impressing with limited ice time. Now with only Fleischmann, who has filed for arbitration, left to try to work out a contract with the Caps, the organisation may start looking into trade options, to bring in the necessary parts to complete the team. The main areas of speculation will be a second-line center and a top line d-man. And although McPhee has assured fans that there are the players in the organisation to fill both roles, with a fair bit of cap space, there could be a trade in store for the Capitals.