Washington Capitals: A Tale of Two Different Off-Seasons
As of 12:16 a.m. Tuesday morning, there have been 129 players that have either signed with new teams or stayed with their old ones. The total amount of dollars spent on these contracts has been $855,275,000 or an average salary cap hit of $2,185,381, according to Cap Geek.
Washington has spent a whopping $950k on just one player and his name is Joey Crabb, who joins Washington via Atlanta,Chicago and most recently Toronto. Signed as a free agent by Atlanta on August 31, 2006, Crabb was traded to Chicago by Atlanta with Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin and New Jersey's 1st (previously acquired, Chicago selected Kevin Hayes) and 2nd (previously acquired, Chicago selected Justin Holl) round choices in 2010 Entry Draft for Brent Sopel, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu, June 24, 2010.
He then signed as a free agent with Toronto, July 15, 2010 and has played 144 games in the NHL scoring 18-goals and recording 50-points. McPhee compared him to Matt Hendricks so let’s hope he at least has Hendricks like moves during the shootouts at the end of overtime.
In 290-American Hockey League games with the Chicago Wolves, and Toronto Marlies, Crabb scored 66-goals had 91 assists for 157 points. His best season was in 09-10 when had 53 points in 79 games for the Hawks top AHL affiliate.
Crabb is a hardnosed player that loves to crash the net. If you are wondering why the Capitals have been so quiet, you can thank last year's crop of free agents that many said made the Capitals Stanley Cup favorites before the season began.
McPhee signed right wing Joel Ward (three years, $12 million), defenseman Roman Hamrlik (two years, $7 million), Jeff Halpern (one year, $825,000) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (one year, $1.5 million), all in the first two days of free agency.
He also traded Russian net minder Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for their first round pick in last week’s NHL entry draft. With the 11th overall selection the Capitals landed Filip Forsberg from Ostervala, Sweden. Forsberg, just 17, was the top-ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting. He was the youngest player on Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championships, helping his team capture their first World Junior gold medal since 1981 by recording one assist in six tournament games.
The Ostervala, Sweden, native collected 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 43 games with Leksand in the second division of Sweden’s senior league in 2011-12.
McPhee is using the opposite approach of last off season when he traded the Caps first round pick (26th overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks for one of the teams better players this season, Troy Brouwer. With their second pick in this year’s first round Washington chose Thomas Wilson.
Wilson, who is just 18, is considered a tough hardnosed player that was ranked 15th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He collected 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) and 141 penalty minutes in 49 games with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and added 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 13 OHL playoff games. The Toronto native was voted as the ‘Best Body Checker’ in the OHL’s 2012 Western Conference Coaches Poll and was a runner up for the ‘Hardest Worker’ category.
The 6’4”, 203-pound forward won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, posting three goals in five games. He also won gold with Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, recording one assist and six penalty minutes in four games.
You cannot blame McPhee for relying more on the draft this season to re-tool the Caps. Especially when you consider that every free agent signing McPhee inked last July 1-3 has to be considered a major bust. Joel Ward (6-G 12-A) had his worst season as a pro, Roman Hamrlik (had a good post season, but was a healthy scratch during the Dale Hunter regime for his poor play at times. Hamrlik, like Ward, also suffered through his worst offensive season as a pro. The 20-year veteran recorded just 13 points in 67 games, which was the first season the 37-year old defenseman recorded less than 26 points since he registered 21 for the TB Lightning way back during the 1993-94 season, the second year of his career.
Jeff Halpern never found a second wind to his career and Tomas Vokoun finished the year watching with an injury, but was never consistently effective, and during one stretch this season was pulled in two straight games.
Washington will add a free agent or two, and it is possible that they are in the hunt for Devils Captain Zach Parise. The hiring of former Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, as Caps head coach last Tuesday has to at least have the Caps in the talk for Parise.
McPhee knows he has work to do, and may simply not be tipping his hat. Playing this time of the year with a poker face is something GMGM does very very well.
Forwards Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern, as well as defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was traded to Calgary last week, leave gaping holes, and McPhee will make sure they are filled. However, it is unlikely he will do it as he did last off-season. He does not like handing out bad contracts and said so on Monday when speaking with the media.
“You can survive the loss of a player, but it’s hard to survive bad contracts. Sometimes you can do something at this time of year that handcuffs you for years,” he said. “We haven’t done that; we’re not interested in doing that.”
The Caps will be just fine, and if you remember how surprised everyone was when Tomas Vokoun signed in D.C. last year, just think how surprised everyone will be when they see Blue Jackets superstar Rick Nash wearing a different color scheme of red, white and blue, preferably more red than blue. And I’m not talking about the New York Rangers.
While trading for Nash is highly unlikely, my point is that McPhee will do something, it just won’t be overspending on third line players or aging defenseman and centers. Look for the Caps to continue adding depth, and if a Zach Parise is within the grasp of Owner Ted Leonsis, and George McPhee then you can bet he will be in Washington. McPhee needs to stabilize the team, who with the Oates hiring, has now had three head coaches in less than nine months. While McPhee is on a warm seat, the only thing he has not accomplished is winning a Stanley Cup, and trust me Caps fans, nobody thinks about it more than GMGM.
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