With Free Agency Looming on July 1, Who Should the Washington Capitals Target?
The Washington Capitals are in need for some changes to their roster. They missed the postseason for the first time since the 2006-2007 season. With a new GM in Brian MacLellan and new head coach in Barry Trotz at the helm, the Capitals are trying to re-brand themselves into a playoff team again. Sitting with just under $15 million in cap space, the Capitals have the ability to go on a nice shopping spree when the free agency period opens.
The major areas of concerns for the Capitals is on defense and inside the net. The Capitals forwards are not a bad group on paper, but they could also use some tweaks and adjustments. With uncertainty surrounding Mikhail Grabovski, the Capitals could find themselves with a major hole at the centre position.
Composed below is a list of unrestricted free agents the Capitals should try and target during the free agency period. The list will be divided up into three sections: Forwards, Defensemen, and Goaltenders. Each player listed below is someone who could help the Washington Capitals at their respective positions.
Paul Stastny (COL): Age: 28; 71 GP: 25 G, 35 A, 60 P, 26 PIM
Exp. Cap Hit: $6.6 million
Paul is one of the most underrated centres in the entire NHL. He has tremendous passing ability and is a terrific skater on the ice. At just 28 years old, he is in the prime of his career and could fetch a massive long term contract. He will be one of the most sought after free agents if he hits the open market. With the Capitals inability to get a permanent second line centre consistently, could Stastny prove a long term fix? He would be very pricey, but the Capitals should take a good look at him to see if he can be the solution to the second line centre hole. Stastny has been a 50-70 point guy and has played his entire career with the Avalanche.
Matt played for three teams during the regular season: New York Islanders, Buffalo, and Minnesota. Despite being shifted around in the trades, Moulson had a pretty good season. The 30-year old North York, Ontario native is a former 30 goal scorer for three straight seasons when he played with the Islanders. Moulson is known as a shooting winger that brings some grit to the table. He could fit right in on the Capitals top line on the opposite side of Ovechkin, or could fill a wing spot on the Capitals second line. He will probably seek a raise for his point totals, but he could come at a price that the Capitals could afford if he hits the open market.
Capitals fans may remember the former longtime Captain of the New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan. The Capitals and Callahan have had many playoff battles against each other before. Callahan plays a gnarly game and provides lots of sandpaper and grit. The feisty winger likes to play physical and is one of those “heart and soul” players that teams covet. His season was mediocre and he did not have his regular production numbers. He has been a guy who has consistently got 40-50 points in a season. He could provide a distraction on the Capitals top line and could bring a Mike Knuble type presence and leadership to the Capitals. Callahan has demanded close to $6 million per season on his next deal, but there is no doubt that he will not get a contract of that kind.
Matt Niskanen (PITT): Age: 27; 81 GP: 10 G, 36 A, 46 P, 51 PIM
Exp. Cap Hit: $2.3 million
Matt led all Penguins defensemen with 46 points during the regular season. He was ranked third among Penguins blueliners in average time on ice (21:17) behind Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Niskanen made his presence known most on the Penguins powerplay, leading all Penguin defensemen with 15 powerplay points. Niskanen will get a hefty raise from his expiring contract that could price him out of Pittsburgh. He was not used frequently on the Penguins penalty kill. The Capitals could use another defenseman who can specialize in killing penalties, but Niskanen is a very good skater and supplies lots of “O” from the “D.”
Mark Fayne (NJ): Age 27; 72 GP: 4 G, 7 A, 11 P, 30 PIM
Exp. Cap Hit: $1.3 million
Mark is an interesting choice for this list because he is not a big name. The Nashua, New Hampshire native was a diamond in the rough for the New Jersey Devils when they drafted him in the fifth round back in 2005. While he has not been a star, he has quietly become a solid defenseman for the Devils. He will not give you the offensive production, but he will give you solid defensive play. He could come at a reasonable rate and he can play up and down the defensive depth chart.
Brooks Orpik (PITT): Age 33; 72 GP: 2 G, 11 A, 13 P, 46 PIM
Exp. Cap Hit: $3.75 million
Brooks has always been a rugged tough customer on the Penguins blueline. He is like Capitals defenseman John Erskine, except with a little bit more speed and mobility. They both play very similar games. Orpik is not as quick as he used to be, but he is still a serviceable defenseman who can bring veteran leadership. His style of defensive play and veteran presence would be a welcome addition to the Capitals young blueline. He will probably get a similar dollar amount to his expiring contract on the open market. Could he be the fix and the solution for Mike Green?
Ryan is arguably the best free agent goaltender on the market this summer. The former Vezina Trophy winner and longtime Buffalo Sabre is very familiar with the Washington Capitals. The East Lansing, Michigan native is a fierce competitor and he hardly ever takes a night off. Miller could come to Washington and take some of the load of Braden Holtby so he could develop some more. Miller is still searching for a Stanley Cup, and he could make the Capitals a cup contender if he signed. He is a former silver medal winner in the Olympics and a former NHL All Star.
Jonas had a pretty good regular season until the playoff stretch and the playoffs hit. He fell out of favor with coach Bruce Boudreau and was replaced in net by youngsters Frederik Andersen and John Gibson down the stretch. The Ducks have announced that they are going a different direction in net and Hiller will not be needed anymore. Hiller is still a serviceable veteran goaltender who can also carry a large load of the season. He is probably the “poor man’s Ryan Miller” this summer, but he could help any contender or bubble team as a viable 1B option.
Tomas did not play in the 2013-2014 season because of a blood clot issue in his pelvis. The 37-year old Czech Republic native is a former Capital and played with them back in the 2011-2012 season. Prior to joining the Capitals in 2011, he played for the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators. He was once a goaltender who played under new Capitals head coach Barry Trotz in Nashville. New Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn also played a big role in coaching Vokoun in Nashville. Would Vokoun come back to Washington and play as Braden Holtby’s backup? There is a good chance Vokoun would sign without the expensive price tag attached to him. Vokoun was very good for the Washington Capitals in 2011-2012 as he recorded 25 wins, 2.51 GAA, and .917 SV%.
$ummer $pending in D.C.
It will be interesting to see what the Washington Capitals decide to do with their large amount in cap space. There is a lot of flexibility for the Capitals management to re-tool the roster into a cup contending team. Fixing the defensive core should be the top priority for Capitals management, followed by the goaltending situation. If Mikhail Grabovski goes elsewhere, then the Capitals must address the second line too.
The players listed above are just a few of the names on the market that could draw interest from the Washington Capitals. With the right moves and tweaks, the roster should be set to be competitive for the next several seasons.
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