Well we're past the second day of the free agent signing period, the draft is behind us and it's interesting to see how things are shaping up for the Caps as we look ahead to next season. Caps GM George McPhee made one great move so far and that was bringing vetran right winger Mike Knuble on board. The free agent pickup from the Flyers was something pretty much nobody saw coming. That said at 2 years and 5.6M this should be a solid good deal for both the Capitals and the 37 year old vetran right wing. Well here's my recap of the ins and outs of the roster and then I posit who I'd put on the "ice" if I were BB and the Caps had to play a game this weekend, to make things easier on myuself I assumed that any of the RFAs tendered qualifying offers were resigned.
1) Viktor Kozlov: 2008/2009 Cap Hit: $2.5M
Thoughts/Comparative Value: As much as I liked Kozlov, to me the corresponding "In" - Mike Knuble is a definate upgrade and at just about the same price against the salary cap as Kozlov was last season. Further, Knuble's stats and numbers are better than Kozlov's were last season.
2) Sergei Federov: 2008/2009 Cap Hit: $4.0M
Thoughts/Comparative Value: I didn't see Federov agreeing to much lower a salary than $4M, and he didn't, plus he will now finish his career playing alongside his brother in his homeland. Further this is another "out" where I'm feeling pretty positive about what I think is the corresponding "in" - Brooks Laich on the second line as center. A lot of folks are worried about this including GMGM and Coach Boudreau, and they should be this upcoming season is another one where the expectations are for the Caps to go even further than they did last season. That's a lot to ask when our second highest paid returning forward is likely to no longer even be considered for top six minutes. If he's the replacement for Federov and the second line center Laich has big skates to fill, I'm willing to bet he can and does do a good job accomplishing that feat.
3) Sami Lepisto: 2008/2009 Salary:
Thoughts/Comparative Value: Does it matter? Lepisto played 7 games for the Caps during this past regular season, he had no goals, 4 assists, 6 penalty minutes and was -3. For the Hershey Bears he turned in a solid but not fantastic body of work. To my minds eye you'd have to point to one of the other Capitals prospect/developing defensemen as the trade off here. Given that over the past two seasons when he's been called up to Washington Lepisto has been inconsistent, I thought the move of sending him to Phoenix for a for a fifth-round draft choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, rather than making him a qualifying offer was the right move. I also like several other prospects chances of making the big club's roster these days better than Sami's and that includes both Joe Finley as well as the more obvious choices John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Truth be told obviously for the Caps and Lepisto this was a make or break year and he didn't earn his way anywhere near a roster spot.
4) RFAs that did not recieve qualifying offers: Andrew Joudrey, Daren Machesney, Travis Morin and Sasha Pokulok.
Thoughts/Comparative Value: None of these were a surprise though after last season I'd think you'd have to say the Daren Machesney was the victim of a talent-laden goalie pipeline in the Caps System. The other thre all showed promise and flashes at one time or another and as a first rounder you'd have to class Pokulok as a disappointment at best, but none was a total surprise and the guys in the pipeline these four are making room for are all more worthy and better bets.
1) Quintin Laing: 2008/2009 Salary: Estimated 2009/2010 Cap Hit Number: $500K
Thoughts/Comparative Value: Okay it's easy to forget that "Q" was GMGM's first free agent signing this season. After all he only spent one game this season in a Caps sweater before getting hurt. However, as a Hershey Bear he had a solid season and a solid playoffs including Calder Cup. Laing provides depth and insurance to both the Capitals and the Bears and though at age 30 he's not likely to ever be on anybody's Hall of Fame ballot, he's an inspirational player, who turns in a solid night's work every game in a manner that has made him a fan favorite.
2) Qualifying offers to Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn, Steve Pinizzotto, Jeff Schultz and Kyle Wilson.
Well first the only name on this list that some might not be very familiar with - Kyle Wilson: The 24 year old center was drafted in 2004 in the ninth round by the Minnesota Wild, he played college hockey at Colgate through 2005-2006, then he was signed by the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL in 2006, he split the 2006-2007 season between San Antonio and Hershey, and was signed as a free agent by Washington last summer. He's played 80 regular season games each of the last two seasons in Hershey. This past year he notched 28 goals and 30 assists for 58 points. He was +13 and had 31 penalty minutes on the season. He's a big (6-0", 200#) right shooting, center and right now you'd have to think he';s a much better bargain and has as much chance of playing 10 games for the Capitals this next season as Michael Nylander does.
The next least known guy on this list - Steve Pinizzotto: An undrafted, 24 year old, big right wing that the Caps signed to a two year entry level contract in March of 2007 while he was playing college hockey at RIT. Pinnizzotto is a 6'-1", 196# right handed winger who has split his past two season between South Carolina and Hershey. During that time he's shown good skills and has been continuing to dvelop his nose for the net while also being a sound two way player with grit. This past season he had a particularly good set of numbers during the Bears' Calder Cup run, in 21 AHL Playoff games, Pinnizzotto had 3 goals, 2 assists and was +5.
The other six (6) players are all well known to Caps Fans and all were "no brainers" for tendering at least a qualifying offer. As far as who of those six are likely to get some interest and offer sheets and who might push through to arbitration other than the obvious one - Shaone Morrisson, you'd also have to think that any of the other five, even Bourque could be of interest to other teams as well, though I can't see Bourque pushing things to and through arbitration.
3) Mike Knuble signed as a free agent for 2 years at $5.6M
Thoughts/Comparative Value: Thoughts? Awesome comes to mind. Comparative value though Knuble is 37, his numbers have been getting better each of the past several seasons and he comes with 12 seasons of NHL experience and a Stanley Cup. He's a great trade out for Viktor Kozlov and the Right Wing the Caps hoped Chris Clark would be when they signed his last contract. This is a no brainer by pretty much any measure. He'll be awesome on the first or second line and I'm thinking it's first line for him.
So that's where things stand as of this evening - Thursday July 2nd, the Caps are not yet 100% gelled for the season but right now I think the roster looks like this if you had to put a team on the ice for a July 4th game:
1) Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
2) Semin - Laich - Fehr (or Clark)
3) Fleischmann - Nylander? (or Steckel) - Clark (or Fehr)
4) Gordon (or Bradley) - Gordon (or Steckel) - Bradley (or C-Bo)
Reserves: Jay Beagle, Kieth Aucoin, Quintin Laing or several other prospects .....
Mike Green - John Erskine
Tom Poti - Milan Jurcina
Brian Pothier - Karl Alzner
Reserves: Jeff Schultz, Shoane Morrisson, John Carlson, Tyler Sloan ....
Jose Theodore, Seymeon Varlamov
Reserves: Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby ... though nobody has signed "Johnnie" yet either ..
At the risk of pointing out the obvious this lineup truly illustrates Nylander's redundancey at this point and if other prospects in the pipeline continue to develop he'll definately continue to be so. He is a clearly a reason that GMGM makes the statements about UFA signings that he's been quoted as making... Also if Nyls is worth $5M this coming season and some of the guys are getting what they are getting around the league this week what will Backstrom and Semin be worth if they finish out next season with the same sort of stats or better than they had this season?
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!