Monday, June 28, 2010

Capitals Free Agents

A quick glance, in order of priority, as I see it. Salary information via Capgeek, rounded to the nearest hundred-thousand dollars and only applying at the NHL level (players on two-way contracts have a different AHL salary). "Salary" = cap hit, for purposes of simplicity, here.

Check out the Japers' Rink Rink Wraps for more information on most of these players (some did not meet an arbitrary games played requirement). There are also the ReCapsules on the Capitals' official website.

By the way, in reality, there isn't a guy who will absolutely not be traded, for sure, on this list. Anyone could be moved for, say, that second line center or top-four veteran defenseman.

Note: today (June 28) is the final date to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents (and thereby retain their rights).


Jeff Schultz (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Led the league in plus-minus at +50, meaning he was on the ice for lots of even strength and shorthanded goals for and not many even strength and shorthanded goals against. He finished on the top pairing along Mike Green. His skating and mobility have improved as well. NHL Fanhouse thought he was good enough to be a finalist for "defensive defenseman of the year." He projects to a solid top-4 defenseman on any team.
What to expect: A new contract, either for decent money and decent term or another cheap, short contract, probably not more than $2 million per season. He's been rumored to be negotiating a multi-year deal with the Caps.

Eric Fehr (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $800k
The Skinny: He once again produced quite a bit in very limited ice time, topping the twenty-goal mark. He's also a bit of a rare breed within the Capitals organization, a guy in the mold of a Tomas Holmstrom--maybe not quite the net presence, but with a better release on his wrist shot too (albeit with slight durability issues as well). He projects to a solid top-6 forward, but there's not much to support that he can produce at the same rate in more ice time. Hopefully, he can.
What to expect: A new contract, probably one taking him into his final RFA-eligible or first UFA-eligible offseason, in the whereabouts of $2 million or less per season. He's been rumored to be negotiating a multi-year deal with the Caps.

Tomas Fleischmann (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Flash is the Alex Ovechkin of the AHL (according to Bruce Boudreau), a guy with great skill and a nice shot. Unfortunately though, he seemingly lacks heart and strength, two disadvantages holding him back from being a perennial 30-goal scorer. He's started each of the last two seasons strong but become weak by the end. Bruce Boudeau's scratching of Fleischmann, his favorite it seems, for Game 7, says it all. Fleischmann, if not contributing offensively, is not really doing much, as he's not a good defensive player or boards player and in the stints he's had at center, can't win faceoffs consistently.
What to expect: On an team not lacking at all offensively, Flash is expendable. I think George McPhee will re-sign him on a pretty cheap deal and look to trade him, or at least trade his rights. No way they let such a young skilled player go for free by not giving him a qualifying offer.

Boyd Gordon (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: Gordon is a good 4th line player. He wins draws at a top-5 rate, has pretty good defensive stats, is a good penalty killer, and can chip in with some forechecking pressure as well. He also is the only right-handed center the Caps have at the moment--having both Gordon and Steckel on the same line strikes me as something good to have, as depending on which side the draw is on the guy with the right handedness can take it (left, Steckel, or right, Gordon). Moreover, Gordon is clearly better than his replacement, Steckel, with better skating, speed, agility, and ability to improve (Gordon is younger). What he lacks is Steckel's size (most people do), reach, and more importantly, durability (I think we've found that Steckel's great 2008-2009 postseason was a fluke, or just great chemistry that shouldn't have to happen again).
What to expect: I can't see management passing on Boyd Gordon. If he's healthy for the playoffs he's quite solid with Bradley on that fourth line, whereas Steckel's even strength defense could use improvement.

Patrick McNeill (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: McNeill is the Caps' last hope at salvaging something from their 2005 draft (as of now no Caps draft pick from that class has played an NHL game). While taking his time to develop, he's become a solid top-4 defenseman for Hershey in this recent Calder Cup Finals run. Mark French, the head coach of the Bears, absolutely lauds McNeill's skating, something good to have in the "new" NHL. He could be on the top pairing in Hershey in the fall.
What to expect: While he may not crack the roster soon, he sure has a shot in a few years and may get called up in case of injury as soon as next season. He'll should be re-signed.

Andrew Gordon (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Gordon has had a strong playoffs for Hershey, playing on the top line with Giroux and Aucoin and putting up big numbers all season long, a lock basically for a point a game. While he may not have the skill to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, he could prove to be a Matt Bradley type, a good bottom-6 forward with decent two-way ability.
What to expect:  He's going to get re-signed. I can't see management passing on Gordon.

Wouldn't be a bad idea:

Milan Jurcina (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.4 million
The Skinny: Jurcina played quite a bit on Columbus this season and was traded back to Washington for a conditional pick that ended up being nothing (at best, it would have been a 6th round pick). Hence, we can see the Jurcina isn't exactly an eye-popping free-agent. What he is is a good third pairing D entering the prime of his career, already having been solid in the playoffs for Washington in the 2008-2008 postseason with decent all-around stats. He brings a hard, heavy shot that is effective if on net (a big if) and a nice physicality and size. His skating isn't great but he'll clearly be the "defensive" partner on a pairing, meaning that as long as he stays back and doesn't draw a matchup like speedy Montreal he should be effective if his competition isn't too tough.
What to expect: From having a surplus of NHL-level defensemen, now the Caps are short one (Sloan I don't think should be the 6D or even the 7D on a Cup-contender). I wouldn't be surprised to see him back another season, since he can come somewhat cheap, but George McPhee probably wants more of an impact player, so the Caps' top-4 going into next season isn't Green, Poti, and two guys who were rookies this past season. That being said the more pressing need is clearly second-line center, and there probably won't be enough money to sign a guy like Volchenkov or Hamhuis, so Jurcina could be re-signed, or just as easily some other cheap but legitimate third-pairing D. All signs so far are that Jurcina will be let go, as the team has shown zero interest in bringing him back.

Shaone Morrisonn (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2 million
The Skinny: Morrisonn is a solid top-6 defenseman who penalty-kills well, can move the puck decently, plays physically, and skates very well. He though is a little undisciplined, especially while shorthanded.
What to expect: He's gone. I imagine management will keep one of Milan Jurcina and Morrisonn if they can be had for cheap, but not both, and given Jurcina's playoff performance in 2009 as well as salary, I think he gets the edge over Morrisonn. Morrisonn's agent informed the press that the team hasn't started any negotiations with Morrisonn, so there's little interest from the Caps side.

Jay Beagle (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $900k
The Skinny: He's an okay player. Hockey's Future has him ranked pretty much even with the next guy on this list, and he plays a similar role, though he's more of a grinder and Bourque a scorer. He could be a future fourth liner.
What to expect: He's RFA, may as well try to get him back. Fourth liners grow on trees, but good, cheap ones don't, and since it's so tough to judge the guys (so influenced by team, when they're played, linemates, etc), might as well accumulate as many as you can until you find good ones (which the Caps did and now have in Bradley and Gordon and Steckel).

Chris Bourque (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $600k
The Skinny: Bourque lights up the AHL. While not quite Ovechkin at that level, he is like a, let's say Kessel at a minimum. He plays an all around game with lots of energy. Although undersized (that's an understatement), he played with tenacity and reckless abandon, not caring in the least that the guys he's hitting have fifty pounds and six inches on him. And if nothing else, his daddy (yes, the hall of fame defenseman) could give Mike Green some tips. He's probably not making the NHL as a top-6 winger (as he couldn't do much with Evgeni Malkin as his center) but could fill in on an above-average (offensively) line.
What to expect: He's still kind of young, and fills in with lots of energy when given the chance, so I expect him to get another look.
(Note: It's been reported that Chris Bourque has signed with a team in the KHL, though the Capitals have said they have not been informed of such a decision)

Eric Belanger (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.8 million
The Skinny: Belanger was a deadline acquisition and played decently. He did not help the penalty kill, but he did play solid hockey (with regards to the standards of being a third-liner), showed chemistry with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, and won two-thirds of his faceoffs in the playoffs. And he gave up eight teeth for his team after taking a stick to the mouth.
What to expect: He could stick around, but is likely gone. Between Mathieu Perreault, David Steckel, and Boyd Gordon, the Capitals have three candidates for the final two center spots and probably would prefer spending money on a top-6 center instead. If Belanger takes one-third or one-fourth pay cut, he could stick around. He's been rumored to be negotiating a three-year extension with the Caps, but the sides aren't close.

Zach Miskovic (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:  $900k
The Skinny: In his first professional season, Miskovic was alright as a third-pairing D for the Bears. He is decent two-ways, but plays a rather unrisky style which leads to his ceiling being "unknown." He probably needs to get better in all zones and be more aggressive offensively to make an NHL roster, as it won't be as a shut-down stud defenseman. He could see some top-4 time in Hershey if brought back and is still very much a work in progress.
What to expect: Hockey's Future isn't the be-all-end-all of understanding a player, but it speaks volumes that he was ranked lower than Joel Broda, whom the Capitals didn't value enough to even offer a contract to (Broda as a result will re-enter the entry draft). However, his skating doesn't seem to be an issue as with Broda, which could make him a borderline NHLer, or better, in the future. Might as well bring him back considering he's still young enough to be RFA.

Kyle Wilson (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: Wilson is a guy who could in the future fill in as a depth center. He's just entering his prime and while not offensively gifted enough to get an extended NHL look, he's cheap and a good player.
What to expect: He could improve a bit more, so they probably bring him back, though if some other team offers more McPhee might as well walk away. Nothing to get heartbroken about here.


Brendan Morrison (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.5 million
The Skinny: Morrison started the season strong, but since December or so really cooled off, scoring something like two goals from January onward. In the playoffs, he was scratched twice. While early on he looked like a great bargain at the 2C spot, he showed his age and health status (injured the last two seasons) later on, much to the Capitals' chagrin.
What to expect: He's likely gone, as he's not looking like the answer for second-line center. The Capitals need someone who can fill in at 1C if needed, not a guy who can fill in at 3C but not 1C. You can be sure that George McPhee will address the issue at second line center with either a trade or signing (or promotion of, say, Mathieu Perreault) in time for next year's playoffs, likely with someone better than Morrison. That's what really matters.

Scott Walker (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2.5 million
The Skinny: Walker was a deadline pickup and played well whenever he got the chance to get in the lineup. He plays a high energy game, gets in hard on the forecheck, has decent skill, and brings series-winning experience to the lineup.
What to expect: He's a nice depth player, but the Caps probably want to go younger than the 36-year old Walker, and reports say Walker is not negotiating with Washington. He's gone.

Quintin Laing (UFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: Laing doesn't have good hands, good skating, good awareness offensively, or good awareness defensively, save in one aspect--shot blocking. Laing's intangible as a complete team guy, happy whether or not he plays, giving it his all every night, game in and game out, wearing his heart on his spleen sleeve, is what makes him worth signing. But sorry Q, you're just not an NHL level player. I'd love to have you as a call-up, but if my team is close to the cap, you're not spending the entire year on the NHL roster like you did this past season. And next year, the Caps will be close to the cap.
What to expect: Either a cheap deal prior to being stashed in Hershey or no contract at all. Not really much point skill wise, but the hope is that his team-first attitude rubs off on everyone. I think the young prospects and even some of the NHL-level players in the organization could use that. The NHL made a "History will been made" video about Mike Richards: "What if Richie wasn't relentless?" (referring to his takeaway from Niklas Hjarmalsson in the Stanley Cup Finals and resulting goal). I for the moment can't say the same about any of the Caps, but hopefully with the attitude Laing brings I will be able to, as well as a more positive vibe in general.

Oh, please no:

Alexandre Giroux (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: Giroux is Brett Hull at the AHL level, but is best to scratch at the NHL level. He doesn't have the skill, speed, skating, or mind to play a top-6 role at the NHL level, and is too much of a defensive liability at the AHL level.
What to expect: He's either gone or re-signed "just like that" (at least that's how I perceive it). He's not going to be playing an NHL role in Washington anytime soon. Maybe, though, he will in a place starving for offense but great on defense. Likely he'll try and hold out for a nice NHL deal like last season but instead settle for a cheap one-way or even two-way contract, or even go to Russia.

Joe Corvo (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2.6 million
The Skinny: Corvo was a deadline pickup by George McPhee from Carolina for a second round pick, prospect Oskar Osala, and pending-UFA defenseman Brian Pothier. He's a right-shooting puck-moving defenseman with a heavy shot and who looks better in the playoffs than in the regular season.
What to expect: He was acquired for depth purposes and will be in a new place come September, as reports say Washington has zero interest in re-signing him. Washington needs to devote capital to more pressing needs.

Jose Theodore (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $4.5 million
The Skinny: Theodore has lost exactly one game in regulation this year. He's gone 28 starts without posting a regulation loss, going 20-0-5 in that span (counting the Game 1 loss to Montreal as in overtime, and with three no-decisions, which ended as two losses and one win for Semyon Varlamov), the longest run in franchise history. The last time a goalie started 45 games or more in a season and won such a high proportion of his games was in 1995-1996 (Chris Osgood). He's won the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey in light of how he's responded to the tragic death of his infant son, setting up "Saves for Kids." Through all this he's dismissed his inconsistency issues in the Capitals fanbase in favor of, well, being well-liked.
What to expect: Theodore could stay around if he takes a significant pay cut, but management (and I) think it's time to give the reins to Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. He'll be playing in a new city come September.

Boyd Kane (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: He's UFA and won't develop much more. He's 32 and has only played in 31 NHL games, 3 this past season. He's not going to improve much, if at all. For guys like Kane and Giroux the only real value is ability to call the guy up, and if the Caps need to call up a forward they will have several choices before Kane, including Keith Aucoin, Andrew Gordon, Mathieu Perreault, Stefan Della Rovere, and others. He's an AHL vet, not an NHLer.
What to expect: With regards to these mainly minor league deals, I'm not sure how George McPhee decides who to sign and who to let go, but my guess is McPhee lets him go. Not really much point in making a signing more or less for the minor league team.

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