May 2, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) battles for the puck with Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine (4) in the first period of game one of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals Offseason: 5 Worst Contracts Cont.

Washington Capitals Offseason: 5 Worst Contracts Cont.

The next part in my series on examining the Washington Capitals worst and best contracts is here!

So the last week has been crazy and severely delayed my timeline for this series.  Work and family have been extremely time-consuming.  On the bright side, I was able to check out the new movie The Butler which was very thought-provoking and a reminder of the tragedy that segregation brought to America.

My next segment should be out mid-week and I’m looking forward to getting back on schedule.

With my deepest apologies, the fourth worst contract on the Capitals!  Check out part one here.

4. John Erskine (and our “depth” defenseman) (2 mil and change)

John Erskine is a tough defender and I have tons of respect for him.  Washington Capitals fans appreciate the effort he gives each night and often wonder why our other defenseman can’t adapt the hard-nose, tough as nails attitude.

Regardless of his attitude is the fact that the New York Rangers blatantly exposed:  John Erskine is too slow to play against first and second line forwards.

As of right now, it seems that George McPhee is content to sit pat and start the season with Erskine as our #4 defenseman paired with John Carlson.

This was a bad decision last year and nothing has changed since then.

As Japers Rink points out: “Carlson’s Corsi percentage was 44.9% with Erskine, his most frequent partner, and 53.1% when skating without him).”

John Erskine’s contract is an albatross because it clogs up the depth chart not just for the number.  First of all, while $2 million is a good price to pay for a #4 defenseman, it is too much to pay Erksine.

It’s a classic example of slotting a player into a role and paying them for that role(top 4 pairing) rather than on the players’ merit.

Compounding this issue is McPhee’s insistence on paying hordes of bottom six defenseman (Steve Olesky, Jack Hillen, Tomas Kundratek, Dimitry Orlov, Cameron Schiling etc.) to ride the bench.

Imagine this scenario (which was completely possible last season).

George McPhee releases Jack Hillen and John Erskine at the end of the season instead of re-signing them.  While I like Hillen, the fact is that Olesky, Schilling, Kundratek, or Orlov can essentially do the same job.  You could just as easily have used Olesky or Kundratek for this example.

The point is that the Caps would have saved $2.7 million from what they are spending presently.  With that extra cap room, they could have at least made a run at Robyn Regehr, Rob Scuderi, or Grant Clitsome.

Now while none of these three are flashy signings, they would certainly fit in better than Erskine and be a significant upgrade.  Even if we did nothing, the additional cap space would be very useful and the team would not have been that worse off.

Adding insult to injury is the Capitals have gotten great deals out of both Carlson and Alzner.  Those savings could have gone a long way to easing their burden.

When you consider that Alzner re-signed for $2.8 mil, it just makes Erskine’s contract look even worse.  Remember that one of McPhee’s themes is overpaying on extensions and over-valuing internal players.

Any impartial observer would clearly say that the Capitals have the worst kind of depth: players who take up cap space and have limited upside.  The easy solution would have been to cut a few loose and try to upgrade your defensive corps.

As it is, it appears that an internal solution is the Caps best hope.  Hopefully, either Orlov or Schilling can step up and contribute in a significant role.

It is not encouraging when Capitals fans must hope and pray that someone can fit into the #4 slot once again.  It is even more discouraging when you don’t see the front office making any moves to address this problem.

Quality defensive depth has hurt the Caps for years now in the playoffs.  The lack of a second shut-down pair (ala the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers) has been exposed repeatedly by skill teams.

John Erskine single-handedly was responsible for three goals in game 7 with poor play and bad decisions.  This was not an aberration or a one-time mistake; it was, clear and simple, par for the course.

If this is what Ted and GMGM view as success, then their offseason plan makes perfect sense.  For those of us that expect more, we could have a long season ahead.

Follow me on Twitter: @fantasy_cyril or email me at [email protected]

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Tags: George McPhee John Carlson John Erskine NHL NHL Free Agency Washington Capitals

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