The Washington Capitals might need to start looking for a second line center soon. While they are interested in re-signing Mikhail Grabovski, new General Manager Brian MacLellan said that he realizes that defense is the number one priority for the Capitals. If the Capitals can’t re-sign Grabovski (he’s currently asking for around $5,000,000 a year), here are some options to replace Grabovski as the second line center.
With all due respect to Grabovski, Evgeny Kuznetsov could be an even better center than Grabovski. Kuznetsov was never that good at winning face-offs while in the KHL, and that’s fine. Does anyone remember how bad Mike Ribeiro was at winning face-offs? No, because everyone was too busy celebrating him scoring.
Kuznetsov is the kind of player who can make everyone around him better. At center, he’d be a dynamic force who teams would be forced to respect. He can score and he can pass. He even looked like he knew what he was doing on defense, which is something that I couldn’t say for most of the Washington Capitals’ forwards last season.
The Capitals have been searching for a second line center for a long time. Kuznetsov could solve that problem for years to come, and could be ready to do it as soon as next season.
If Kuznetsov is the center, Tom Wilson should be his right wing. The chemistry those two had last year was impressive, especially when you consider that they had never played together before. On the left, Marcus Johansson would simply not be good enough. Eric Fehr could be a fit there, but I’d prefer a more skilled forward. Might Matt Moulson or dare I say Andre Burakovsky be a fit there?
The Washington Capitals need to find out what the heck Johansson is. Is he a wing or is he a center? Personally, I think he’s a center. He’s a great passer and he just didn’t seem comfortable at wing. When Johansson played more towards the center of the ice last season, he had success. Johansson has trouble winning face-offs, so that’s something that must improve if MoJo wants to stay at center. I can easily ignore Kuznetsov not winning face-offs due to his incredible talent, but MoJo, with all due respect, does not have incredible talent.
Johansson would definitely need a scorer as one of his wings. Kuznetsov could be a fit there, plus that might encourage Kuznetsov to be more aggressive with the puck. More realistically, the Washington Capitals would probably need to add someone like Moulson or Mike Cammalleri. Troy Brouwer, Fehr, and Wilson would all be fits as the other wing because they do the dirty work.
The Trade Candidates
I’ve already written about Ryan Kesler, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jason Spezza. Any one of those four gentlemen would be a good fit, but my pick of those four guys would be Thornton. In order, I’d probably go with Thornton, Kesler, Marleau, and Spezza.
I think the Washington Capitals should re-sign Grabovski and let Kuznetsov play a little bit of center to learn under him. If Kuznetsov is going to be a second line center, I’d like for him to improve on face-offs. Grabovski could easily slide into a third line role. I certainly wouldn’t rule out a trade.