The dog days of summer are quickly approaching. After a busy and somewhat compacted offseason, the last phase is here, free agency. The buy out period has happened, for the most part. The expansion draft is in the rear view mirror and the regular draft has come and gone. The only thing left to do is fill out your rosters via free agency.
When talking about the Washington Capitals and their free agency plan I have no idea what to expect. As of writing this the team has just over $4m in cap space. The only major hole this team has on their current roster is goaltending. Ilya Samsonov is currently an RFA and you would have to imagine he is going to take up at least half of the remaining cap space.
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It’s also very unclear on who the Capitals plan on being the backup goalie next season. I think most would assume they will go into free agency looking to get a cheap veteran as insurance. Similar to what they did last offseason when they signed both Henrik Lundqvist and Craig Anderson.
It will be very, very interesting to see how much the Caps are spending on goaltending next season. If that position takes up the rest of the cap space, and you assume it will, they won’t have any room to make any other deals. If they get the goaltending position locked up do they need any more deals in free agency?
In my opinion, yes. I understand this team still has a lot of talent, but I have no idea how you sell this team coming back. I don’t know how you come back with this team that has looked incredibly uninspired for very large parts of the past three postseasons. When looking at this current team it begs the question of, how many times are you going to bang your head against a brick wall and hope something changes?
If they do decide to mostly keep this team the same then for Caps fans I hope I’m wrong. However, as of right now, I don’t think I am wrong and I have the last three years as proof or evidence. This team needs a shakeup while they still have players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson going at a very good pace. You also still have a very good supporting cast in the forms of Dmitry Orlov, Anthony Mantha, Lars Eller, Connor Sheary, Justin Schultz and likely a fourth line most teams should be jealous of.
You will likely notice I did leave out a big name. When talking about banging your head against a brick wall Evgeny Kuznetsov is the first guy that comes to my mind. In terms of players who give lackluster efforts, Kuznetsov is really bad. I don’t know how many times he can put forward the efforts he does and still have a spot on this team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
If we’re talking about free agency plans for the Capitals I try to trade Kuznetsov and get what you can for him. Free up his $7.8m cap hit and go sign a hungry, veteran free agent center.
The reason I say go get a veteran is because you do have a young option in house in Connor McMichael. I tend to think Michael deserves a good long look in the NHL now. Unless he goes in to training camp and stinks up the joint. Anything is possible. I think he will be okay.
In free agency, you go out and get a veteran, cheaper center and he can help McMichael who can player center sometimes and maybe play the wing other times. Ease him in to being the third or even second line center.
If you trade Kuznetsov, you free up his cap hit, bring in somebody who actually gives effort consistently, either via that trade or in free agency and you can also gradually give that spot to McMichael, which is likely the long term goal anyways.
That’s what the Capitals plan should be in free agency. Shore up the goaltending position. Trade Kuznetsov and get rid of his cap hit. Get a veteran center, and let McMichael show you what he’s got. After that, I say you reassess your team, as you will always do during the season, and try to patch things up at the trade deadline if you think you have to.