Washington Capitals: 3 Areas the Caps Could Still Improve This Summer
Considering the length of the Washington Capitals' to-do list this summer, the Caps have had a very strong offseason. They hired Adam Oates to be head coach, drafted Filip Forsberg in what could become the steal of the 2012 draft and re-signed Mike Green to a three-year contract.
But there are still areas that need to be improved if Washington want to be contenders this season.
Fortunately, there are still a number of available free agents Caps General Manager George McPhee could sign to improve his team.
Per Capgeek, the Caps only have 44 (out of a possible 50) players under contract and $10,572,095 worth of available salary cap space.
Here are three areas of the team the Caps could still improve.
3. Veterans with Experience
When the Capitals lost Jeff Halpern, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin, Tomas Vokoun and Dennis Wideman this summer, the team lost five players averaging 34 years of age, one Stanley Cup and a combined 3,585 games worth of NHL experience.
Their replacements, Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen, Mike Ribeiro, Ryan Stoa and Wojtek Wolski, average just 28 years of age, have no Stanley Cups among them and total only 1,572 games of NHL experience.
The Caps, usually a team praised for their strong veteran presence, suddenly look young and inexperienced.
There are a number of players on the free agency market who could correct this, among them are ex-Cap Jason Arnott and Tomas Holmström.
2. Elite Two-Way Defenseman
With the likes of Mike Green putting up 70-point seasons and Dennis Wideman making the All-Star Game in 2011-12, two-way defensemen have been a major reason for the Caps' success in recent seasons.
But right now, Green is the only elite, two-way blueliner on the Caps roster.
The Capitals need to find an offensively talented defenseman to play on the top, pairing with Karl Alzner.
The obvious choice is to bring back restricted free agent and 2008 first-round pick John Carlson, who has established himself as a key player on the Caps team and as the aforementioned Alzner's partner.
The Caps must get Carlson back to have any chance at reaching the playoffs this season.
If, for whatever reason, the Caps fail to get Carlson back, other options could include RFAs Michael Del Zotto, Dmitry Kulikov and P.K. Subban.
1. First-Line Right-Winger
After losing Alexander Semin to free agency, there was always going to be a hole in the Capitals' top-six.
The Caps have elite prospects, like Filip Forsberg and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who will fill the role long-term, but as of right now, there is no clear-cut candidate to play on Adam Oates' top-line, alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Bäckström.
Historical comparisons and his development scale suggest Marcus Johansson could be a 60-point player this season. With Troy Brouwer expected to settle in alongside Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski on the Caps' second-line, Johansson likely enters the season as the Caps first-line right-winger.
But if Johansson fails to perform as it is hoped he will, the Caps will have a major hole in their lineup.
If George McPhee is feeling ambitious, then Bobby Ryan of Anaheim, a four-time 30-goalscorer, could be an option, but more likely fits include the likes of Kristian Huselius, Andrei Kostitsyn and Petr Sykora on the free-agency market.
Filling these three holes in the roster throughout the season could make the difference between the Caps again failing to advance beyond the second-round of the playoffs and being legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.