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5 Washington Capitals Who Won't Be on the Team When Season Starts

Robert WoodCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2016

5 Washington Capitals Who Won't Be on the Team When Season Starts

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    With the NHL's cancellation of games through November 1, the Washington Capitals players are scattered all over the globe as they keep themselves occupied during the lockout. 

    In fact, The Washington Post created a chart and a Google Map to track the whereabouts of each Capitals player. 

    But what if some players don't return from their current lockout locations to rejoin the Washington Capitals? 

    Here is my prediction of five Washington Capitals who won't be on the team when the season starts. 

5. Dmitry Orlov

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    Dmitry Orlov was among several Capitals sent to the AHL to play for the Hershey Bears during the lockout. 

    Orlov will get added experience from the significant playing time he will surely receive with the Bears.  As an added bonus, he will be under the watchful eye of his eventual head coach in the NHL, Adam Oates, who will help coach the Hershey Bears

    But much like then-head coach Dale Hunter felt Orlov was not ready for the playoffs, I predict Oates will feel Orlov is not quite ready to begin the regular season with the Capitals, and will keep him in Hershey to work on specific aspects of his game. 

4. Joel Ward

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    Joel Ward's tenure with the Washington Capitals has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. 

    After a rough regular season, Joel Ward was the hero of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series by defeating the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 7.  Then, he was unfairly labeled a playoff goat for his accidental high stick in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers, which the Caps eventually lost in seven games. 

    And to add injury to insult, Joel Ward suffered a sports hernia sometime in March, for which he underwent surgery in the offseason. 

    He is currently rehabbing, and I predict that his ongoing recovery will keep him from joining the Washington Capitals for the beginning of the season. 

3. Michal Neuvirth

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    Former Washington Capitals starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth was relegated to the backup role behind Braden Holtby during the 2012 postseason. 

    Neuvirth was quiet enough about his new role during the playoffs, but he was anything but quiet during the offseason.  He gave a surprisingly candid interview to the Czech website iSport.cz, as translated by Russian Machine Never Breaks.  Among other topics he touched on was new starter Braden Holtby:

    It’s true that until now, I have never been an official number one.  But I have played just over a hundred games in NHL.  That’s nothing.  I’m starting the season sure that I want to play forty/fifty games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition [Braden Holtby] I’ve ever had.  I will try to be number one goalie this season.  Finally!

    Neuvirth has since joined HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga, deciding to play in the Czech Republic for his first professional club.  And he will most likely be the starter on that team. 

    This lack of competition—real or perceived—combined with his return to a more familiar environment leads me to believe he will not hurry back to the Washington Capitals when the lockout ends. 

2. Alex Ovechkin

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    Well, you knew Ovi would be on my list. 

    From the beginning of the NHL labor dispute, Alex Ovechkin has been quite possibly the most vocal NHL player regarding the ongoing negotiations.  Shortly after signing with his former team Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, Ovechkin was quoted as saying that he would stay in the KHL if the NHL cuts salaries.  He recently repeated that threat, as tweeted by Slava Malamud of Sport-Express: 

    And he elaborated on the legal ramifications in an interview with Dmitry Ponomarenko of SovSport, as translated by Russian Machine Never Breaks:

    If the negotiations between you and the league will not lead to compromise, can you see yourself continuing your career in Russia? Is it possible/doable in a legal perspective?

    I think yes. If my contract will be cut down greatly, it would be possible to annul it through the court.

    I am predicting that all of the above will indeed happen and therefore, Alex Ovechkin will not return to the Washington Capitals. 

    Wait a second.  If Alex Ovechkin is No. 2 on my list of Washington Capitals who won't be on the team when the season starts, then who is No. 1?

1. Nicklas Backstrom

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    Surprise!

    Nicklas Backstrom had been very quiet about his plans to play hockey during the lockout—until the NHL canceled games through November 1.  Only then did he decide to sign a contract with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, the team that Alex Ovechkin is already playing for. 

    But as Marie Lehmann of SVT Sport tweeted, it was Ovechkin who had planned the move all along:

    Now that the dynamic duo of Backstrom and Ovechkin has been reunited, I doubt Alex Ovechkin will suddenly be quiet about what he thinks Nick Backstrom should do once the lockout ends.  In fact, I predict that if Ovechkin stays, he'll make sure Backstrom stays too. 

    After all, Batman is nothing without Robin.

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