The 5 Biggest Questions Surrounding Washington Capitals' Roster

Ryan DavenportContributor IJuly 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13:  Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals warms up before Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs  against the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on May 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

With the free-agent frenzy squarely in the rearview mirror, the roster movement amongst NHL teams has slowed considerably during the last week, and that's not necessarily good news for Washington Capitals fans. 

Following the Caps' heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Rangers in May, it seemed apparent that Adam Oates' squad needed to at least replace the talent they were set to lose on the open market, as Mike Ribeiro's departure seemed inevitable. 

But thus far, George McPhee hasn't seemed interested at all in finding quality players to fill the roles vacated by Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks, and told The Washington Post that the team was satisfied with Brooks Laich assuming second-line duties. 

Given the lack of action on the Capitals' part on the open market, here are the team's five biggest questions with regards to their roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. 


Is Grabovski Coming to D.C.? 

According to CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley, Mikhail Grabovski's name keeps popping up among the remaining available players the Capitals should be in the mix for, and from both parties' perspectives, it seems like it'd be a good match. 

The Caps need to add a third two-way center to the roster, and the mercurial Belarusian fits that billing. Despite his disagreements with Toronto's coaching staff and management, Grabovski has generally been a productive pivot and certainly fits the Caps' puck-possession style of play. 

Now, after being bought out by the Maple Leafs, Grabovski won't be short on motivation to prove to Toronto that he was worth the five-year, $27.5 million contract his former team signed him to in March of 2012. 

Grabovski, who is just one year removed from consecutive 50-point seasons on an offensively challenged Leafs squad, would be a perfect option to slot between Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer on the second line, thus allowing Marcus Johansson to assume his preferred role next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the No. 1 unit. 


Will Martin Erat Be Better in 2013-14? 

Expectations for Martin Erat were sky-high after the Caps dealt highly touted prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville in exchange for the Czech olympian at the trade deadline. 

Though Erat's numbers weren't what's expected of a guy who has scored between 49-58 points for eight consecutive seasons prior to the 2012 lockout, the 31-year-old was a fantastic two-way force who played important minutes until being injured midway through the Rangers-Capitals series. 

However, Erat has to be much better this season in order to justify McPhee's decision, especially given his $4.5 million cap hit. 


Which Mike Green Will We See This Year? 

At one point, Mike Green was easily one of the most celebrated rearguards in the game, as the flashy offensive defenseman's performances in 2008-09 and 2009-10 earned him first team All-Star honors. 

But Green's health has constantly been a question mark since then, and he's failed to produce offensively for the most partuntil this season. 

In 2012-13, Green led all defensemen in goals and was a big reason why the Capitals were able to climb out of the league's basement to claim their fifth Southeast Division title in six years. 

If the Caps are going to make any kind of noise in their challenging new division in 2013-14, Green has to be at least as effective at both ends of the rink as he was last season, and that requires him remaining at least mostly healthy. 


Who Will Replace Mike Ribeiro on the First Power-Play Unit? 

All season long, Mike Ribeiro was a revelation for the Capitals with the man advantage, and the former All-Star played a big role in Ovechkin's second-half resurgence. 

But with Ribeiro having left for Phoenix, Washington has a gaping hole on the right side of its top-ranked power-play unit, and there aren't any obvious replacements in sight. 

Yes, the Caps could go with a setup involving Green, Ovechkin, Backstrom and Brouwer or Johansson, Erat and Laich, but Ribeiro's creativity and poise with the puck will undoubtedly be missed, unless Oates, a noted power-play architect himself, can redesign the team's formation to better suit the personnel available. 


How Will Oates Divide Playing Time in Net? 

Last season, it was no secret that Braden Holtby had earned the nod as the Capitals' permanent starting goaltender, at least until the team opted to sign backup Michal Neuvirth to a two-year extension worth more than the extension Holtby had recently signed for the same length of time, according to The Washington Post

So with Neuvirth now in the fold for another two seasons (barring a trade), Holtby clearly still has competition, and while that's almost always a good thing, the expensive contract McPhee handed to Neuvirth makes things a little more interesting. 

It's not out of the question that if Holtby struggles, Neuvirth could at least temporarily get the weight of the starts, but how that would impact the incumbent starter's confidence has to be taken into consideration.