5 Opportunities Washington Capitals Missed This Offseason
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With the NHL's calendar in mind, here are five opportunities that Washington missed on upgrading this offseason.
Note: All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
5. Trade Michal Neuvirth
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We’re not interested in trading him. As we’ve often said it’s the most important position in the game and we’ve got two good ones there a couple of good kids down below in Hershey. We don’t want to weaken that position.
Neuvirth has indeed done nothing to weaken Washington's goaltending position.
The 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic is 55-35-18 in 121 career games with a .910 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average. In nine playoff games, Neuvirth is 4-5 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.34 GAA.
Had McPhee decided to trade from a position of strength and deal Neuvirth, he would certainly have had suitors.
4. Deal to Move Up on Draft Day
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There was a market for goalies at the 2013 NHL draft, specifically young, but relatively experienced goaltenders.
That included Cory Schneider.
The 27-year-old is 55-26-17 in 98 career games with a .927 save percentage and a 2.20 goals against average. Schneider has appeared in 10 playoff games, compiling a 1-4 record with a .922 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA.
The Vancouver Canucks dealt the Massachusetts native to the New Jersey Devils on draft day, as noted by ESPN New York. The Devils are ready to move on after Martin Brodeur finally retires, and were willing to part with the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft to do so. The Canucks then used that pick on center Bo Horvat.
Michal Neuvirth is a young, but relatively experienced goaltender. If the Caps engineered a deal with the Devils in which Neuvirth was swapped for the ninth pick, then Washington certainly could have used a player of Horvat's quality at No. 9.
At the same time, Horvat would have easily outdistanced the potential of any player the Capitals eventually selected in the 2013 draft, even when considering the best-case scenarios.
This certainly qualifies as a missed opportunity.
3. Re-Sign Mike Ribeiro
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The absence of Mike Ribeiro will leave a huge hole in the Capitals' offense during the 2013-14 season.
The 33-year-old Ribeiro scored 13 goals with 36 assists for 49 points in 48 games in 2012-13 with a minus-four rating and 53 penalty minutes. Ribeiro was second on the Capitals in both assists and points.
But Ribeiro wanted a long-term deal in the neighborhood of five years for his next contract, according to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post. George McPhee would not offer Ribeiro an extension of that length, as Renaud Lavoie of RDS.ca tweeted on July 1:
Mike Ribeiro will hit the market on July 5th. Won't get an extension from Capitals. #RDS
Compromise is the key to any successful relationship. McPhee was unwilling to offer Ribeiro a reasonable compromise. Not surprisingly, the Capitals' relationship with Ribeiro then ended abruptly.
2. Sign Derek Roy
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The Washington Capitals let Mike Ribeiro walk because signing him would have violated one of the 10 principles of rebuilding as authored by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.
Leonsis told Kevin Ewoldt of SB Nation DC that during a 2009 interview:
8. Add veterans to the team via shorter term deals as free agents. Signing long-term, expensive deals for vets is very risky. We try to add vets to the mix for two year or three year deals. They fill in around our young core. They are very important for leadership, but they must complement the young core (NOT try to overtake them or be paid more than them). Identify and protect the core. Add veterans to complement them, not visa versa.
There was another veteran who would have fit this criteria while also playing the same position as Ribeiro.
His name is Derek Roy.
The 30-year-old Ottawa native is a nine-year veteran of the NHL, with 455 points in 591 games. He finished the 2012-13 season in Vancouver after a trade from Dallas. In 42 total games, Roy scored seven goals with 21 assists for 28 points, with a plus-four rating and six penalty minutes.
Roy reached the playoffs with Vancouver and had one assist with a minus-one rating and two penalty minutes in four postseason games.
There is no good reason why McPhee did not go knocking on Roy's door.
1. Re-Sign Matt Hendricks
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Matt Hendricks was a very valuable member of the Washington Capitals in 2012-13—as a player, a teammate and a leader.
Not surprisingly, Hendricks was sad to leave Washington via free agency, as he told Bill Rohland of 106.7 The Fan on July 5 (transcript via Chris Lingebach of CBSWashington.com):
Washington’s kind of like my first home. It was my first real spot where I got to be a player in the NHL, where I got to contribute every night, and it really feels like home to me. So I’m leaving a great fan base, like a big family, like I said, but it’s a part of one of those things, when you’re playing in a sport that has a salary cap, you gotta pick and choose what guys are gonna play and what guys aren’t...I understand the numbers. And it’s just one of those things where there are instances where a player could probably try to get a match, but it just wasn’t going to happen in Washington this time around, just because of straight money issues.
But was money really that big of an issue?
Decide for yourself, as you look at the terms of the Hendricks deal, as tweeted by Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times:
According to CapGeek.com, the Capitals have a cap payroll of $58.6 million with $5.7 million of cap space. Capitals GM George McPhee could have found a way to fit Hendricks onto the payroll, even at the exact terms that he signed with Nashville.
In fact, McPhee should have found a way to make it work with Hendricks. He will regret not having done so.