Washington Capitals: 15 Offseason Moves the Team Should Make
The Caps are coming off another disappointing season, and changes need to be made to the team this offseason. Many have suggested a change of the core group of players and that may well do the trick, sending a message to any complacent players that nobody is indispensable as well as bringing in some fresh faces.
A rebuild isn’t needed; all that is required is patience. Remember, it took Dirk Nowitzki 12 years to win an NBA title. Alex Ovechkin still has plenty of time...
1. Hire Gerard Gallant as Head Coach
Bruce Boudreau has established himself as one of the best regular season coaches in the league, but when it comes to his playoff record, he has had four disappointing, premature playoff exits in four years. By promoting him to assistant general manager, you keep him in the organization and allow him to work more on the management side of the team.
Gerard Gallant is a proven playoff winner. He is currently the head coach for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, the winner of this year’s CHL Memorial Cup. He has coached in the NHL before and is in line for a new assignment. He could be the man to take the Washington Capitals from a President Trophy winning team to a Stanley Cup winning team.
2. Hire a New Goalie Coach
Following the sudden departure of Arturs Irbe, it is vital for the Caps to find a new goalie coach who can mentor whichever young goalie tandem they head into the season with. A dedicated man will be needed, one who will do anything to make the young goalies better, a man like Irbe. McPhee has a task on his hands finding the right man for the job.
3. Convince Tom Poti to Retire
Tom Poti, when fit, is one of the best defensemen on the roster. The problem is that he is rarely fully fit. He played just 21 games this season with his most recent groin injury and General Manager George McPhee admitted that the injury was career threatening. Having re-signed him to a two-year extension worth $5.75 million, McPhee must be hoping Poti calls it a career sometime soon.
The bottom line is that you cannot be paying someone almost three million a year to miss 61 games. As much as we all love Poti as a player and a mentor, it’s time for him to bid goodbye to the game as a player and take up a management job with the team.
4. Trade Mike Green
Mike Green is the best offensive defenseman in the league, and he is vital to this team. The Capitals need a major shake-up of their core, and sending Mike Green and Jason Chimera to the Chicago Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and a first-round pick is the right way to go.
You get a great goal scorer at right wing who can play with Ovechkin and Bäckström. Having acquired Dennis Wideman, as well as having John Carlson and prospect Dmitri Orlov (who some say is better than Green), you have good puck-moving defensemen to carry the load with the absence of Green.
5. Trade Brooks Laich
Laich is a key part of this Capitals team, like Mike Green, and I honestly cannot see the team without him. Unfortunately, it’s time we all realize he’s not coming back. A player like Laich will be able to get upwards of $4 million in a thin free-agency market, and the Capitals just cannot afford his contract.
There are teams desperate for a player like him and there are teams who are prepared to trade for him now for exclusive negotiating rights (see Bryzgalov, Ilya). Package Laich with Jeff Schultz and the first-rounder acquired in the Green-for-Sharp trade and send them to Colorado for the second overall pick in the draft. The Mattias Sjögren signing seems to be a message from the team signalling the end of Laich’s time in DC.
6. Trade Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby
As much as I hate to admit it, now is the time to trade one of the three goalies. Now is when you would get the most back.
Semyon Varlamov stays because the numbers have shown repeatedly that he is the best of the three. He just needs to stay fit. His main problem has always been his groin, and this summer he had surgery on it for the first time. He has been ready to be this franchise’s goalie for a long time, and if he can avoid his injuries then he will have no problem claiming the No. 1 spot.
Caps have long been linked with Robyn Regehr, a big physical defenseman from the Calgary Flames (who need a young goalie). A one-for-one trade would bring that key veteran component to the Capitals defensive corps.
7. Draft Gabriel Landeskog 2nd Overall
Whether Adam Larsson or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins go first, it will be crucial for the Caps to pick up Landeskog at No. 2. Having acquired the pick in the Laich trade, you go for his long-term replacement.
The Swede will do everything for you, whether it’s score a goal or fight to defend a teammate. He has the qualities to be a captain in the NHL, and will be a leader in the District from day one. A vital pickup for the Caps, getting a guy who can play (and will play) come opening night.
8. Draft Oscar Klefbom 26th Overall
The Caps take their second Swede of the draft late in the first round. A late bloomer, Klefbom comes from the same program as Marcus Johansson and Mattias Sjögren in Färjestad. Projects as a long-term replacement for Mike Green, only he has more size at 6'4". He loves carrying the puck up ice and joining the rush. He will need another year in Sweden, but the Caps can afford to wait.
9. Draft Nikita Zaytsev
Zaytsev is a victim of the so-called Russian factor. He has long said he wants to come to the NHL, but teams always pass on him because they are worried he’ll choose the KHL’s money over North America.
He impressed at the world juniors and is one of the top young players at Sibir in the KHL, behind only St Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko. It’ll be his third time entering the draft, and it looks like he’ll finally get picked, albeit late.
He’s ready to play in the NHL/AHL as soon as next year. Whoever gets him will pick up an absolute steal.
He is still young and has a lot of potential. Contrary to what many believe, he still has a future in Washington. Lock him up long-term and give him every chance to make the roster straight out of training camp.
As mentioned, Varly is the Caps best goalie when fit. The Caps must be patient with him and must let him develop at his own pace. He’ll win the job out of training camp and if his workload is controlled, the Caps have found their Tim Thomas. He should sign for the same amount as Michael Neuvirth did.
He proved after being acquired at the trade deadline that he can be the man to make Alexander Semin a 40-goal scorer again. If he takes a pay-cut, he comes back next year as the Capitals second line center and as a mentor to the Caps young guns.
A player that proved himself to everyone this year, Alzner will undoubtedly be back next year. He is the perfect shutdown defenseman and the perfect complement to John Carlson, the other young superstar on the back end. The Caps need to lock him up long-term.
As much as you hate to admit it, some players have to leave to make room for the youngsters. Of course, we wish the following guys all the best with their new teams, and hope they become as important to them as they are to us…
- Boyd Gordon: No longer needed with youngsters in the system
- Matt Bradley: Fan favorite doesn’t produce enough, even for fourth-liner
- Scott Hannan: Played great, but will be too expensive
- Marco Sturm: Did a lot of little things, but didn’t put up enough points
- Michael Nylander: A player Caps fans greatly underrate will be off the payroll
12. Sign Prospect Phil DeSimone
A third-round pick in 2007, DeSimone has been plying his trade in the college ranks with the University of New Hampshire for four years. He comes in as a hard-working, skilled player with good size and joins a long list of Capitals prospects at center. Should play in Hershey the coming season and be a third or fourth liner.
13. Sign D Jonathan Ericsson
A big, young, Swedish defenseman who the Caps have expressed interest in and the Red Wings don’t look likely to re-sign. He's a similar player to Oscar Klefbom and will bring a lot of size to the back-end. He is a physical player who will drop the gloves if he has too. He wears No. 52... Don’t be surprised to see the Caps go after Jonathan Ericsson on July 1st.
14. Sign F Tomas Kopecky
A versatile Slovakian forward, Kopecky has won two Stanley Cups at the tender age of 29. He has good size at 6'3" and should come relatively cheap. He is also a great sportsman: Remember his accidental board on Wideman, where he tried to hold him up and asked the refs to stop play, then called the trainers on...? Plain and simple, he’s the kind of guy you want on your team.
15. Keep Mattias Sjögren and Dmitri Orlov
Mattias Sjögren needs to stay with the big league next season. He’s a defensively solid player, has good size, is good in the faceoff dot, is physical, good on the penalty kill, good on the power play and he scores goals. He is a combination of Brooks Laich and Dave Steckel. He will most likely be slow to adapt to the North American game (like Marcus Johansson) but his style is definitely built for the smaller surfaces. Look for him to make an impact next season.
The Caps should also keep Dmitri Orlov, especially having traded Mike Green earlier in the offseason. He is a great puck-moving defenseman who will thrive on a winning team. He’s a power-play specialist who will share time with Wideman and Carlson, and also a solid penalty killer that seems to make those around him better. Not overly physical, but when he does go for a hit, he hits big. Will assert himself as a key cog on the Capitals blue line, similar to what Karl Alzner and John Carlson did last season.
Opening Night Roster
Gerard Gallant—Dean Evason—Bob Woods
Alex Ovechkin—Nicklas Bäckström—Patrick Sharp
Alexander Semin—Jason Arnott—Gabriel Landeskog
Tomas Kopecky—Marcus Johansson—Mike Knuble
Matt Hendricks—Mattias Sjögren—Jay Beagle
Andrew Gordon—DJ King
Karl Alzner—John Carlson
Robyn Regehr—Dmitri Orlov
Jonathan Ericsson-Dennis Wideman
Michal Neuvirth/Braden Holtby