Hey Caps fans! Here’s a look at who we lost and who we have gained so far in the offseason and their importance and what they bring. I’ll focus on the most likely contributors to the NHL team today!
Edited : Added Tomas Vokoun…the most important addition!
- Tomas Vokoun – “Vokounta Kinte” – 1 year/$1.5 Million –How in the HELL did we sign this guy for pennies. He took a $5 million pay cut to play on this team. He’s going to most likely be the starter but they’re going to have to battle it out for sure. Either way, this means that our best goalie is going to play every day…in Hershey. Braden Holtby is the best goalie in organization and I even heard this from the mouth of an ex teammate of his on a sweaty hot tour bus in Jamaica.
I am a tad bit concerned that he won’t be healthy…who am I kidding, he finished every one of the 57 games that he started and he collected 6 shutouts and a .922 save percentage. The year before he was even better with a .925 save percentage and 7 shutouts in 63 games. Vokoun will make it very easy to forget about that other dude we lost…Gnarly or something?
- Defenseman – Roman Hamrlik – “Hammershins” -2/$7 –The man that some say single-handedly shut down Ovechkin two years ago in the Montreal playoff series is now his defenseman! Hamrlik is 37 and spent the last two years babysitting P.K. Subban and turning him into an all-star defenseman in his rookie season. He is great on the point during the powerplay which is what we said Wideman would do, but Ovechkin has a sneaky way of deciding for himself how well he plays on the PP.If Hamrlik can play up top with Green or Carlson, this may be his biggest asset. Hamrlik is also a shot blocking machine with 192 last season. He was also third in shots taken for D-men on his team and would have ranked the same on our team (a healthy Green would have changed this). Finishing with 5 goals and 29 assists he showed his prowess for moving the puck. Caps fans should be really excited about the possible pairing with Mike Green on the top line.
- Right Wing – Troy Brouwer – “Brow-Pow” – 2/$4.7 Million – Former Blackhawks 4th liner is now a cap. Although he was the experienced guy on the checking line, he was not a comfortable fit there. He was relegated to the bottom squad after his offensive production all but vanished for the final 18 games. He only recorded 6 assists and zero goals in the final 11 regular season games and the 7 playoff games before getting knocked out. The previous playoff run saw him contribute with 4 goals and 4 assists on just 21 shots. Even with the poor regular season results, his shooting percentage is among the best on the team at 13.9%.There have been talks about him playing across from Semin on the second line with either Brooks Laich or Marcus Johansson which will allow Semin to go back to the left side and to focus on offense with two solid defending forwards to his right. Brow-Pow’s versatility will surely be utilized up and down the lineup but hopefully he will experience more linemate consistency than he did in Chicago.
- Right Wing – Joel Ward – “Joely-Moly!” – 4/$12 Million – Coveted by over half the league, the former Nashville Predator decided to take his talents to Chocolate City. After two seasons with no “bruvahs” on the team, we filled the quota! Back to the important things though. Guaranteed to be a big part of our team with his special teams experience, Joel Ward can look forward to lots of playing time.Let’s face the facts, he better score goals or else he will be considered a bust based on the contract and the hype he was receiving primarily based on his 13 point playoff performance in 12 games this year. His 25% shooting percentage was unheard of but not surprising given his high career shooting percentage for a low line forward.
- Center – Jeff Halpern – “P-Mac” – 1/$825,000 – The kid from my county of MoCo is back. Halpern went to Churchill High School in Potomac where I used to coach football and I remember hearing about him when I was in college. He’s back from playing in LA and Montreal and is reunited with Hamrlik. He no longer has to play with those midget punks Gionta and Cammalleri.The solid centerman is being hired to make up for some lost D zone faceoff wins that we failed to make up for when we lost Steckel last season and Boyd Gordon this off-season. His face-off % is comparable to both at around 57% for his career. His 10 minutes of ice-time per game will mostly be spent in the defensive zone I believe but the 4th line just got a lot stronger on offense. He can also take some FOGO reps in dire situations as well which will come in handy at the end of close games.
He has not been asked to do very much since leaving the Caps years ago but he has maintained some good numbers when asked to contribute. He actually scores, and creates space and opportunities for teammates which is all we ask from our 3rd and 4th liners. The days of dump and chasing with Chimera and Hendricks may be over!
- Center – Mattias Sjogren – “Sjotime!” – 2/$1.8 Million – He may not see any time at all with the Caps this year unless there is an injury due to the players that are already on the roster. He’s probably battling for playing time with Mathieu Perreault and Cody Eakin for the last forward sport on the full time roster. He may actually be the best option to physically step in on the bottom two lines. Where the others are too finesse and stick oriented, Sjogren is built to bang down low and most of the Swedish players come over with a defensive mentality from the start. He could be a Mike Knuble type if he gets down low and fights in the bull ring, but it’s rare that centers do this on the Caps team. They usually work from behind the net which could be his downfall.Unless a position change is in the future, he’ll have to absolutely prove that we can’t let his skills go to waist. He needs to work on his footwork in order to be useful on PK and possibly even 5 on 5, but if he is anything like our other Swedish centers, he’ll learn quickly and could see significant time by the new year. In reality, I expect him to be a top 2 liner at Hersey to get some experience and increase his skills.
- C/RW- Christian Hanson – “MMBop” – 2/1.175 Million – I could tell you that he will play and get some playing time but I’d be lying. I’m not doubting the fact that he may see a few games here or there, especially in preseason, but I don’t see him beating out Ward, Brouward, or any of our other RWs to play any significant time. And let’s not even start on the center position. The Maple Leafs thought he had a pretty good chance to make their team in the future and gave him some decent playing time two years ago but they were too stacked with other bums to find him playing time either. I see the same situation here as well.Unless he turns into Matt Bradley (which isn’t out of the realm of possibilities), I see him earning some good time in Hershey to work on his stick work and become more of a defensive forward with some offensive skills.
- Left Wing – Chris Bourque – “Wee Man” – 1/525,000 – I think this will be the surprise of our off-season. I believe Bourque will get some time in D.C. for two reasons: 1) He’s a winner (3 calder cups and a playoff MVP) and 2) he’s got the skills. I think Bourque’s size has turned a lot of teams off, but his numbers say it all. 33 points last year mostly in the Swiss-A League. A couple of 70 point seasons, and 20 point playoff seasons in Hershey.The three 2004 picks for the Caps chosen above him (Ovechkin, Schultz, & Green) are all the DC team and Bourque hopes to be the next one to stay there. The $300,000 salary at the AHL level is well above the typical 65,000 that most players are receiving which makes him fairly expensive no matter where he plays, but it’s really all about the Cap hit. Depending on what the team decides to do with D.J. King and Jay Beagle could determine his future! I see no space for him on the regular roster, but I hope he gets a chance upstairs. The 300k could simply be motivation to get him to lead the Bears to another Calder cup and become a great player coach.