We thought things would be relatively slow this summer for the Capitals. They had a few deals to negotiate but we had the sense that there would be no big changes to the roster. That is true, for the most part; however, the Caps did sign a slew of new players and the dust has yet to settle on who will be on the ice come October. Here is the run down-so far and our best guess of impact to the Caps:
Returning to the Capitals
Jakub Vrana signed a a two-year, $6.7 million bridge contract. He should be on the top two lines.
Carl Hagelin signed a contract to extend his time with the Caps to four-years at $11 million and an average annual value of $2.75 million. Hagelin joined the Capitals in February 2019 and “recorded 11 points (3g, 8a) in 20 games,” according to Caps PR. He seems to be a good fit for the boys in red.
Radko Gudas, the defensemen from the Philadelphia Flyer was added to the Caps roster in mid-June in a swap for Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. Gudas is a brut of a player having been suspended four times for some pretty heavy and unnecessarily hits. The physicality of his game may not sit well with Caps fans–although he says he will clean up his game- only time will tell if this was a smart move for the Capitals blue line.
Richard Panik (pronounced PAH-nihk) joined the team with a four-year, $11 million contract, to fill in on the third line. At 28, he will need to push himself to improve upon his previous seasons with Arizona and Chicago. If he can consistently perform that would be a big improvement for the Caps who need players they can rely on to get to the playoffs.
Garnet Hathaway was signed by the Caps to a four-year deal in early July. Coming to DC from Calgary, Hathaway should find his place on the fourth line. He should be adding to the physical nature that the Caps seem to be investing in for the next few seasons.
Philippe Maillet has played the past couple of seasons with the Ontario Reign before the Caps signed him to a two-year, two-way contract the 1st of July. Although the LA Kings liked his play, especially on the power play, they never called him up to play. Looks like a strong contender for the Bears with the potential to fill in for the Caps if needed.
We’ll See What Happens…
with these players who signed new contracts and will be on the Caps or Hershey Bears roster; or running up and down Route 15 and skating in both places.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (YAWN-suhn-FAWL-BEE) was reassigned from the Swedish Hockey League to the Hershey Bears (HBH). He played with Backstrom and Oshie in his debut to the NHL in 2018. We might see more of him in DC this season.
Shane Gersich (GUHR-sihch) signed a one-year two-way contract in May 2019. He was all smiles at development camp in June. He already has some Stanley Cup playoff experience but he still needs to prove himself at camp and will likely spend a bit more time maturing his game in Hershey.
Brian Pinho (PIHN-oh) got a one-year, two-way contract in May 2019 and after seven development camps, the Caps might be willing to slot him in as a bottom six winger.
Liam O’Brien was given the nod with a one-year, two-way contract. Most likely he will be in Hershey; however, the one-year deal gives him time to excel and position himself for a nice NHL contract next year, even if it isn’t with the Capitals. He’ll have to fight hard for a spot on the Caps roster.
Mike Sgarbossa, another Bear signed a two-year, two-way contract in June. He is the top scorer for HBH last season and he has a sprinkling of NHL experience with the Avalanche, Ducks, and Panthers. Could he get a chance on the bottom six? Maybe as a fill-in but ya never know!
Vitek Vanecek is coming back as a goaltender in Hershey. The Caps really like him and he is always fun to watch during training camp. The 2014 NHL draft has yet to play a regular season game with the Caps. At 23 he has been steady for the Bears and the Caps locked him up for three years on a two-way contract. The only chance he has right now of playing for the Caps is if something happens to Braden Holtby or Pheonix Copley which no one is hoping for. However, should the Caps be unable to sign Holtby during free agency next year, he could be the next backup.
Colby Williams inked a new one-year, two-way contract that most likely will keep him in Hershey for another season. He has a lot of personal drive which we have seen year-after-year at camp. This could be a make or break it Camp and season for him with the franchise.
Planning for the Future
Every summer NHL managers have the opportunity to select some of the most talented up-and-coming hockey players around the world. This year during the 2019 NHL draft the Capitals made some interesting picks. We had a chance to see the new guys during development camp and may see them again for training camp in September.
Connor McMichael, center, was drafted with the 25th overall selection in the first round. He “spent the 2018-19 season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)” under the tutelage of former Caps player and coach Dale Hunter. McMichael settled in at camp but it’s obvious he needs a bit more seasoning as a player to sharpen his skills for the NHL or even AHL. July 12 he signed three-year entry level contract and will return to Ontario for a bit more conditioning.
Brett Leason, a right winger was selected 56th overall in the draft. He was “ranked 16th among centers and 30th overall among North American forwards by NHL Central Scouting,” which indicates his potential to eventually find a spot on the Caps roster. The Caps signed him to a three-year entry level contract. He has been playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he was a powerhouse for the Prince Albert Raiders. He is a big guy (foot-4 and 210 pounds) and checks the box for the Caps future of bigger faster players.
Aliaksei Protas (Alexei) was a third round pick, 91st overall and signed an entry-level contract with the Caps for three years. Protas is a teammate of Leason and plays for the Prince Alberta Raiders too. During Dev Camp he was fast and at 6 foot 5 inches, 192 pounds he may need to pack on a few more pounds for the NHL. The 18 year-old from Belarus has a few more years before making the leap and time to mature his game.
We are still waiting to see what happens with Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos. The lines will look a bit different this coming season and training camp will give us a better sense of what lies ahead. For now, it sure looks like the Caps will be a stronger team as they set out to bring the Cup back.