The Long Strange Journey of Brooks Orpik Back to DC

NHL Free Agency is one of those times that we who bring you the news about hockey and the Washington Capitals get a little giddy. We talk and talk about who might get signed for how much or who is most likely to get traded. And we like to think we are pretty good at this projecting thing.

And then along comes Brooks Orpik and we throw our hands up in the air and start all over. Many times we did that here!

It all started with the Capitals being too tight to sign John Carlson and the players they really want to hang onto for a few more seasons. And the desire of Philipp Grubauer to become a starting goalie.

There was talk last summer about buying out Orpik to make room in the cap ceiling to sign big-name contracts with TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmity Orlov. The conclusion was that it was too expensive to buy out his contract and so we kind of assumed the same thing was true this summer.

What we didn’t see was a deal during the first round of the draft that would send Grubi and Orpik to Denver. We knew they had to make space for Carly, we just didn’t see this as their move.

As soon as Orpik’s move to the AVS was announced talk began that they would buy him out. And if they did buy him out, well then the Capitals might be able to afford to bring him back.

So we waited… and waited…and waited

For Tuesday! The Capitals announced that they finally signed Brooks to a one-year $1 million contract, with a $500k bonus!!

General manager Brian MacLellan had this to say in the Caps press release: “Brooks has been a valuable player and a great mentor for our young players and we are thrilled to bring him back to our organization. We feel his leadership and competitiveness on and off the ice will be welcomed back to our group.”

Orpik brings back a maturity that the Caps need in their locker room. He is the constant steady voice that whispers in the ears of younger players. And the Caps young roster needs that. And he has some decent stats, including a playoff goal!

From the Caps today:

Orpik, 37, led the Capitals with 168 blocked shots and ranked second on the team, and first among Washington defensemen, with 218 hits in 2017-18. He recorded 10 points (0g, 10a) in 81 regular-season appearances and five points (1g, 4a) in 24 postseason contests. The 6’3″, 217-pound defenseman has recorded 53 points (3g, 50a) and 830 hits in 279 games with the Capitals.

Hershey Bears Spotlight: Travis Boyd

Today’s Hershey Player Spotlight turns to Travis Boyd, a 24 year old (25 in September) centerman who has more than earned his spot in the lineup. Apparently GMBM thinks so too after yesterdays two-year contract extension- Congrats to you Travis!!

Travis comes from a full four years in the University of Minnesota program which also produced the likes of Nate Schmidt (they were roommates), Erik Haula, Phil Kessel, and Kyle Okposo. As you can tell the pedigree of players from the university really speaks for itself.

In 2011 prior to playing college hockey Travis was drafted in the 2011 NHL Draft in the sixth round 177th overall. At the time he was playing in the USHL for the US National team and was scoring an average of 5-8 goals per season accompanied by 10-13 assists. Low numbers by NHL standards but it was a start. Travis’ numbers continued to rise the longer he played for Minnesota, beginning with one goal in his freshmen year all the way up to 19 in his senior year.

Though he only played two games for the Bears in the 2014-15 season he managed a goal and an assist. The upward trend continued for Boyd in 2015-16 season scoring 21 goals and 32 assists, showing that he has excellent passing skills and knows how the get it to the net, while being a team player. Boyd reminds us a lot of Nicklas Backstrom in this respect. Although Boyd’s numbers seem to be sliding ever so slightly in regards to goals, his assists are still sky rocketing with 47 in the 2016-17 season and 32 the following year.

Travis has now had the opportunity to play a few games in the NHL  recording his first point in March of this year and playing one game in the Stanley Cup Finals 2018.

All this to say that Boyd is the kind of guy you want to have on your line every night and in the locker room. We have had so many great experiences with Travis in Hershey, he is always willing to sign for fans and take a picture too.

 

Michal Kempny Details On New Capitals Contract

Michal Kempny came to the Capitals in February 2018 and we were pretty darn excited with the acquisition!! We are even more excited about him signing a new contract for FOUR years. The Washington Capitals confirmed the Thursday rumors Friday morning.

Kempny was great during the playoffs and showed that he has something to contribute to this team. MacLellan said signing him was a priority and Kempny said he wanted to stay. And is there any doubt that John Carlson wants him back??

When the Caps talk about tenacity, they are talking about Kempny. He’s the guy that crashed into the boards during warm ups at game three, saw the doc, got cleaned up, and came back to play. He had a terrific goal in the game four, as well as an assist in games one and two.

Kempny is really a great all around D man. He does a lot of the little things really well and knows how to move the puck quickly. The way he sees the ice is also really something on it’s own too. When he played with the Blackhawks he was considered one of the top four players. The Caps gave him a chance and he came though!

The Caps will pay the Czech Republic player an average of $2.5 million to keep playing with Carly. We think this is the perfect investment for the team!

Congrats Michal!!

TJ OSHIE Remains With Washington Capitals!!!

Whew, the Washington Capitals have finally worked out a deal with TJ Oshie. We were starting to get a little nervous – weren’t you?

So here is how the deal breaks down:

  • A contract for eight years with a total of $46 million.
  • A average $5.75 million per year.
  • His previous contract was 5 years for  an average of $4,175,000 ($20,875,000) so this is a nice increase for the family.

The Caps now have a solid top line player locked in for the next eight years. TJ has the personality fans have come to adore – he and his beautiful family. But more than that has become the team’s top scorer with 33 goals last season – yes tied with Alex Ovechkin.  Overall he only had 56 points, fifth highest on the team. He only scored four goals in 13 games during the playoffs. Disappointing, but then the whole team was so we can let that slide for now.

Oshie will start the season as a 30 year old right winger, most likely on the first line. Coach Trotz made some many line changes last season it is hard to know if he will be playing with Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov. Any way you look at it, this national treasure is sure to be lighting up the lamp and bringing excitement to Verizon Center for many years to come.

We couldn’t be more excited for him and for us!!  Can’t wait to see him jumping on and off the ice come October!!

Welcome home Oshbabe!!

 

Checking Out Beagle: 2016/17 Season Photo Review

img_7524As we wait for the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday, we thought we would take a look back at Jay Beagle. There is something about Jay that endears him to all Caps fans. His lack of a social media presence always makes us giggle a little. He is such a clean-cut, hometown-guy next door kind of guy. He is a loving husband and devoted dad.

As a player he has been a pretty solid performer for the Caps. In 392 games he has recorded 44 goals and 50 assists. Not shabby for a bottom six player. 2016/17 was the first year he managed to play a full season–previously injuries have kept him off the ice. If you look at the numbers, this season appears to be his best year in the NHL with 30 points in 81 games.

Beagle, who has one more year on his Caps contract, was left exposed on the protection lists submitted to the Vegas Golden Knights. Rumors have been floating that GM George McPhee might pick him over Philipp Grubauer or Nate Schmidt. At 31, he still has a lot of play left in him and would be an asset to any team.

As the Caps consider how to round out the 2017/18 roster, we expect to see Jay playing with some younger new players. His experience and cool reserve could help guide them into their own successful careers. Any way you look at it, we have a thing for Beags and hope he will be back when the Caps take the ice next season.

Celebrating Evgeny Kuznetsov: HAPPY BIRTHDAY KUZY

Russian player Evgeny Kuznetzov celebrates his 25th birthday between IIHF World Ice Hockey matches. Team Russia defeated Team Czech in the quarter-finals on Thursday in Paris , France and Saturday will meet Team Canada in Cologne, Germany. Kuzy earned two assists in the game.

Kuzy is a restricted free agent and hopefully in the midst of contract negotiations with the Washington Capitals. His current two-year contract of $6 million with a $3 million annual cap, ends in a few weeks. The Capitals have the option to offer him a better, longer contract or to release him for another team to pick him up. We know, for example, that the KHL would love to have him come home and play. As the Caps management team look at over all salary cap numbers they have to be considering the long-term benefit of a player like Kuznetsov and that means looking at what he has done under the previous contract.

Kuznetsov has been working to improve his game; unfortunately it isn’t evident in his stats this season. In his third full year of playing with the Caps, he dropped from a previous high overall points recorded of 77 to 59. While his goal scoring was pretty static (20 dropping to 19), his assist number dropped 57 to 40. His plus/minus dropped from 27 to 18. His power play production dropped, as did his shots indicating that he has not been contributing as much to the teams scoring chances.

  • One thing for sure is that Kuzy is a valuable asset when it comes to the playoffs. He scored five goals with a total of 10 points overall. These numbers were up from last season’s two points and slightly better than 2015.

And yet, we still love him and have faith that he will improve. Witness what he is doing with his homeland team. We know he is fully capable of being one of the leading contributors to a winning team. He is just one of the players that for whatever reason didn’t seem to have the right scenario for scoring. However, in the coming season he is going to need to create those chances himself, regardless of which line he is one and with whom he is playing.

Kuzy has an irrepressible joy and lightheartedness. He caught reporters off guard when he walked in during the post-playoff life and asked: “Why you act like someone died?”  He takes the game seriously but also has the right ‘move on’ attitude that the team needs to have going into the new season. Evgeny said he likes this team and wants to return. We hope he will.

For more on Kuzy’s hockey journey, check out our post from earlier this year. Click here!

Caps Post-Season: Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson: Goon or Endearing Emergent Superstar?

We heard it all and saw it all with right winger Tom Wilson this season. He led the team in penalty minutes in the regular season (133) and in the playoffs (34). This did not always endear him to fans or to Coach Barry Trotz.

To balance against the his penalty minutes we would like to say he made up for it with points in the regular season but in reality he only had seven goals and 12 assists (19 points). This is a drop from the previous year of seven goals, 16 assists (23 points). He did have fewer minutes in the box with 163 minutes in the 2015/16 season, so that’s something.

Tom is a big guy, 6’4”, 215 pounds. The 23 year-old uses every muscle he has in every shift he plays. He throws his whole body forward—weather into a creating a scoring chance or body slamming an opponent. And he usually does it with a bit of smirk, while endears him to the fans in Verizon Center!

Tom Wilson is by far a Caps fan favorite. Twitter is full of references to him, which from the Caps family are usually pretty positive. In a short fan poll, our friends told us:

  • He was “more than just the dude in the penalty box all the time.”
  • He is “heading in the right direction”
  • “Tom definitely ‘grew up’ this season. His intent was to change his ‘bad boy’ image and to try to become known more as a hard player. He did.”
  • “Definitely an improvement. See him here for the long run and not just due to his hits”
  • “He needs to let his hockey do the talking.”

Seems like almost every game someone is trying to get him to ask her out (his girlfriend would likely object.) He is always generous with fans, stopping to take photos, sign memorabilia, or to just chat. He is more than a pretty face, he is a nice guy who has endeared himself to fans on and off the ice for his tenacity and his charm.

Opponents don’t feel the same way as Caps fans. From them we get: scumbag, trash, thug, dirty, goon, and out of control. And those are the nicer things that have been said. There is little doubt that Willy leaves a lasting mark in every game he plays—and they aren’t always bruises! He is a powerhouse that blocks shots, knocks players off their skates, and jumps in to defend his fellow teammates. We can understand why people outside of Washington would ‘dislike’ him.

The Caps drafted Wilson in the first round as 16th overall in 2012. The NHL.com said in his initial profile that he was voted “Best Body Checker” in the OHL’s 2012 Western Conference Coaches Poll and was a runner up for the “Hardest Worker” distinction, as a player for the Plymouth Whalers.  Following the draft he played three games with the Hershey Bears, scoring one goal. He was first called up by the Caps for the second round of Game 5 in the NHL playoffs against the NY Rangers. In June 2016, as a restricted free agent (RFA), he signed a $4 million two-year extension with the Capitals. He would earn $1.75 million the first season and $2.25 million in the upcoming season. He will be an RFA again in 2018.

When it comes to the recent playoffs, he had a few missteps. He spent way too much time in the penalty box. Granted he probably still has a bit of a target on his back, especially after he showed the hockey world that he can score too. This first round pick has proven he can be a valuable asset for the Caps as they ‘rebuild’ the team. He is one of the many younger players who likely will be the faction that brings home the Cup to DC. The Caps need his brand of physical play and they need the toughness of a man determined to write a new story of a power player in front of the net. We expect to see him continue to improve as a player as he balances the grit as a fighter and hit with that of a high scoring forward. He has had some great opportunities in the regular season and the playoffs and he always seem able to make the most of them. We’ll see what happens with the change and if his role increases in the 2017 season.