Capitals Bring Grubauer Back for One More Season

Philipp Grubauer is the last of the Washington Capitals restricted free agents (RFA) to sign with the team. And it is the shortest of all terms – just one year for $1.5 million. His previous contract was for two years $1,500,000 – an average of $750,000 a year. Although this is a bump in salary for Grubi, it also signals the Caps unwillingness to offer him a long-term commitment. Reports suggest that Philipp did not want to enter arbitration and run the risk of a two-year contract.  Because of his age, he will become an RFA at the end of this term and have to go through the negotiating process all over next summer.  Continue reading “Capitals Bring Grubauer Back for One More Season”

Capitals Have Locked in Burky and Kuzy

The Washington Capitals are investing in the future. They have struggled to manage their salary cap this off season. Two of their priorities are now under contract. Goalie Philipp Grubauer has yet to sign his new contract; however, we expect to hear something soon as general manager Brian MacLellan said Friday it was also a priority.

Andre  Burakovsky was once the youngest player on the Caps roster, starting with the team in October 2014 at the age of 19. He made a huge impression that first game with his first NHL goal. He ended his rookie year with a respectable 53 games with 9 goals and 13 assists. He has consistently improved his playing performance since that first year. He ended the 2016/17 season 12 goals and 23 points.

Some have said that his play is inconsistent; however, as the ninth highest scoring player on the team we see many more opportunities for him and the Capitals. In the upcoming season we want to see Burky taking chances and shooting the puck more to score. He has a capability that, along with the likes of the veterans on the team, could just a few of those shots with you while we wait for his return from Sweden!

Burakovsky is one of the shortest term contracts signed by returning players. Described as a “bridge contract,” it gives the Caps time to see if he can step up his performance before they commit to a longer agreement.  His is a two-year $6 million contract. Mike Vogel tweeted out terms of the deal:

Kuzy, Kuzy, Kuzy. Can we just say how excited we are to see him signed by the Washington Capitals? He has everything to offer the team as they begin to rely more and more on the younger players to augment, and eventually replace, the veteran players.  Kuznetsov is the third highest scoring Capitals ‘ player with 59 points, although his numbers are down from the previous high of 77 points in the 2015/16 season.  On balance, his playoff performance this year exceed his previous three points in two seasons and five this past season.

Kuzy is another personality that shines on and off the ice and we hope that he will bring back the magical scoring and talent that excites us so much. We have long thought he has the potential of becoming the face of the Caps as fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin nears the end of his time in DC. At 24, Kuznetsov could be on the cusp of a great career in the NHL.

His new contract should keep him in Washington for eight years. At $62.4 million he will average $7.8 million a year. It is clear that the Capitals also see him as the future face of the Caps – along with TJ Oshie who also signed an eight-year contract this summer.

Kuzy tweeted out his appreciation for the new deal:

And, we have to say that they are among our favorite players to capture with the camera. Congrats guys!!

 

Capitals Franchise: Some Signings and Some Waiting

BREAKING: Capitals Sign Chandler Stephenson

In the past couple of days the Washington Capitals (and Hershey Bears) have re-signed a few of their players. Meanwhile, we know that  the Caps tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agents Phillip Grubauer, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov. We are waiting and waiting to hear that these fellows are all locked up.

The NHL Free Agency begins 1 July. Players must have been provided with a qualifying offer to enable the team to continue to negotiate the terms of a new contract. Those not receiving qualifying offers become unrestricted free agents (UFA) and can negotiate with anyone (including their home team) for a new contract. Those with qualifying offers may accept the offer, reject the offer, or head into arbitration to try and get a better deal.

TJ Oshie is the first of the players signed last week. He inked an eight-year $46 million agreement with an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million.

Bob McKenzie (TSN) reported that Brett Connolly – who we understand from the Caps was not given a qualifying offer – signed a “two-year deal with on AAV of $1.5 million per year.” Although Spotac has the details fed into their list of Capitals contracts, the organization has yet to officially announce the contract.

The Caps have five UFAs who most likely will not return to the Capitals next season, mostly because there just isn’t enough money to go around. There are lots of rumors circulating about Williams, Alzner, and Shattenkirk but nothing definitive yet. Most frequently we are hearing interest from the Leafs and Habs.

  • Centers Dan Winnik and Paul Carey
  • Right Wing Justin Williams
  • Defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie the Capitals have agreed to terms with Connolly on a two-year contract that will pay him an average annual salary of $1.5 million per season.

The Caps have signed the following players with the Bears:

Chris Bourque (One Year),

Pheonix Copley (Two Years),

Christian Djoos (Two Years)

Chandler Stephenson (Two Years)

Nathan Walker (Two Years)

Bears Coach Troy Mann has suggested that Walker and Stephenson are close to playing for the NHL.

These players do not yet have contracts. We have heard that Stan Galiev does not intend to return to play in the for the Caps this year and was actually placed on the available list to Vegas. .

Christian Thomas, Stan Galiev, Paul Carey, Garrett Mitchell, Tom Gilbert.Darren Dietz,Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien,

The Caps reportedly tendered qualify offers to  Liam O’Brien and Travis Boyd, although we have yet to see a contract.

We’ll keep watching to see what happens. We are pretty confident that the RFA’s will be locked down as soon as General Manager Brian MacLellan and the team of lawyers settle on terms that fit the very tight salary cap. And lets’ not forget that there are some intriguing young players showing their stuff at development camp who could find themselves at Hershey when players move up to DC and the big league.

The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars

The Capitals are in the position to begin thinking about transitioning their high-performing players to aging under-performing players. And by under-performing we mean players whose stats are on the decline compared to their previous performance or to the performance of newer younger players. Yes we mean Alex Ovechkin in particular.

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Just a year ago we were talking about the maturity of the Caps top line players. At that point we focused on how they had grown as they learned from their mistakes. They had time to hone their hockey skills. And yes, they had matured in their personal lives too, as most of the older players are now married (or in long-term relationships) with children. Today; however, they are the ‘aging’ players whose player maturity will have less impact as they come against younger, stronger, and faster players around the league. Continue reading “The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars”

What IIHF World Shows Caps About RFA’s Kuznetzov and Orlov

The NHL season didn’t end so well for the Capital’s Russian players Evgeny Kuznesov and Dmitry Orlov. As another year ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins and fellow countryman Evgeny Malkin, Kuzy and Dima made plans to join Team Russia for the IIHF Worlds in Germany and France.

And boy oh boy did they shine. In their first game against Czech Republic, Orlov, wearing his old 81 sweater, scored the game winning  goal of the game. Kuznetsov earned three points in the three games he played (one goal and two assists)  to help the team take home the Bronze. He had five shots in nine games. Orlov had seven shots in his five games. Kuzy played with the finesse we are used to seeing while Dima was a speed demon and really lit up the ice when he was on.

The pair of 25 year-old players are both restricted free agents this summer. It is highly likely that the Caps will sign both players. It goes without saying that the KHL has an interest in both players. No doubt the Caps kept an eye on their players and how they performed in different circumstances. They have to balance that against their performance this season.

11-25-0215In his third full year of playing with the Caps, Kuznetsov 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. And yet we believe that the best is yet to come from Kuzy. Maybe World’s was what he needed to shake off the rust of the season past.

img_7622-1Orlov had a rather uneven year. Fans were either all praise or all trade him. This was his second full season after returning from a wrist injury. His overall performance was slightly improved over the 2015/16 season going from 21 to 27 points. Most notable he improved his plus/minus from eight to 30, meaning he was on the ice when a lot of Caps goals were scored. Then again, his save percentage dropped from 8.9 to 4.8. When it comes to the playoffs–which is really where the team needs to focus, Orlov was a shooting machine who had three assists to help the team.

Going forward it will take a little bit of $$ and some longer contracts to keep these two on the roster. The last time Orlov negotiated a contract, it went down to the wire and it wasn’t clear if the two sides would come to agreement. Given the uneven performance, the Caps might decide to go with another one- or a two-year contract to see how he improves. For Kuznetsov, the team again is highly likely to sign him to a multi-year deal Many have believed that the long-term future of the Caps rests on the shoulders of younger players and none more than Kuzy.

The watch continues as the boys and their families head off to vacation and spend time catching up with family and friends.

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.