Monday, August 17, 2015

How the Caps Looking This Year?

In reviewing my previous posts, I noticed that while I did a lot of speculation and evaluation on potential moves the Washington Capitals might make, I never gave my opinion on the roster changes they actually did make. I'll split it up into each different transaction, and give my thoughts on how the move impacts the team.

We'll start with the new players, since those happened first.

Acquired T.J. Oshie in exchange for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a 3rd round pick
This was the Caps' biggest change this offseason. Brouwer has been on the team for several years, often playing a key role both offensively and defensively. He's got a good reputation around the league, but from what I saw last season, especially during the playoffs, he seems to have lost a step. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I think he's a 4th line player at this point.

Oshie, however, doesn't excite me as much as he does other people. I know he's famous for taking all those penalty shots in the Olympics a couple years ago, but he hasn't scored 60 points in any season, and while he's got some skill, I have to think that there's something about his game that's been left behind. Hopefully playing with dynamos like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will unlock his greater potential. Regardless, Oshie is definitely an upgrade over Brouwer for me, and Copley was years away from mattering anyways. I'm happy with the deal.

Signed Justin Williams - $3.25 million/year for 2 years
To me, Williams replaced Troy Brouwer, and he's actually a little bit cheaper this year than Brouwer. Williams is a veteran with a solid scoring touch, and he's got three rings to Brouwer's one. Williams was also a far more vital part of the Kings' championship than Brouwer was for the Blackhawks'. Regardless, I think it's probably about a push, with Williams rating slightly higher and being slightly cheaper, so it's a good move to me.

Signed Zach Sill and Taylor Chorney - $1.275 million total, both on one-year deals
Depth moves, I like that they're cheap. A friend from Pittsburgh says Chorney is decent, which is good enough for me.

Re-signed Evgeny Kuznetsov - $3.0 million/year for 2 years
I was at game 7 against the Islanders when Kuznetsov scored the biggest goal of his NHL career so far on a total composure play. He knew the right move, and skated from circle to circle to drag Jaroslav Halak out of position, finally opening up a chance to score the game-winning goal. That was basically the point at which I decided that the Caps should open up the pocketbook a little bit for Kuznetsov. He may not ever top that moment, but the potential is there for him to be a great player as he continues to develop.

Re-signed Braden Holtby - $6.1 million/year through 2020
You basically had to give Holtby something. The Caps' "backup" plan was Justin Peters (who's best spot is backing up a guy who plays 73 games a year) or Philipp Grubauer, who's probably okay, but I don't want to find that out just yet. Holtby was a horse last year, and has been a top 10 goalie for a few years now (accounting for the dark days of Oates). I'm comfortable with Holtby going forward, and it was going to cost about this much to keep him short- or long-term, so I'm fine with the resulting contract. It's possible that Grubauer will be very good, but when you've got a guy, I think you keep him.

Re-signed Marcus Johansson - $3.75 million for 2015-16
The Caps' offseason acquisitions left Johansson a player in flux. The top two lines seem to be set, with Ovechkin/Backstrom/Oshie up top and Andre Burakovsky/Kuznetsov/Williams on the second line. But the reality is that while Burakovsky has some ability and coach Barry Trotz seems to really like him, Johansson has been a productive offensive player for years for the Caps. He's proven himself enough to warrant being on that second line. And at least for one year, I prefer it that way. Let Burakovsky continue to grow with Tom Wilson and Brooks Laich, that sounds like a dynamic third line to me.

2015-2016 Prediction: Stanley Cup Champions

I mean, it could happen right? I think the Caps are strong on offense, defense, in goal, and behind the bench. What else is there? Maybe the Caps don't have the mystique of the Red Wings or Bruins, but you only get that mystique by winning Cups. So let's start now.

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