Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz

After absorbing an eight-game losing streak in December and seeing their offense repeatedly not click, Bruce Boudreau and George McPhee decided that the time had finally come to change the team’s run ‘n’ gun style to a more defense-first system. During the year, the Capitals traded top six forward Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for veteran Scott Hannan and also picked up Dennis Wideman at the trade deadline. The results were stunning.

After finishing 16th in the league in 2009-10 with a goals allowed per game of 2.67, the Capitals finished in the top five in 2010-11, with 2.33. Washington also had the third best penalty kill in the league last year, improving almost six percent from the year before. However, the Caps still flamed out early on in the playoffs, being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I felt we needed to add a defenseman last year in the summer and we didn’t do it,” McPhee said Friday. “We made the trade the during the year, but it’s a hard process to go through.”

So in response, McPhee signed 37-year old defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who played the last four seasons in Montreal, to a two year, seven million dollar deal.

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Photo credit: John Russell

On Friday, the first day of free agency, the Capitals surprised many as busiest team in the NHL. Dumping Semyon Varlamov to Colorado, they then signed five players, including three bound for Washington’s NHL roster. The biggest wild card of the bunch? Thirty-year old right wing Joel Ward, who was given a four year $12 million deal.

“It’s going to be fun to make a new batch of friends and join a new family, start bonding right away,” Ward said of joining the star-laden Caps. “Obviously you see them on the highlight reel every night.”

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