Photo illustration by Ian Oland.
Guess what tomorrow is? That’s right! Canada Day!
It also happens to be NHL Free Agency, the wildest and kookiest hockey day of the year. The Capitals aren’t expected to make any world-shaking moves this year, but you never know. The spirit of capitalism can possess even the most level-headed of GMs and make them act like crazy people, so stay tuned here tomorrow while we update you on what’s going down. The Caps have a few holes to fill, a few free agents who will find new homes — and who knows, maybe McPhee will trade Backstrom for Jeff Skinner or something, and we’ll all have to drink ourselves into oblivion.
Anything is possible! But luckily, not everything is likely, so follow us below the jump for your Guide to Free Agency 2012.
How much cap space do the Caps have?
The Caps have $20,805,428 to spend this offseason, but they also have a good part of their own roster to re-sign. Expect most of the unrestricted free agents to walk; expect most of the restricted free agents to sign. The Caps have made qualifying offers to Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Green, and John Carlson, and though Perreault and Green may warrant some thought, they will likely be signed.
Once the Capitals have taken care of their own free agents, expect them to have anywhere from $10-15 M to spend. With that, they could buy this beautiful home in McLean, Virginia! Alternately, they could sign some hockey players.
Who is likely leaving?
Photo credit: Clydeorama
Mike Knuble: Shut up. We’re not crying, it’s raining on our faces.
Jeff Halpern: We bear no ill feelings for the former Caps captain as he gets set to leave Washington. Quite the opposite, in fact, Halpern filled the role that he was brought in to fill admirably, and was good-natured about adversity when things weren’t going his way. Jay Beagle seems set to step into his shoes, but we have no issues recommending Halpern’s services to a good home. Four stars, would acquire again.
Dennis Wideman: Already traded and signed with the Calgary Flames, to a 5-year, $5.25 M/year contract with a no-movement clause. Well okay. You do whatever you feel is good, Calgary.
Where will Semin go?
Photo credit: Greg Flume
Sadly, probably not here. For the first time in his NHL career, Semin will explore the possibility of signing with a team other than the Washington Capitals, maybe even in the KHL. We love him, but that’s why we’re letting him go. We heard that in a country song one time.
What are the Caps’ needs?
Photo credit: Kathy Kmonicek
The Caps have gone a long way towards replacing Semin’s production with the acquisition of Mike Ribeiro, who scores 20 goals like clockwork and will be a capable 2C. However, as far as positional depth goes, we still have big hole on wing that will need to be filled. There aren’t many top-six quality wingers on the free agency market, and the Caps probably won’t be in on any of the big names. Nonetheless, here’s who’s available.
P.A. Parenteau: The 29-year-old winger is a relative unknown, which is a side effect of playing with the New York Islanders. Caps fans should know him, however, as the pain in the neck who seemed to score against us at every opportunity. We recognize this as the cry for help that it is, and would be happy to rescue him from Long Island Purgatory if the price is right.
Ray Whitney: Another underrated winger playing some of the best hockey of his life at the age of 40. The Caps haven’t been too kind to their senior citizens in recent years, but maybe new coach Adam Oates can tempt a fellow playmaker into our ranks. Of course, the rumor is that he wants to go back to Carolina where he still owns a home — which leads us to wonder, why does everyone always want to go to Carolina? Do they know something we don’t? Is it the weather, what is it?
Dustin Penner: Penner hasn’t played up to expectations for awhile now, but this last season with the L.A. Kings was a disaster, with the left winger scoring only seven goals in 65 games, not to mention his unfortunate run-in with a stack of pancakes. Still, L.A. fans weren’t complaining when he scored the OT goal to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals. He can’t hear you, he’s got his two Stanley Cup Rings plugging his ears.
What about defense?
Photo credit: Jim McIsaac
Dmitry Orlov stepped up as a surprisingly NHL-ready defenseman last year, which means we have one less hole to fill, but with with Dennis Wideman’s absence the Caps are in need of one more solid D.
Jason Garrisson: Garrison is coming off a career year with the Panthers, scoring 16 goals and 33 points as a defenseman. He’s recently been credited as a player who “does everything Wideman does and more”, a power play quarterback who can actually defend as well. A defenseman who can defend? Sign us up!
Matt Carle: The Caps would do well to stay away from this one. Wideman’s signing made the market for an offensive defenseman look awfully scary, and there will be many teams who will be interested in the former Flyer’s services. That said, he’s a heck of a player, and we wouldn’t be upset about acquiring him as long as we didn’t have to sell any limbs to do it.
Bryan Allen: A much more reasonable option. Canes’ GM Jim Rutherford made Allen an offer, but Allen wasn’t interested, choosing to go to free agency instead. Allen won’t get the kind of paydays that some of his more offensive counterparts will, a defensive defenseman who logs tons of minutes and regularly kills penalties, who also led the Canes with 188 blocked shots. That sounds fine by us.
Who should the Caps avoid like the plague?
Jaromir Jagr: NOPE.
Martin Brodeur: Brodeur is a legend, and one of the best who ever played. He can go be a legend somewhere else, we prefer hot-blooded up-and-coming goalies to elder statesmen.
Andrei Kostitsyn: Unless we plan on trading a problem for a problem, avoid like the plague. Kostitsyn is a poor man’s Alex Semin with bonus coaching issues and mob connections. Nope.
Zach Parise: Regular 30-goal scorer Parise is a prize in a shallow field, and we estimate he will sign a 20-year deal for 500 gold bricks a year. It’s unlikely that the Caps will make a play for Parise — in fact, the most likely suitors seems to be the Minnesota Wild and the Pittsburgh Penguins, so we should probably be preparing ourselves to hate his guts instead.
Don’t do it, Zach. Make good choices.
Bobby Ryan: Now this one is a little more likely. Once Parise finds a home, Ryan will be the next biggest prize on the market, and one that the Caps are a little more likely to take a shot at. He’s one of the best deals in the league when it comes to salary versus production, having scored at least 30 goals for the last four season at a cap hit of $5.1 million. We’ve love to see him in a Capitals uniform, but the asking price is still steep. Put in a good word for us, Bruce?
Ryan Suter: What Zach Parise is to the forward market, Suter is to the defenseman market. In the Caps’ case, that means he’s an elaborate distraction meant to draw all eyes and offers so we can quietly slip in and talk to the others. We’ve got little to no chance at landing him. We will probably survive.
Shane Doan: Doan bleeds Coyotes red and it would be tough to pry him out of Phoenix, but July 1st has rolled around and he is still unsigned. This guy plays like a prototype for a Canadian supersoldier, tough, gritty, productive, and would be a dream in the Caps’ lineup. Has he had enough of the constant ownership issues? Is he looking to go to a contender? Do we ask the same leading questions about Shane Doan every year?
Don’t expect too much of a splash tomorrow. George McPhee has never been inclined to throw money around in free agency,
because he’s not stupid because he prefers to build through the draft and through trade instead. But a serious rebuild of the core has been threatening for some time now, and perhaps this is the year that core finally splits up.
At least one of the former Young Guns seems set to leave town tomorrow. Will it be more than one? Will we be shocked and angry, or underwhelmed? Will our favorite players still be in Caps red at the end of the day? We’ll have to wait and see.