The Washington Capitals’ defense was really bad last season. Adam Oates and George McPhee suited up fourteen (!) defensemen over the course of the season and got little success for their effort. Fixing the blue line was priority one in free agency for new GM Brian MacLellan, and he delivered in a big way, bringing ex-Pens Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to town (as well as their former defensive coach, Todd Reirden).

The new Caps D-corps is definitely improved– but at a great cost. Orpik and Niskanen cost a combined $11.25M per season. Washington now sports the most expensive defense in the league (more than Philly once you factor in Chris Pronger’s sadly never-ending LTIR). With all that– rather pricey– new blood, let’s explore how the Caps might line up in October.

I guess I should start by acknowledging that this is a tough break for Connor Carrick, Steve Oleksy, Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey, and the thirty seven other guys who played defense last year. The depth chart, which we’ll explore below, has been changed dramatically. Barring injuries to multiple players, I’d find it very unlikely any of those players gets a jersey this season.

To imagine how Trtoz might use his D corps, let’s take a look at how they were used last year. Here is ExtraSkater’s player usage chart (a visualization pioneered by Rob Vollman). Guys at the top of the chart face tougher opponents than guys at the bottom; guys at the left of the chart get deployed in the defensive zone more than guys at the right of the chart. Blue guys outshoot their opponents; red guys get outshot. The size of the circle represents ice time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 4.06.08 PM

There are just three who were “in the blue” possession-wise– Niskanen, Orlov, and Green– and they all saw somewhat favorable deployments. (We’ll investigate how Orlov got that blue circle a bit more below.)

It should come as no surprise that most of the Caps defenders were outshot last season. The team as a whole got just 47.6 percent of unblocked shot attempts during close games. The preeminent source of optimism for this coming season is that all Caps players will improve merely because of the removal of Adam Oates from his job.

Up in Pittsburgh, Brooks Orpik was deployed defensively last season. He started 45.8 percent of his non-neutral shifts in Pittsburgh’s zone, where he faced tougher players than anyone except Alzner and Carlson. Many people, especially Brian MacLellan, chose to excuse Brooks Orpik’s awful possession numbers because of those deployments. There is some dispute about that point, which Tyler Dellow did a bang-up job explaining over the weekend. Also, it bears mentioning that Orpik gets outshot even when zone starts are controlled for.

But back to the task at hand: how will the Caps defense line up this season? I’ve collected some information for the likely suspects and ranked each by their average time on ice.

Player TOI CF% rel ZS% QualComp Shoots Salary
Carlson  23.9  -1.1%  49.5% 29.6%  Right  $3.9M
Green  22.2  +4.6%  54.8%  28.5%  Right  $6.0M
Niskanen  21.0  +7.3%  49.2%  28.4%  Right  $5.8M
Orpik  20.9  -4.2%  45.4%  29.3%  Left  $5.5M
Alzner  20.1  -1.0%  49.6% 29.4%  Left $2.8M
Orlov  19.2  +6.6%  50.5%  28.0%  Left  $2.0M
Hillen  17.8  -5.9%  50.0%  28.4%  Left  $0.7M
Erskine  15.3  -4.8%  47.7%  27.7%  Left  $2.0M

CF% rel is relative corsi. It shows how much more or less the player’s team controls possession when he’s on the ice compared to when on the bench. ZS% is zone start percentage, the percentage of non-neutral faceoffs the user takes in the offensive zone. QualComp is a quality of competition, based on the average ice time of the player’s opponents (the higher the number, the tougher the competition).

Worth mentioning: three righties and five lefties would have sent Adam Oates into a frothing panic. I suspect Trotz also prefers his defenders to line up according to their handedness, but perhaps he’ll be a bit more lax. More on that below.

So here’s the most likely lineup for the defenders:

Alzner Niskanen
Orpik Carlson
Orlov Green

That’s a breakup of Carlzner. Over the past three seasons, Alzner and Carlson have performed slightly better when separated, though the effect is minor. This split would pair each with someone in a similarly corresponding role: Alzner with the attacking Niskanen, Carlson with Orpik as the stay-at-home anchor.

Outside of the top 4, you’d have Mike Green paired with Dmitry Orlov (or perhaps Hillen or Eskine). And right there we have our first problem.

Mike Green will make six million dollars this season (the last year of his current contract), and under this formulation he’d be on the least-used defensive pairing. That’d also mean the Caps’ two most effective possession players (Orlov and Green had a 55.9 corsi% last season) would see the least ice. That might run contrary to the new GM’s stated goals.

“[Green] had a little bit of struggles with injuries last year,” MacLellan told the Washington Post. “He had an okay year. But we’re hoping to get him back on track.”

Deploying Green with Orlov might allow him to continue dominating puck possession, but he’d have a much lower profile. This doesn’t seem like an an optimized defensive lineup.

Here’s another take:

Alzner Carlson
Orpik Green
Orlov Niskanen

Well, I’ve got the same problem.

I’ve kept Carlzner together in this formulation. Mostly I’m just curious if– now free of Oates and Hunter– they can perform as well as they did a few years ago under Boudreau. I’ve got Green and Orpik– the strongest and weakest possession players– together on the second pairing. And I’ve got Niskanen paired with Orlov, where the young Russian might benefit from another offensively minded player.

But again: that’s nearly 8 million dollars in salary on the third pairing. And while Orpik-Green might mitigate some damage on the second pair, l it’s unlikely that putting the pairing would get Green “back on track” as MacLellan hopes.

One last try, this time with some more fanciful ideas:

Alzner Green
Carlson Niskanen
Orpik Orlov

I’ve moved two players (Carlson and Orlov) to their weak sides and fed Orlov to the wolves, but this lineup could be fun.

Dispensing with the axiom that an offensive defenseman must be paired with a stay-at-home guy, I’ve combined Carlson-Niskanen– ideally to be deployed offensively along with the Ovechkin line as much as possible to stack the deck. I’ve put Alzner and Green together to face the other team’s best players with a combination of puck handling and puck distribution skills. And I’ve put Dmitry Orlov on the third pairing with Brooks Orpik– two defensive defensemen (Orlov doesn’t shoot enough to be considered anything else) where they’ll do the least damage.

This could wreck Orlov’s career. Orlov saw a 45.1 percent possession score when apart from Green last year— a 10-point drop-off from when they were together. I’d save some of the softer starts for Orlov-Orpik to keep their heads above water, but this is definitely a weakness.

This lineup has a more even distribution of salary (~9 million for the top pair, ~10 million for the second pair, and ~7.5 million for the third), and there are clearly defined roles and expectations for each. And while there are obvious negatives (playing guys on their weak side, Dmitry Orlov’s imminent collapse once he leaves Green’s side), I think this could be viable.

Of course, it will never happen.

We know nothing for sure, but it seems likely that the Caps will be deploying some well-paid defender for limited minutes on the third pairing. Maybe that will cause Trotz to distribute ice time more evenly among the pairings. Or maybe he’ll rotate pairings. Or maybe someone will get traded before October.

I don’t know, but two things are for certain: 1) this defense will be better than last year’s, and 2) it’s going to be an interesting time on the Capitals blue line.


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  • DirtySanchez

    Your first set of pairings make the most sense if all 6 of them are still here come September. They should try to move Green and sign a guy like Derek Morris to pair with Orlov. Morris is older and becoming a more of a stay at home type. Would make that pairing better, and Green can be used to help us get help up front.

  • Jack Conness

    If these are the six that are in Washington to start the season, I say equal all their playing time initially and lets see what happens. If Green does end up on the 3rd pairing, I don’t want to see him get around 10 minutes. Let them all get solid playing time. In a perfect world, 20 minutes a piece. It will save their legs and maybe prevent some injuries. None of them are superstars (maybe Carlson). But none of them are John Erskine. They all deserve to play and I feel that Trotz will somehow utilize it to work that way.

  • I’m too lazy to use Google, so I’ll ask you all. What “special team” assignments did Orpik and Niskanen get last year?
    Will the PP quarterback position be up for grabs?

  • DirtySanchez

    Orpik played top pairing PK. And Niskanen 2nd pairing PP when Letang was healthy. I feel the PP quarterback position will be Niskanen on unit 1, and then Carlson on unit 2 (since Carly will be on the top pair PK with Orpik, have to make sure his minutes are controlled) and if Green is here, he will slide into Ovi’s slot on the 2nd PP unit.

  • Luke Anthony

    I think everyone is getting too caught up on the third pair. I expect Orpik/Carlson get slightly more ice time if used in a shut down role, but then we’ll have 2a and 2b pairings that get equal time.

  • I think that’d be a good way to work it out, but if it happens that way, I’ll look into time on ice, deployments, and competition to see how truly equal they are.

  • I think PP is gonna be a logjam too– assuming the same 4 F/1 D setup. Green, Carlson, Niskanen– maybe in that order?

  • DirtySanchez

    I don’t think you’ll see a 2a and 2b pairing at all. I think you’ll see a 1a and 1b pairing and that 3rd pairing will get 13 min a night. If they trusted Green/Orlov to play 20 minutes a night, there was no need to spend $11 million on Orpik and Niskanen.

  • Topher Gee

    In all honesty, is Orpik an upgrade from Erskine… Could big John beat him out of that role?!

  • I think Orpik is an improvement on Erskine. Not a huge one, but he’s more durable, better at possession, able to take tougher deployments, and less likely to commit a penalty.

    But those are all marginal improvements.

  • Luke Anthony

    They may have also spent that money to get Carrick and Erskine out of the lineup, now we actually have 3 solid pairs.

  • VeggieTart

    I think almost anyone would be an upgrade from Erskine. He’s just not what he used to be.

  • Eventually, the worst part of these signings (unless Barry Trotz doesn’t mind stepping on a veteran player’s toes) is that it blocks Orlov from the role he should grow into (PP QB, second pairing dman) and it blocks two young players IMO who are NHL third paring-defensemen already in Schmidt and Wey (and could grow into something more). Then you have Oleksy (who could play in the NHL) and Carrick (who will also grow into an NHL defenseman soon).

    It will never make sense to me: you go through all these growing pains and acquire all these talented young players only to take a big ass hammer to fix something that would have likely been a strength in the next year or two – and block them. After next season, Green, Wardo, and Erskine come off the books sure, but Kuznetsov will be a RFA (coming off what probably will be a big year) and then they will likely have to re-sign Holtby to a bigger deal. So if the cap goes up again (which is likely) they’ll have some wiggle room, but jklsdaflksadlk;sadl;fsdaklasdfflkjjasd;lkjk;elsa I really hope Niskanen is actually worth $6 mil a year and Orpik is not nearly as bad as his stats indicate he is.

  • Matt Lauer

    Not so sure about that one. I am equally skeptical as you about the Orpik signing, but I truly think that he is markedly better than Erskine.

  • DirtySanchez

    I disagree. In my opinion we have 2 solid pairs. That 3rd pair is not solid because it is way too offensive minded. You could have gotten Carrick and Erskine off the ice by signing plenty of UFA Dmen, and plenty that are still available.

  • Matt Lauer

    Yup. Agree all around. They absolutely should have made room for Schmidt this year. He was better than most of the D *last year*, but, ya know, Oates.

  • We give a lot of gruff to Big John, but healthy and at this point in their careers, I agree with Peter, I think him and Orpik are a lot closer than you might think.

  • Lawrence

    It will be Green, Niskanen, Carlson imo. At least to start the season. That was one area they did not need to improve in 🙁 The only one maybe.

  • Sarah

    Dunno why but this made me think of RMNB this weekend.

  • JoeA

    Do you think the coach reviews pay stubs before setting his lines?

    I would hope not.

  • Matt Lauer

    They keyword is healthy, however. He is not. Nor has he ever been stellar with the puck (which I’m not saying Orpik is, but frankly Erskine’s hammer-hands often reached astounding proportions). Also, like you, I actually take no pleasure in giving Ersk all the grief I do, because I’m sure he is a swell dude, but commentary on this particular player seems to be the only area where the organization is, at present, capable of pseudo-objectivity.

  • Luke Anthony

    You know Orlov and Green don’t HAVE to play together. Regardless of if you like the signings or not, our D is indisputably better now. There may have been a more preferable way, but it’s still better.

  • DirtySanchez

    the owner does. Why else would Brooks Laich ever be considered by a coach for top 6 minutes? No coach is that dumb, other than the guy who just got fired. Yet, Bruce and Hunter played him top 6 minutes as well. As much as Ted says he is hands off, well lets just say he isn’t.

  • I love this.

  • DirtySanchez

    I understand and I agree with that. Also, there is no guarantee that Orlov is ready for the first month of the season. Wrist injuries can be tough to rehab and overcome when you first start trying to play again.

  • Luke Anthony

    Don’t forget Bowey and Djoos coming up, not to mention future prospects that will get blocked as well. Orpik’s contract length will hurt in a few years.

  • I don’t think Djoos will ever make it though I love him as a player. Bowey could turn himself into a serious prospect in time, but I think he’s still 2 or 3 years away from knocking on the door. But yes, you’re totally right.

  • Luke Anthony

    To be fair he wasn’t that bad under Bruce, but right now I have absolutely no faith he will be productive this year or anytime in the near future.

  • Oates certainly didn’t. And Oates was the opposite of a good coach. Therefore, whatever Oates didn’t do must be good. QED: Yes, a good coach ALWAYS reviews pay stubs before setting lines.

    That’s just logic.

  • They also something eerily in common: they both have reputations for clearing the crease and yet are empirically bad at doing so.

    It’s almost as if people’s qualitative analyses of players are inscrutable when not backed up by verifiable, repeatable evidence.

  • Maybe Ersk will be FULLY healthy this season and prove me wrong. I’d love if that happened.

  • mspeer

    I like dropping Green to the 3rd line. With his injuries the past couple of seasons I don’t see fewer minutes as a problem, even with the big pay checks, at least not for a while. A few less regular time minutes and deploy him on the power play might be a good thing for his body. If the lines look good then, like you said, maybe Trotz distributes the time more evenly.

    All I know is that I wish the season would hurry up and get here. I’m anxious to see how this all plays out.

  • Topher Gee

    That’s why it makes for a fun offseason training camp, if you were to set lines without looking at the pay stub.

  • mspeer

    *3rd pairing* – you know what I meant.

  • Topher Gee

    Do we know what kind of defensive schemes they are going to run? that also might effect the lines? Could we see the same old combo defense where green gets to hang out in front of the net.

  • Ben E.

    I dunno, I don’t think Erskine is even in the same conversation as Orpik. Orpik may be a slower BCCD but he played the toughest minutes by far of anyone on the Pens. Erskine would be so badly exposed in the same role, against top competition with terrible zone starts, that he’d be on the bench within five games.

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, is there a reason why we can’t just roll three more-or-less even D pairings? That seems like it might be what the brass had in mind (if they indeed had anything in mind) when they picked up Orpik and Niskanen.

  • I’ve been watching NSH film to try to characterize it, but I think someone else — hopefully Trotz– would be better at that.

  • Graham Dumas

    Peter, has your avatar capsized from the lopsidedness of the team’s salary sheet?

    Erskine seems like a great guy and all, but if he’s healthy, it means scratching one of the five-million-dollar men or Orlov, or dressing seven D; I can’t get on board with that.

  • Boush

    I know you probably didn’t want to go into *every* possible defense interation… but how about Carlson-Niskanen, Orpik-Green, and Orlov-Alzner?

    That theoretically ices the Caps’ (now) franchise defensemen on the top pairing, experience and offensive/defensive “balance” on the second pairing, and potentially the best third pairing in the NHL. Alzner on the third pair stinks for him, no doubt, but he could also free Orlov up to shoot a little more and explore his offensive abilities.

    I also love the idea of every guy skating in the 18-22 minute range on average. Trotz may love his 30 minute workhorses, but the options and skill levels available don’t even come close to necessitating that, and fresh, capable legs are always nice.

  • Matt Lauer

    Are you referring to the half-ice diagram that Greenberg drew up (and I believe was re-posted here)? Honestly I do think there are several grounds to question that representation.

  • GraboviMyBozak

    So basically, RMNB wanted us to stay with the same garbage D-core that we had last year. That worked out great didn’t it. These off-season moves proved that we want to win now, in the Ovi era. Ovi isn’t getting any younger and our window to win the cup is closing. So let’s just keep Schmidt, Wey and Carrick in the starting line-up right?

  • Matt Lauer

    I don’t think that’s what anybody on this site is saying.

  • GraboviMyBozak

    Look at Ians post below.

  • Barrett

    I ‘d take your first choice at pairings in an event of splitting up Carlson and Alzner, but flip-flop the 1st and 2nd pairings.

    Orpik and Carlson
    Alzner and Niskanen
    Orlov and Green

    This is OK with me, because Green’s minutes wouldn’t look as bad with the amount of power-play time he should receive on the top line there. This also allows for putting two of the more dynamic offensive defensman in favorable zone starts.

  • Matt Lauer

    My reading of that post is that Ian thinks those pairings are a preferable alternative to the Orpik deal (especially if we consider the possibility of a logjam in the future). It does not state that they were the ONLY option. But I’ll let Ian speak for himself.

  • Barrett

    No, I think Ian is saying that signing Orpik (at age 33) to a 5 year deal and Niskanen (at age 27) to a 7 year deal handcuffs you terms of developing our young defensive talent.

  • Connor

    I think the first two parings are going to get very much equal ice time, with the 3rd pairing not too far off.

    Orpik-Carlson (Defensive Starts)
    Niskanen-Green (Every Offensive Start)
    Alzner-Orlov (Starts from everywhere)

    On a side note, I think Burakovsky is a lot closer than most people think from earning a full time spot here in Washington. I think its a 50/50 chance he makes the team this year and starts on the second line. If he does, Ive got it like this.

    Kuznetsov – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Burakovsky – Richards – Wilson
    Chimera – Laich – Ward
    Latta – Beagle – Lewis

    To LAK: Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr
    To Washington: Mike Ricahrds and Trevor Lewis

    Trade : Mojo and Erskine for draft picks.

    This leaves 1.498 of Cap space. Moving Brouwer makes room for top 6 min Willy needs. Burakovsky being ready makes Mojo obsolete. Picking up Richards solves our 2C problem, Lewis adds experience to the 4th line. Erskine moved because simply no room and need cap space

  • I’d be surprised if either plays 75+ games in 2016-17.

  • Barrett

    ehhhh…Mike Richards as your 2C?

    He’s currently their 4C and is pretty good there. Wouldn’t go higher than 3C with him. Also, don’t forget Wilson’s injury might make him a slow start to the season.

  • Matt Lauer

    Do you have any indications that such a trade would actually occur? Are you sure that’s favorable to us?

  • DirtySanchez

    lol, Dean Lombardi would laugh in BMac’s face, then hang up the phone on that trade offer. Then call him back just to laugh more and hang up.

    Mike Richards is a top tier C. It doesn’t matter that he is playing 4C there, they just won a Cup and will be the favorites to win the Cup for the next few years with their lineup. Lombardi shouldn’t trade anyone.

  • GraboviMyBozak

    I know that he said they’re not the only option but they could easily be used as trading chips to get a 2c. They aren’t going to be any better than what we have now in the future anyway. Schmidt and Wey are projected to be top 6 D and Carrick being a top 4 is a long shot. If we’re trying to win now, the signings are the right move.

  • DirtySanchez

    you are nuts. He’d be our 2C clearly. Richards is one heck of a hockey player.

  • Yeah.

    I did a video analysis at the beginning of last season for Erskine: http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2013/10/11/john-erskine-even-strength-albatross/

    Greenberg’s chart for Orpik said sort of the same thing for that player.

  • Matt Lauer

    Clearly we will have to agree to disagree. We could spiral around this point for hours.

  • Connor

    if he can get a natural 25+ goal scoring winger instead of C’s that convert to wing, plus eric fehr who can play both wing and C for your 4th line center then why wouldn’t he do that?

  • Connor

    nope just spit balling

  • Connor

    i think he could thrive here at 2C. With Burakovsky being highly skilled, Wilson crashing the net, we could use a two-way 2C like richards. I see him as a lesser Ryan Kesler that costs a bit more

  • DirtySanchez

    Troy Brouwer is a 4th line Winger on that team, same with Eric Fehr. They don’t need our leftovers when their depth pummels ours. I know you watched the playoffs, Brouwer couldn’t skate on any of their lines, their speed would leave him in the defensive zone most of the time.

  • Connor

    Dwight King is gone there is a hole on wing. You’re telling me that Brouwer could skate with Grabovski but can’t skate with Jarret Stoll? The kings are absolutely log jammed center. Keeping Mike Richards on the 4th line with a 5.75 million cap hit is insane, when that money could be used to get natural depth wingers like trading him for 25+ goal scoaring winger in Troy Brouwer to play 3rd line and Eric Fehr to play where ever needed. Its much like why are we keeping 3 defenders on the right hand side that have 3.9. 5.75 and 6.0 cap hits when we need a 2C. Hell i would even through a pick in to that trade or Connor Carrick. The only think keeping Mike Richards from not demanding a trade is that they won a cup this year. If he plays 4th line for the next 4 years and doesn’t win another cup hes going to look back and think I just wasted the last bit of prime that I had left in my career. Send him to Washington

  • Dave

    Do you think Trotz will actually take salary distribution into consideration when making defensive pairings and ice time decisions? I would think not.

  • Seth

    It keeps them from logging big minutes in the A? I’ll choose top worry about future cap problems when that time comes. If PHI, NYR, and others can consistently get out from under terrible contracts, I’m sure the Caps can find a way as well.

  • Seth

    Slow cooking your defensemen in the A is not a bad thing. None of the ones you mentioned are of such great talent that playing huge minutes in the AHL will hurt their development in the slightest.

  • Pat Magee

    It takes a lot longer to develop defensemen in this league. Playing a couple full seasons in Hershey will be fantastic for them.

    See: John Carlson

  • JH

    Someone may have suggested this already, but what about:


    You have a balanced righty and lefty on each, a positive possession and negative possession player on each as well, and an offensive and stay at home blueliner on each pair. Give Green and Alzner less-tough opponents and see what happens.

  • I think that one was pitched on Facebook as well. Looks fine to me!

    Though I’ve got a feeling Orlov-Alzner is a little too lay-back to be effective.

  • “They aren’t going to be any better than what we have now in the future anyway.”

    Wey and Schmidt are likely already more productive players than Orpik right now – and cost $5 million less. I’m fine with aggressively using that 5 million to get the team over the hump to be a championship team, but I don’t think the team is that right now. Also tell me, did the Blackhawks and Kings have plodding, overpaid shutdown defensemen that can’t skate or move the puck well? It makes no sense to block your young players with a dude like Orpik for five years.

    On the other, more positive hand, Niskanen hopefully will be good and replace Mike Green if he leaves. I’m not too worried about Niskanen even though it’s inarguable they overpaid him.

    Just my argument is: Was this the right time to be super aggressive and load up for a championship and put your team kind of in cap hell? The answer — if you’re being realistic with yourselves — is no.

  • BorntoHula

    “Wey and Schmidt are likely already more productive players than Orpik right now”

    Really? Bold statement considering they have played 38 NHL games combined.

    Hard to believe they weren’t playing for Team USA in the Olympics instead of Orpik

  • Yes, but two problems:

    A) The Caps are already running out of available minutes at AHL Hershey because of their dearth of prospect and veteran defensemen. Consider Kundratek is going to be returning this year from injury and he will most likely eat up most of the PPQB time down there. Then you have Schmidt, Wey, Carrick, Oleksy. Who gets shafted out of minutes?
    B) I’m fine with slow cooking let’s say Wey over Orpik if the Caps are a championship contending team this upcoming season or next. But it appears they won’t be, so why do you get locked in with a guy for five years $27 million who is 33 and already a possession black hole? It just creates more problems in the future, doesn’t allow Wey to develop as fast as he could, and limits your flexibility when the team is actually ready to make that next step.

  • “RMNB wanted us to stay with the same garbage D-core that we had last year”

    How on earth is that the conclusion you reached? I’d bet there are 15+ stories since October that say the opposite of that.

  • Taylor Handleton

    OK, this is what I was hoping for after the signings :b

  • Orpik shouldn’t have gone to Sochi. Yandle and Byfuglien would’ve been better picks.

  • Haha. All in good time!

  • BorntoHula

    Also never knew that Mitchell, Oduya, Regehr were fleet footed young puck movers.

  • Please don’t call Dwight King an a-hole.

    I did not read your comment carefully

  • * if you put Big Buff on D, obvs

  • BorntoHula

    I thought Carlson was more of a liability on the pairing than Orpik. Disagree on Byfuglien, Yandle I can see the argument especially in light of the wider ice surface but tend to disagree there as well.

  • John M

    You see the total ice time above, right? Carlson, Green, Niskanen, Orpik, Alzner, Orlov. Salaries: Niskanen, Green, Orpik, Carlson, Alzner, Orlov.
    Well, pretty clearly that’s going to mean your top four defensemen are: Niskanen, Green, Orpik, and Carlson. Two lefties or not too left, Alzner and Orlov will be the bottom pairing, I would wager a burrito.
    Even though Carlson’s stats are pretty similar to Alzner’s last year, I think Carlson has the better reputation and that’s reflected in his pay.
    Based on past deployments, it sure looks like Green-Niskanen should be a pair granted favorite zone starts and often together with top line, and Carlson-Orpik would be expected to be the shutdown pair.
    But you’ve got to expect that one of your top four will be injured at any given time, given that Orpik is an older guy and Green and Niskanen have some injury tendencies. So I would expect Alzner to get significant top 4 minutes throughout the season. I could definitely see Alzner surpassing Green, as you guys suggest, via injuries or ineffectiveness on Green’s part. We’ll see how much patience the d-minded Trotz has for Green’s mental lapses.

  • BorntoHula

    From January:

    “”This isn’t the first time they’ve put a puck at the net and he’s standing beside a guy without taking a stick,” Noel lamented at the time. “If you’re not going to make changes, don’t play.”

    This situation is remarkably similar.

    The Jets have lost four in a row again, Byfuglien has been costing his team goals again..”

  • BorntoHula
  • Strong argument that Orlov will get the shortest of shrift based on reputation and experience.

  • Dave

    These signings upset me so much that I got drunk at a 4th of July party and started rambling on about how bad they were, which would’ve been fine, except I was in Houston where no one knew what the hell I was talking about…

  • BorntoHula

    Also from March 2014: “That’s why Byfuglien was moved from defence to forward in the first place. He had become too much of a liability in the defensive zone.” http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/03/11/dustin-byfuglien-a-force-at-forward-for-winnipeg-jets

  • John M

    The worst part of these signings is the opportunity cost of losing Grabowski or some other positive possession offensive player they might have acquired that they really need.
    They tried to survive with AHL-quality guys at the 6th slot last year and it really made life miserable. Green will likely be gone after next year, and that will re-open the 6th slot for whichever young guy can run through it.
    And frankly, if adding these guys keeps Orlov’s pricetag from going up due to his not getting as many opportunities in the short-term, great! It’s more likely then he might be around if and when we actually have a shot at the Cup.
    As far as having a glut of defensemen at the AHL level who could play the 4th to 6th slot, great! We have something from which to trade or to replace Orpik in 2-3 years if we wise up and buy him out early.

  • John M

    And I like Orlov! I just bought his t-shirt!

  • I believe there are no more buy-outs after this season so it’s unfortunately not that easy.

  • Seth

    Some of those guys just aren’t going to make it in the NHL, and as much as I love Oleksy he is expendable or could be playing in South Carolina.
    I think with the D corp the Caps have now, and pending a good trade to bring in a solid 2C, that they most certainly will be contenders to come out of the East. Boston is the only powerhouse, the Rangers will not get so lucky again, The Penguins are a mess internally, Montreal, Columbus, and The Islanders will be good but not unbeatable.

  • Me too! (No t-shirt though.)

  • For the record, I don’t consider that very good analysis.

  • There are no more compliance buyouts after this season, but the Caps could certainly buy Orpik out at some point. I’d bet it’s more likely he leaves the Caps as a perennial LTIR, via trade, or as a buyout victim than at the end of his contract.

  • BorntoHula

    Maybe not, but Noel, in my opinion, is not an idiot and the fact that he moved him to forward because of his defensive deficiencies does not speak that highly of Byfuglien being on the US national team in Orpik’s place as a dman.

  • Ash

    Honest question: when IS the right time? Later in this season? Next season?

    I guess I’m trying to ask myself, is the FO gauging this load-up on Backstrom and Ovechkin’s likely windows of prime output, or are they just trying new for the sake of new, or did they think this was the most likely time they could hire the best free agents available, or what?

    I’ve no idea, and I’ve stopped trying to predict what the coaching staff and FO will do, not the least because it’s a mostly new set of faces, but also because I never would have predicted Adam Oates would do (or not do) some of the things he did last season, based on the end of the 2013 season.

  • CapsPsycho

    “… it blocks two young players IMO who are NHL third paring-defensemen already in Schmidt and Wey…”

    I do not find your opinion to be very strong.

    Schmidt and Wey should spend two full years locking it down in Hershey and winning Calder Cups, like Karlzner did. Oates only brought them up because he had literally no other options. It’s bad for their development.It’s bad for the team.

  • CapsPsycho

    Uhhh, I didn’t see that you posted this 2 hrs ago. My bad.

  • I think Steve Oleksy is an NHL defenseman, a good extra guy (think the 7th guy who usually gets scratched). He is not an ECHL guy at the slightest, though I am going to destroy him at racquetball.

  • Fedor

    John Carlson turned 20 during the season he saw NHL action. Pat Wey is 23 and Nate Schmidt will be 23 in two weeks. That’s a big difference. Huge difference actually. They’re in the age when they need to play now, not 3 years from now. In 3 years, they’ll be career AHLers. Because of Brooks Orpik, imagine that.

  • I like Schmidt a ton, but I gotta agree– needs more time in the oven. (With last year being an exception– if I might extend the metaphor– of us being starved for delicious, decent defensemen.)

  • Fedor

    My problem with all this is Schmidt is 23. It’s almost now-or-never time for him. Carlson played 275 or something like that NHL games before turning 24. Alzner played 235.

  • CapsPsycho

    You “could spiral around this point for hours” if your reading comprension and/or critical thinking skills suck but I think BornToHula settled this one pretty emphatically.

    Orpik’s competition, as marshaled by the Virginia blogger whose hockey analysis is superior to the Winnipeg Sun’s, namely Byfuglien and Yandle were demonstrably not as good as US Olympian Brooks Orpik. (Not mentioned so far:Yandle was the NHL defenseman with the 296th best +/-rating of -23. Like a bawse!)


  • Fedor

    If you go to Claude Noel for your analysis… Your analysis is doomed.

  • CapsPsycho

    By this reasoning Kondratek was ready for prime time last year, because age is the defining dimension of readiness for the Show.

    But that’s plainly not the case.

  • BorntoHula

    Please explain.

  • BorntoHula

    To the best of my understanding Maurice moved Byfuglien back to D but it never stuck and he was made a forward again

  • CapsPsycho

    There isn’t a guy in d-corps that has been money in his own end. It’s up to Orlov to develop that aspect of his game. When I saw him at D Camp in 2010 he didn’t jump out at me as the huge offensive presence that he’s developed into in Hershey – I noticed his acceleration yes, but I also noticed how he took the body and dominated forwards on the boards, winning possession and turning plays around.

    He still has those tools to be the two-way player we need and nobody is going to determine the minutes he gets except Orlov.

  • CapsPsycho

    We don’t have a 2C problem anymore. We have Kuzya, who is taking FO practice with Dave Steckel right now, and will be doing so until October.

  • Word, but weren’t Karl and John early entries to full-time NHL work?

  • +/-

  • Matt Lauer

    I would be far more inclined to respond to your comment if not for the superfluous personal attack.

  • BorntoHula

    No offense but that’s a pretty weak rebuttal.

    Fancy stats, in my opinion, are not too much more indicative than +/-. Context is everything (and no, fancy stats that try and account for that do not do so adequately).

    They work in Baseball, hockey is a different animal.

    (And yes there is value in fancy stats but I think they are best used as a secondary or tertiary indicator.)

  • Sarah

    I feel your pain, Dave. Trying to talk to people about hockey in Texas can make one feel very lonely and lost. On the other hand, I now appreciate fellow hockey fans that much more.

  • I’d say they got brought up at a normal pace for first round picks (Carlson matured faster than Alzner who was ironically a much higher draft selection). The difference is they got a bigger role than they probably should have immediately because the team has been so thin on the back line and they played so well together at first.

  • A realistic spot for Schmidt and Wey would have been to come to training camp with the 6 or 7 dman spot open in Washington. Now, nothing’s open and both are going to be in Hershey all year unless there are injuries – and in Hershey both are going to be fighting for minutes (because of all of the depth there). I’m fine with keeping guys down in the AHL longer (defensemen usually take longer to develop), but it has to be a somewhat optimal situation and it’s not. Both of them are two older college prospects who are pretty much ready now. They did not come in from junior hockey.

    Putting Orpik in does not grow the defense for the better long-term, so unless this team is winning championships or getting close to that, it doesn’t make much $ sense to me. So hopefully they do.

  • Ah yes, you’re right. Thank you!


  • Kundratek is at best a third pairing defensemen in the NHL for a season or two. He’s more likely to be a career AHL guy that provides depth and is a solid call-up. Regardless of what happens, he will eat up a lot of minutes next year, because he’s a leader on that team and he’s a very good AHL player.

  • Fedor

    I think both Wey and Schmidt can contribute significantly more than Kundratek a year ago.

  • Fedor

    Yes, and I don’t think “keep Schmidt in the AHL, look at Carlson/Alzner!” argument is strong for that reason: the age difference. Totally different development curves. Schmidt, for example, is a late-bloomer.

    If you a sign a 22 year old college free agent defenseman with purpose of keeping him in the AHL for 2 or 3 years, he’ll probably end up a career AHLer.

  • Fedor

    Noel is, I think, one of the primary candidates to be named NHL’s worst coach in the last 10 years.

  • BorntoHula

    Stanley Cup Champion (of sorts)

  • BorntoHula

    Jeff “Stanley Cup Champion” Schultz?

  • BorntoHula
  • CapsPsycho

    You’re right. It was gratuitous and uncouth. I will edit it.

    But I think my love of hockey and my spastic tendencies and always-on attack mode come from the same place.

  • BorntoHula

    How about Paul Maurice then?

    I think Oates ranks fairly highly in that category.

  • BorntoHula

    Just out of curiousity, why? His handling of young players in particular Burmistrov and his development or the tactical style he employs?

  • Matt Lauer

    Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

    Now, my response: If you notice, my comment was posted an hour before the conversation with BorntoHula ever began, and was directed to a different poster. I actually never had a dog in that fight.

    I sincerely applaud your enthusiasm, nonetheless! Good to see serious fans on the boards.

  • Fedor

    Handling of theyoung players sure, also the Jets team never became more than, or even equal to, the sum of its parts. I’m not sure why, but they always had decent players, but not a good team.

    But they were fun to watch at least. They played run’n’gun.

  • Connor

    Can’t tell if this is a joke or something that is really happening. If it is then that’s amazing

  • Scotty Herhei

    Orpik – Niskanen
    Orlov – Green

  • Pat Magee

    Seriously? Wow my concept of time has been ruined. I coulda sworn Carlson wasn’t 23 til he saw full time NHL action…. STILL, 2 more years in the minors playing huge minutes is more useful than getting slaughtered in the NHL. (Especially for Carrick)

  • Pat Magee

    We can all agree: The bears are stacked on D this season.

  • Pat Magee

    Let’s just ignore what they make. Shouldn’t stress ourselves out over the fact that Mike Green is gonna be a 3rd pairing Dman making 6m a year.

    The salary cap goes up again next year, and Green isn’t gonna command much more than 4-4.5m after the past few seasons!

  • Eric Schulz

    Why wouldn’t you go with
    Alzner – Carlson
    Niskanen – Green
    Orlov – Orpik
    Orpik should not be used a lot because he’s not good (although I think he should be valuable as a penalty killer), and you have the best players playing more often. Why does that not work?

  • Eric Schulz

    I like Schmidt, but I don’t see how adding him to a defense that already has Carlson, Green, and Orlov really helps us (I mean, yeah, sure, if he’s replacing Carrick, but I’d rather have Orpik even). Adding Niskanen and Orpik gives us a better defense next year than using Schmidt (the price obviously isn’t worth it, but contract aside, I think it’s the right move). I would’ve had no problem with signing Orpik to a 2 year, $4 M contract; we could’ve used him this year and not had to either fit Schmidt into a too-little-defense/physicality unit, or hope that Wey is ready to contribute on the 3rd pair for a contender (which we should’ve been, except we didn’t realize there was a salary cap).
    Some guys take longer; I think another year for Schmidt and Wey is fine, and a very dumb reason to lament the Niskanen/Orpik signings (there are so many good reasons to). And next year, Green’s contract is up; I’d like to resign him at a more reasonable price, but you could easily see letting him go and rolling a much cheaper defense of:
    Alzner – Carlson
    Orlov – Niskanen
    Schmidt – Orpik
    I think Wey could be ready this year, and very possibly will be ready next year (the pairings I put up will be for next year). But even keeping Wey on the farm one year too long is fine; that’s what every smart contender does (Boston, Detroit), they give their prospects more than enough time. The biggest problem I have (beyond the price of those two) is that in year 3, it’s *still* hard to justify replacing Orpik with Wey. A 2 year deal would’ve meant that Wey had a spot opening up that 3rd year; even in year 2, if you think he’s better than Orpik I think you put Orpik as the 7th. Even if his contract is the same per year, I don’t care that your 7th guy is too expensive: your top pair is cheap, your 4th (Orlov) is cheap, and your 3rd pair is cheap. Overall, it’s a reasonable price to pay for the 1-7.

  • Eric Schulz

    I would *hope* not as well… that’s a dumb way to craft your team. It’s something you need to consider when you sign guys (oops), but after they are on your team, your job now becomes to make your team as good as possible, not to worry about how guys are paid vs played.

  • Eric Schulz

    Disagree. The answer is “yes,” you just actually need to, you know.. load up on “talent,” using money on bodies doesn’t get you there.

  • Mike Honcho

    Great discussion. I’ll save the lamentations, at least this D’s better than last year and its fun to play with these pairings. If team USA is an indication, I’d be sad to see Orpik with Orlov, Its also unfortunate that this will stifle some of the young guys in favor of a potential (hopefully not) pylon. I continue to see this massive overpayment in cash and term as a statement signing, culture change, free agent destination, organizational change move.

    Question: does anyone see Green traded soon or before the deadline to Detroit or somewhere else given league-wide need for righty puck moving defensemen who can qb the pp?

  • Dave

    At least I live within walking distance to the only hockey bar in Houston (that I’m aware of). Although I also get Center Ice, so I don’t *need* to go all that often.

  • Austin

    I found a typo in the article SMH. “Trtoz” ” I imagine how Trtoz will use his D corps” WOW Peter so unprofessional.

  • Barrett

    Well, that too (in response to the salary cap issues it may cause) but I was referring to a team that is paying a player like Orpik $5.5mil later in his career is going to play him over a young guy that should get the time, simply because there isn’t anything they can do except keep the veteran on the roster or take huge cap hits.

    Hopefully they can do something in about 3 years with Orpik’s contract. Alzner is a UFA in 3 and Carlson in 4 years. They’ll want big boy money (assuming they keep progressing).

  • Barrett

    Regehr was injured. Oduya is known to be a great skater. Willie Mitchell was also known to be a good skater, especially earlier in his career, but I’m pretty sure they highlighted his recovery speed during the Stanley Cup finals on an excellent play he made hustling back on defense to prevent a scoring opportunity.

    Would have been better to mention Sheldon Brookbank or Michal Rozsival of Chicago or Matt Greene of the LA Kings.

  • Phil Owen

    Best comment I’ve seen on here lately.

  • Barrett

    What about the omissions of Jack Johnson (Columbus) and Erik Johnson (Colorado)? I would taken both over Orpik, easy. It obvious the only reason Orpik (and Martin) made the roster is because who the dopes were running that team.

    I don’t think Brooks Orpik’s style fits with what the Olympics are all about. NHL Playoffs, absolutely. He doesn’t have the speed or offensive ability to play on the larger surface.

  • https://twitter.com/russianmachine/status/439482307876225025

    Dunno if Johnson > Orpik, but yeah, I think so. USA really didn’t bring their best players to the big show.

  • Barrett

    That ordinary buyout option on Orpik’s contract would be brutal!

  • Barrett

    I’m OK with Wey staying a year or two more as it typically takes defensemen longer to develop the “defensive” side to their games and he lacks any offensive ability to provide himself useful at the NHL level. He’s a guy however that you’d want getting ice-time and there’s no way that happens with Orpik signing and Erskin/Hillen still here.

    The problem with Schmidt is that Green, Carlson and Orlov all possess the same skillset and are clearly more established at the NHL level. He won’t see time until one of them is gone.

  • Barrett

    I agree on Djoos, disagree on Bowey. I think Bowey could have taken the same track/timeline to the NHL as Carlson did….if there was space for him.

  • Barrett

    ehhhh Johnson just had his best year statistically (with Columbus!) and Orpik had his worst since being a rookie.

    Totally agree on not bringing their best players. They brought the most familiar.

  • Barrett

    a lesser Ryan Kesler, who is a 2C, would mean that Richards isn’t a 2C. I think the 3C would be perfect, he’s just buried with the talent that the Kings have down the center.

  • Barrett

    He would only be our 2C by default because there isn’t anyone else on the roster to play there.

  • Connor

    Richards is not a 3rd line center and certainly not a 4th line center. That’s why he should feel that his talents are being wasted in LA. When I say he’s a lesser Ryan Kesler that doesn’t mean I’m calling him a Brooks Laich. Sure Kesler is better but not by much. Richards is miles ahead of Brooks Laich. Find a way to bring him to Washington. Personally I think Mike Green and a draft pick gets him here, but GMBM and Trotz want to keep Green so we have to find another way.

  • Barrett

    He has a modified NTC, no idea what the conditions are though.

  • Barrett

    Would I love to have Mike Richards? Absolutely. I’m just not seeing the Kings trading him for a rental player like Mike Green though. They aren’t in any salary cap issues. They have won two Stanley Cups with him on the roster. They have him locked up for the next 6 years.

  • Barrett

    Dwight King is a RFA and they have $2.2mil in space to sign him or a replacement 3rd line winger. I think they can work that out. I don’t know what makes you think they have this huge void at winger, but they are in pretty good shape.

    Gaborik / Kopitar / Brown
    Pearson / Carter / Toffoli
    ???? / Stoll / Williams
    Clifford / Richards / Lewis

    They have a few depth guys under contract too:

    Nolan Jordan, a 25 year old winger with 134 NHL games of experience. He has excellent size and he uses it to play a gritty, agitating style with plenty of physicality.

    Adam Cracknell, a 28 year old winger with 65 NHL games of experience. He gives maximum effort when on the ice. Takes his man out efficiently and
    plays a mature, all-around game. Owns a pretty good wrist shot. Can play
    all three forward positions.

    I’m not even going to look into their prospects at the AHL level – because who knows which guy the call up and he turns out to be their next Toffoli or Pearson.

  • Barrett

    The Predators sign defenseman Anton Volchenkov to a one-year, $1 million contract.

    “Anton provides a strong veteran presence that will complement our
    young, talented defensive corps nicely,” Poile said. “He is a physical,
    left-handed shooting defenseman who can match up with top-line forwards
    and effectively kill penalties.” – David Poile

    Uhm….yeah….just twist the knife a little more

  • Bondraovie412

    Probably already been stated (sorry not sifting through 150 comments) that the intention was to have the top pairing of Green and Orpik. Atleast that’s what I saw.

  • RESmith

    ” it blocks Orlov from the role he should grow into (PP QB, second pairing
    dman) and it blocks two young players IMO who are NHL third
    paring-defensemen already in Schmidt and Wey (and could grow into
    something more). Then you have Oleksy (who could play in the NHL) and
    Carrick (who will also grow into an NHL defenseman soon).”

    Totally agree. For someone who was touted as a former stock trader and, as Ted stated, “knows how to manage assets,” I haven’t been all that impressed in the early going with MacLellan’s ability to either asses value or manage said “assets.” Assuming Green parts way with the Caps next season, we now will have four to five young defensemen (I am throwing Madison Bowey in there as well) looking to graduate over the next four seasons with only ONE roster spot over that time to accommodate this. Needless to say, some of these prospects will “wilt on the vine.”

    Again, it not so much that anyone doubts Orpik’s or Niskanen’s ability, but the length and term of the contracts will handcuff this organization for a long time just to fix something in the short term.

  • jalabar

    John Carlson was a first round draft pick and already a RAH. Wey and Schmidt are kinda accidental NHLers, even if they are usually pretty solid. Huge difference, and may help explain the age differences.

  • jalabar

    Yes… the NTC on Orpik is only for three years. While I am not sure ANY NHLer is worth $5.5M, I think Orpik will be a good signing for the first two seasons, average the third, and gone by 4 and 5, traded to get the Caps’ out of cap jail, like the Flyers and Rangers always manage to do.

  • JoeA

    Hang on there – Schmidt was an undrafted free agents, while Alzner and Carlson were first rounders projected to be NHL first liners. Comparing these players is not a fair one in any sense.

  • JoeA

    There is NOTHING statistically to suggest that Schmidt and Wey are better options than Orpik.

    Their NHL sample size is waaaaaay too small to conclude anything.

  • JoeA

    Orpik shouldn’t have gone to Sochi.

    But I would have chosen him over Schmidt or Wey.

  • JoeA

    Why not just put Carlson on the bottom pairing with Alzner. It would solve Peter’s concern about fair payroll distribution.

  • Funny you point that out. Is Orpik $5 million better than either player now (no) and is Orpik going to be $5 million better than either player next year (no).

  • JoeA

    You are overvaluing Fehr. He is one season removed from being picked up from the garbage heap. I love the guy, but right now he has very little trade value.

    You would need to throw in picks and prospects to get LAK to even sniff at this. Good thing the Caps have such an abundance of Defensive prospects in the system!

  • JoeA

    Logic and the basis of your post.

  • CapsPsycho

    I hope I am not joking. But I am probably joking.

    At any rate, he’s definitely got the range and vision to play C in the NHL, but his FO numbers were extremely very bad and not good enough at all last year.

  • Connor

    My point is a majority of their forwards are natural Centers that they have converted to wing. Troy Brouwer is a 20+ goal scorer that is a natural winger. Everyone likes to get down on Brouwer including myself but i think his perception around the league is a lot better than most people think. Does Troy Brouwer alone get Mike Richards here? Absolutely not, you would have to package him with another player, a pick, or a prospect. But if we are unwilling to part ways with Mike Green, then our two next highest stock assets are Brouwer and Ward. Wardo is safer for us to keep because he fits so well on 3rd line. Moving Brouwer makes room for Wilson. If the Kings could add a proven 20+ goal scorer, Connor Carrick, and a 4th round pick for their 4th line center, why wouldn’t they?

  • Connor

    In that case I would say Brouwer, Carrick, and a 3rd round pick. I like Schmidt and Bowey over Carrick to be the offensively minded defensemen of the Caps future. I think it would be hard for the Kings to turn that down for their 4th line center…

  • Connor

    I would have no problem with him at 2C if it weren’t for his face-off numbers.

  • Ben Reed

    Don’t overthink it. If Schmidt, Orlov, Carrick and Wey deserve minutes, they will get them.

    This is the beauty of having a competent coach, you see.

  • Barrett

    Here’s why:

    They just won two Stanley Cups in 3 years with almost the exact same lineup. They will have that same lineup for one more season and they aren’t in any salary cap issues that forces them to move players. They also draft well and develop their talent well. They have wingers Mersch, Zykov, Kitsyn, Andreoff, Sabourin in their pipeline along with a handful of centers like Shore, Weal and Crescenzi that could make an impact at some point. They are in the perfect situation. After this year Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll will be UFA at age 33. Mike Richards can bump up to the 3C, where he’s still a better fit on that team.

    Not saying I wouldn’t take Mike Richards, I would. I don’t see the Kings moving him.

    I’d move Ward over Brouwer. Brouwer is 5 years younger, plays a similar game and has proven that he can score at around 20 goals consistently. Ward played out of his mind last year and it’s hard to see him duplicate that.

    I’d also move Chimera, Johansson, Erskine and maybe Fehr for whatever I could get before the trade deadline. Dump Hillen and Volpatti into the AHL on waivers. That gets you to about $10-11mil in cap space going into next season. You’d have to assume Burkaovksy would be here next season (if not this one) which would leave you deciding on Mike Green and filling two/three roster spots.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Loved Little on my fantasy team for sure. 🙂

  • Shaun Phillips

    Wonder if Trotz will do 4F/1D on PP1 and 3F/2D on PP2? IMO, it makes the most sense to have your best offensive players on the ice for the PP, regardless of their position.

  • Connor

    You do have a strong argument they have without a doubt been the best team in hockey the past 3 years. BUT staying complacent while your core gets older and starts growing out of their prime (see GMGM) does not mean you are going to keep winning and contending for stanley cups. Mike Richards- 29, Dustin Brown- 29, Jeff Carter- 29, Justin Williams – 32. Sure they could contend next year, or the year after that. But when Richards, Carter, Brown, and WIlliams are all past prime in 3-4 years what are they going to do then? The trade value of these guys are high right now. If I were LA I would take the guy with the lowest value of the 3 (Mike Richards), who still has a pretty good value to him and get a darn good roster player, a prospect with upside, and a draft pick (Brouwer or Green, Carrick, and a pick) to continue to surround the other core guys who are just past their prime with young talent.

    Addressing who you want to move: I am with you on moving mojo and erskine. Mojo needs a fresh start, and big john is too old and expensive for us right up against the cap. I think the Sabres could use him as a fill in guy. Hillen and Volpatti are realtively cheap. I like Hillen staying as the defensive scratch. I could care less is Volpatti’s contract gets buried. Brouwer has more trade value than Ward being younger. Ward coming off the books next year allows for Laich to play 3RW and Latta to slide up to 3C. Chimera doesn’t have a ton of trade value being 35+, he is worth more too us and costs little.

    This is the way I have it. If current players are not on the roster its means they were either moved in Richards deal, or just moved for picks to open up cap space. (as Kuzya will need a new deal next year) I also added Carcillo to a 1million/2 year deal to add more to our 4th line.

    Mike Richards at 2C
    Andre Burakovsky
    Nicklas Backstrom
    Alex Ovechkin

    Evgeny Kuznetsov
    Mike Richards
    Tom Wilson

    Jason Chimera
    Brooks Laich
    Joel Ward

    Daniel Carcillo
    Jay Beagle
    Michael Latta

    Chris Brown

    Brooks Orpik
    John Carlson

    Matt Niskanen
    Mike Green

    Karl Alzner
    Dmitry Orlov

    Jack Hillen

    Braden Holtby

    Justin Peters

    Jeff Schultz ($0.000m)

    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
    (estimations for 2014-15)
    SALARY CAP: $69,000,000; CAP PAYROLL: $67,255,128; BONUSES: $2,371,667
    CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $1,744,872

  • Connor

    holly hell that didnt post how I thought it would

  • Troy

    But the Orpik/Green pairing would definitely allow Mike to rush the puck much more without the risk of giving up as much as before. I don’t know why they wouldn’t just leave Nisky with Orpik since they probably play much better together than trying to change the chemistry of every line (minus Carlzner.) I also think that, while not the best, Orpik is better than you are making him out to be and maybe he will help keep people’s asses out of our ‘tenders face. We finally have an intimidating D man that can at least skate better than Erskine & has the experience to help out the rest of the D corps. I guess I am just looking on the bright side (though I probably shouldn’t.)

  • Troy

    Handzus is a possible CHEAP option if an additional center is needed. I think he only took about 1 mil from the Hawks last year & if Trotz is going for more veteran/experience then Handzus wouldn’t be a terrible pick up if he takes 1 year? Or am I terribly wrong?
    I just think Kuzy is going to need more than just camps to improve his play at 2C, and the success window for this team’s current core is closing somewhat rapidly in my opinion although it could just be due to a poor supporting personnel problem. (maybe both, but lets not think about that?)

  • Connor

    You aren’t far off on Handzus. That could be a good option, but the problem is he would only be a short term replacement. We have had this 2C problem for years now. I think Kuzy is much better utilized on the wing where he can have some time and room to playmake. I think making him have to worry about take faceoffs and be more defensively responsible as a center will take away from some of his offensive skill. Another option if we can’t trade for a Richards or a Kadri, would be to trade for a guy like Martin Hanzal. Now Hanzal doesn’t have the flash of grabovski or the playmaking of mike ribero, but what he does is he DRIVES possession like no other. I think last season he had 15 goals and like 25 assists. Those numbers aren’t turning any heads but, he really does have great corsi numbers. And he is awesome on the pk. With the addition of Gagner and other C’s waiting in the wings, I think Arizona would be willing to part ways with him for like a Brouwer or Ward and a Mojo trade. In this scenario I would much rather give up Ward, but it might take Brouwer and Mojo.



  • Eric Schulz

    I’m not sold that he can skate better than Erskine. Also, I wasn’t aware that he and Niskanen were paired together last year. If that was the case, then having the top pair be Alzner – Carlson, and the other two just be Orlov – Green (offense) and Orpik – Niskanen (defense) makes sense. I don’t love pairing Orlov and Green together because of their lack of grit and physicality, but they really did work well together last year (relative to our team), and I think the biggest reason we need size and physicality on defense is for the penalty kill. We could use Alzner – Carlson on the 2nd pair on both the PP and PK, while Orlov – Green is the top PP d-pair and Orpik – Niskanen are the top PK pair… I’d buy that.

    I think that Niskanen is probably going to be better defensively than Orpik though (at least at even strength) despite not being as big; he’s better than Orpik while Green is better than Orlov, so those two pairs make sense as far as depth. If you pair Orlov and Green together then you have to worry about sheltering them a bit, although given what Niskanen and Orpik are making they should be up to handling the other part of the equation. Either way works for me; my idea works better as far as just giving you 3 good pairs, the other gives you more defined roles. The downside of that is that Niskanen doesn’t see much PP ice time my way, but I’m fine with that.

    As far as Orpik; it’s just hard to separate his contract from his addition. I would’ve had no problem with adding him for a year, even two. I think Wey might possibly be an upgrade on him this year, but certainly he should be next. Worse case scenario though, Wey is ready in three years; that means a two year contract for Orpik allows us to give Wey one or maybe two extra years in the AHL. Given that we want to contend, I don’t have a big problem with adding a veteran defender rather than relying on a prospect to step up, especially since we could still scratch Orpik and add Wey if he’s better (not refusing to do that would really annoy me however; if Wey proves to be better, not playing him to justify Orpik’s salary would just be two wrongs). Orpik would not have been my first choice, but I wouldn’t have had a problem with him for the 3rd pair. Given that we got Niskanen, that seems to be the plan. (Niskanen was overpaid AND got too many years, which also annoys me; it should’ve been one or the other. I’d’ve gone with too many years; having a little bit more cap room now when we need to contend with our core in their primes is worth overpaying some guys later – when it maybe makes it harder to compete for the playoffs because our core is too old and expensive – because contending now is worth it.) But to pay Orpik for that long just kills me; we actually have some very nice defenders in the system. In 3 years, even if we move Green (he’d be cheaper, so arguably worth keeping), had we not added Niskanen and Orpik, we could’ve rolled out:
    Alzner – Carlson
    Schmidt – Wey
    Carrick – Bowey
    right? I’d be shocked if Wey doesn’t become a top-4 defender in 2 to 3 years, and shocked if Bowey isn’t at least a super-5th… Schmidt should be a solid 2nd offensive defender (whether on the 2nd or 3rd pair, he’d be the 2nd PP QB), and Carrick should at least be an NHLer. Obviously adding one defender was necessary for the present, but the 2nd guy shouldn’t block those young guys from coming up; both additions getting 5+ years makes no sense.
    Then, you add in that instead of overpaying Niskanen and Orpik, we could’ve gotten a better package: Grabovski, Havlat, Robidas, Gilbert perhaps? Obviously Havlat probably took less anyway, but there were a number of guys out there that we could’ve gotten that could’ve meant improving the forward AND defense, rather than just the defense. I’d take Robidas and Gilbert over Niskanen and Orpik if it meant we also kept Grabovski; I’d think we’d have enough room to chase after a top-6 winger too, or at least a top-9 ‘tweener. Grabovski’s getting paid $5 M for 4 years ($20 M total); Havlat $1.5 M for 1 ($1.5 M total); Gilbert’s getting $2.8 M for 2 years ($5.6 M total); Robidas is getting $3 M for 3 years ($9 M total), vs Niskanen’s $5.75 M for 7 years ($40.25 M total) and Orpik’s $5.5 M for 5 years ($27.5 M total). That’s $12.3 M for four guys ($36.1 M total) vs $11.25 M four two guys ($67.75 M total). Wow. Shit, even if you had to overpay Havlat to get him to come, swap Robidas and Gilbert for one guy, Meszaros ($4.125 M for 1 year), whom I think is a great amalgamation of Niskanen’s talent and Orpik’s physicality (and while I like Robidas and Gilbert, neither of them obviously address the physicality we need; I think adding both would’ve been a great gamble given how good they are and how cheap, but adding Meszaros would be better and cheaper)… that means we could’ve been looking at:
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Fehr
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Havlat
    Laich – Johansson – Brouwer
    Chimera – Latta – Ward
    (we’re so good that Wilson goes to the AHL)
    Alzner – Carlson
    Meszaros – Green
    Orlov – Hillen/Erskine/Oleksy/Wey/Schmidt

    We’re paying Orpik more than Grabovski per year while also paying him longer. He’s a much, much worse player and older too. It doesn’t get much more obviously dumb than that. Niskanen vs Grabovski is at least something you can argue; we have young players at forward coming up who can maybe fill Grabovski’s void (especially since forwards typically develop faster), but Orpik is so obviously not as good of a player. Had we found a way to at the very least keep Grabovski while overpaying those two, then whatever… I don’t care if we overpay guys unless or until it prevents us from improving the team. I’ve defended Laich’s contract numerous times, arguing that he hasn’t hampered our ability to add players; well, Orpik’s contract murdered us in that regard, especially when paired with Niskanen’s. At least Ovechkin is clearly worth getting paid like one of the best; same with Backstrom, same with Green (before his injuries). Even Niskanen is arguable; Orpik isn’t. I really don’t hate adding him, but man it’s hard to like that move; I would’ve wanted him for $2 M for 1 year, and I would’ve found something like 2 years at $2.5 M per to at least be acceptable. Look at what I’d accept vs what we actually paid him; that’s such a mind-blowing difference.

  • Eric Schulz

    Long reply, sorry (I need more friends who care about hockey).
    To sum up: I think Niskanen is better than Orpik and that pairing him with Green is a better fit; just ask Niskanen to play the stay-at-home role. Niskanen can still rush, he just needs to realize that Green is better at it and that his primary role is to complement Green.
    Also, Orlov being younger, it would make sense to give him Orpik as his partner since Orpik isn’t going to stray far from the defensive zone. Niskanen and Green will gamble more but have the skill (and experience) to recover, at least moreso than Orlov and Orpik.