RMNB’s Guide To Free Agency

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.

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2011-12 Year-End Review: Slapshot


Photo credit: Mark Gail

Capitals mascot Slapshot delivered the goods again this year, skating the flag onto the ice every home game without ever once tripping (which is more than Dennis Wideman or Alex Semin can say). He defied Capitals tradition by not folding under the pressure, and he did it all while wearing a 20-pound mascot head. What a pro.

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2011-12 Year-End Review: John Erskine

Rob Carr

Photo credit: Rob Carr

What can we say about John Erskine, the forgotten man?

Sometimes bad seasons happen to good people. There, you have learned the meaning of life from hockey. Erskine took a step backwards in terms of development and role on the team, but we are rooting for him, because the Caps just wouldn’t be the same without that gap-toothed grin.

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2011-12 Year-End Review: Joel Rechlicz


Photo credit: Kyle Mace at Sweetest Hockey on Earth

There are some players who didn’t get a chance to make an impact on the ice with the Caps this year, whether through limited opportunity, injury, or otherwise. That isn’t going to stop us from giving them a disproportionate amount of words, though, because we do what we want.

Joel Rechlicz only played three games with the Capitals this year, but he brought his larger-than-life presence with him, got us talking about his wooden sticks and his ambidextrous punching, and about the changing role of the pure enforcer in the NHL. We are a bit disappointed that we never got to see him fight, but it’s good to know that he is there should the need for violence ever arise.

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Alex Ovechkin Happy With Hire Of Adam Oates

Photo credit: AP

Alex Ovechkin never complained about the locked-down, grinding system that the Capitals played while Dale Hunter coached the team. Despite his decreased role and the emphasis on defense, Ovechkin often stated that he understood that it was about the team, and that he would accept whatever role he was given. Hunter appeared to leave town on good terms with the Russian star.

Now that a new coach has finally been hired though, Ovi is finally speaking up about the style he likes to play. 

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2011-12 Year-End Review: Joe B and Locker

Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin pose with their Rookie Cards

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Not all of the people iconic to Caps hockey are the players on the ice. Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin are a part of the experience all year, holding our hands through nail-biting overtime games, hugging us after crushing defeats.

You know, metaphorically.

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GMGM’s finger-circles: an apt metaphor for his negotiations with Ray Shero.

Jordan Staal maniacally laughing.

Since the offseason began, it has been a well-circulated rumor that Penguins center Jordan Staal wanted to leave Pittsburgh to play with his older brother Eric in Carolina. When he turned down an offer of a ten-year deal from the Penguins, that rumor seemed all but confirmed.

It wasn’t much of a surprise then, when Gary Bettman stepped up to the podium at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and announced that Staal had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round pick, Brandon Sutter, and prospect Brian Dumoulin. Jordan got his wish (to be on a team which someday may only consist of Staal brothers), and apparently nowhere else was even an option.

This was disappointing news to George McPhee, who identified acquiring a respectable second-line center as a major goal this offseason. Despite landing veteran center Mike Ribeiro from Dallas a half an hour before the draft on Friday, McPhee was sarcastic and abnormally expressive (hand motions, stomping) when asked by the media if he had a conversation with Penguins GM Ray Shero about making a deal to bring Jordan Staal to DC.

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Caps draft pick Thomas DiPauli.(Photo credit: Dave Sanford)

After trading their second round pick and Cody Eakin to the Dallas Stars in exchange for center Mike Riberio, Washington did not move any of their other ten picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In the first round, they acquired talented winger Filip Forsberg and rough-and-tumble power forward Tom Wilson; through the next six rounds, they would go on to acquire four US players, a Canadian player, a Swedish player, and a Russian.

Notably, the Caps selected three players from the U.S. developmental team, and one player recently of the U.S. developmental team. “I asked [the scouts] ‘What are we doing here?” said McPhee about this trend. “Are we drafting the whole team?'”

“We made a lot of picks today,” McPhee said of the second day overall. “I don’t know those kids very well. [...] It’s nice to sort of restock this year, and we’ll see how they are in a couple of years.”

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

With the 16th selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected Tom Wilson of the Plymouth Whalers. Wilson is a right winger and projects to be a rugged power forward who hits hard and plays rough. Wilson is 6’4 and more physically developed than most players of his age, and is an excellent open-ice checker, winning the OHL award for best body checker last year. The Capitals will select next in the third round.

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

With the 11th selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected Filip Forsberg of the Leksands IF in the Swedish ice hockey league Allsvenskan. Forsberg is a winger and projects to be an outstanding offensive player. He was rated the top European skater and had been projected to go 3rd overall. In three years with Leksands, Forsberg has scored 30 goals and notched 58 points, as well as being a dominant player in this year’s World Juniors tournament.  The Capitals will now select again at pick #16.

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