Photo: StudentSport.ru

Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin continues to prepare for the season. After training at an undisclosed facility in (or near) Moscow last week, The Great Eight joined a Russian collegiate ice hockey team out on the Zvezda Ice Hall ice Monday in Moscow. Yes, instead of skating with KHL players, Ovechkin is now training with a bunch of future pilots at the Moscow Aviation Institute.

According to StudentSport.ru, Ovechkin liked the practice: “The level was good and there were enough selfies for everybody.”

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Alex Ovechkin Involved in Minor Car Accident in Russia

Photo: Super.ru

On Monday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin got in a minor car accident in Moscow’s northwestern suburb of Novogorsk, where Dynamo Moscow’s and Team Russia’s training facilities are located.

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Photo: Tim Stough / Sweetest Hockey On Earth

The Washington Capitals have signed 2014 third-round pick Nathan Walker to a three-year entry-level contract. The 20-year-old becomes the first-ever Australian national to sign with an NHL team. Crikey!

Walker made his preseason debut with the Caps last season, playing as an unrestricted free agent on a tryout contract. He was one of the more impressive players during camp, showing off his speed, tenacious forechecking, and skill. His through-the-legs pass to Tom Wilson for a goal appeared on SportsCenter last September.

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Photo: Doug Pensinger

After spending most of 2013-14 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Capitals’ center prospect Michael Latta is now poised to gain a full-time roster spot in Washington next season. Acquired at the 2013 trade deadline in the infamous Forsberg-Erat trade, Latta had one goal and four points in 17 NHL games last season but left a good impression, winning 52.2% of his face-offs and playing an effective, physical game on the fourth line. Latta was one of the team’s best players at drawing penalties, leading the team in penalty differential.

After signing a two-year contract on July 1st, Latta is practically guaranteed a roster spot in the NHL next season.

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According to CapGeek and Renaud Lavoie, the Caps have signed second-round pick Vitek Vanecek to a three-year entry-level contract. Vanecek will carry a $775,833 cap hit.

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The Interesting Case of Vladimir Sobotka

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St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka has signed a three-year contract with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. It’s been reported by iSport.cz and translated to Russian by Sports.ru that Sobotka has a clause in his contract that would allow him to return to the NHL during any offseason. Reports of his salary have varied: the initial report by iSport had Sobotka’s salary at $4 million per year. Andy Strickland of CBS Sports Radio St. Louis tweeted that according to his sources Sobotka will be making $4.3 million average throughout the life of the deal. Sobotka’s agent Darryl Wolski tweeted that his client will be making just $2.8 million per year.

There’s even more confusion as to whether he could return to St. Louis or any other NHL team.

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Photo: EQ Images

The Washington Capitals invited free agent defenseman Eliot Antonietti to Development Camp, which began on Monday. Standing six-foot-six and weighing 236 pounds, Antonietti is an undrafted defenseman who just happens to be humangas bigDespite his young age (he’s just 21), he already has professional experience having played 108 games in the Swiss top pro league, the NLA, one of the best leagues in Europe.

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The Washington Capitals have addressed their defensive woes in the worst way possible, signing former Penguin Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5-million disaster of a deal.

Orpik, 33, has never played a full NHL season. He was a defensive defenseman in Pittsburgh, logging over 20 minutes a night. He has been outshot his whole career and hasn’t posted a positive relative possession score.

In Washington, he will likely will be used as a second pairing defenseman.

Let’s review Orpik’s career and his new contract:

  • Orpik played at the 2014 Olympics, maybe because the coach was Dan Bylsma.
  • Orpik concussed Loui Eriksson with a hit he was not suspended for.
  • Orpik has been on a steady offensive decline for years. It probably would have been more noticeable had he not played with two of the best players in the world.
  • Orpik will be 38 at the end of this contract.
  • Orpik is known as a poor skater and his contract with the Caps almost takes him over the hill.
  • Orpik will command Washington’s fourth highest cap hit next season.
  • Orpik’s salary is higher than anyone’s in this FA class (as of right now) except for Paul Stastny and Ryan Miller.

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Christian Ehrhoff’s buyout makes him the best defenseman available. (Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Caps didn’t acquire any NHL players at the draft, so they now look to fill empty roster spots in free agency, which begins at noon.

The team’s primary need is a top-four defenseman who can play with Karl Alzner, Mike Green, and John Carlson. Dmitry Orlov did an okay job at that role last season, but the Caps may want to see a more seasoned player there, especially if playing away from Mike Green might mean Orlov could better utilize his offensive tools.

Here’s my take on four options for defense on the open market.

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Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana slid during their draft years but got selected in the first round by the Caps (Photos: Getty Images)

Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana have a lot in common. Both are high-octane offensive wingers who made names for themselves by putting the puck in the net. And both were drafted out of Sweden after impressive showings at the U18 World Championships.

But they have one more thing in common: both saw their stock drop significantly during their draft years after struggling to adapt to the professional game in Sweden.

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