brad-malone

Photo: Harry How

On Saturday night, the Capitals made what could be their final unrestricted free agent signing of the summer, inking center Brad Malone to a one-year, two-way contract. Malone, who dropped the gloves 9 times in 57 games last season for lowly Carolina, is likely to spend the entire season in Hershey.

Malone does have some fascinating history with two current Caps. During the 2007-08 season, Malone played with Taylor Chorney and TJ Oshie on the University of North Dakota.

Brian MacLellan also inked three other AHL players on Friday, the first day of free agency, including goaltender Joe Cannata (who will serve as the team’s starter ahead of Vitek Vanecek), defenseman Darren Dietz, and forward Christian Thomas (a lifting buddy of Brett Connolly and Tom Wilson’s).

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brett-connolly

Photo: Kirk Irwin

After former bottom six players Jason Chimera signed with the New York Islanders and Michael Latta signed with the Los Angeles Kings, the Capitals made their first significant move of the day, signing 24-year-old Brett Connolly to a one-year, $850k deal.

The news was first reported by TSN’s Gord Miller.

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Believe it or not, 37-year-old forward Jason Chimera was one of the most popular players on the first day of free agency. According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, 17 NHL teams had expressed interest in the Ice Cheetah.

32 minutes after free agency started, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman announced that Chimera had signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the New York Islanders, earning a $250k raise from last season.

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Photos From the 2016 Caps Alumni Game

capitals-alumni-game-2016

Photo: Washington Capitals

On Wednesday night, some of the best players in Capitals history (and Alan May) participated in the 2016 Caps Alumni Game to conclude Fanfest. Capitals greats Olie Kolzig, Denis Maruk, and Craig Laughlin joined fan favorites like Kevin Kaminski, and Matt Bradley, and Brent Johnson for a spirited game in front of a mostly full Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Former YoungStars Game MVP Brian Sutherby won the exhibition for Team White in a shootout.

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michael-latta

Photo: Patrick McDermott

On Monday afternoon, checking-line forward Michael Latta was not tendered a qualifying offer, ending his tenure in Washington. Lats will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

“We struggled with that one,” Barry Trotz said to Elliot in the Morning the next day. “He’s been a really good soldier for us. We felt with where the game is going, in terms of our team, with four centermen, Lats is best playing in the middle and right now we don’t really have a place for him. And plus we have a couple centerman, Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson, who have really stepped up from the minors. Their skill sets are a little different. They’re more about speed and skill. And Lats is more about the physicality and the grind.”

“We wanted to give him an opportunity somewhere else,” Trotz continued. “Lats has been exceptional as a teammate. A lot of his teammates are sorry to see him leave. But I’m hoping the best for Lats. He’s a terrific guy. He’s a guy’s guy and a great teammate.”

On Tuesday night, I spoke to Latta and he opened up about the team’s decision to not bring him back. He also discussed his time in Washington – a time he will remember fondly – and also spoke seriously about his close friendship with Tom Wilson.

He also had some very sweet words for Caps fans.

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On Tuesday night, a day after news broke that Michael Latta would not receive a qualifying offer from the Washington Capitals, I had a lengthy interview with the forward, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Latta told me that he was caught off guard by the team’s decision to non-tender him, but had nothing but good things to say about his teammates and his time in Washington.

“I was getting texts from everyone,” Latta said when the news dropped. “I wasn’t replying right away to [Tom], so he double, triple, quadruple texted me.”

“I think that’s one of the best things about hockey, the relationships you build,” Latta continued. “Tom and I obviously have become very close and will probably be one of my best friends forever. I’ll take a lot of good things from Washington, like the friendships I’ve built.”

Latta, who according to Hockey Fights has dropped the gloves 106 times in his professional career, will now look for a new team. He’s hoping to find a spot where he can bring energy every night and penalty kill. Depending on where he ends up, Latta could find himself playing against his former Caps teammates next year. It may get very awkward for fans.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

Capitals 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov made his Development Camp debut Tuesday after staying in Russia last summer to train for the upcoming KHL season. The 19-year-old goalie prospect is coming off his best season as a pro. Samsonov officially graduated from the MHL (the KHL’s developmental league) and played in 19 regular season games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, registering a 2.04 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Metallurg would go on to win the Gargarin Cup as league champions. Samsonov played in six playoff games.

Despite being ranked the third best goaltending prospect by InGoal Magazine, Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn believes the Russian netminder still has much to learn.

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andre-burakovsky-boxing-tough

Photo: @andreburakovsky

In February, I spoke to soon-to-be-former Capital Michael Latta and we chatted about his one-time roommate, Andre Burakovsky.

“He’s a little shy,” Latta said. “He’s a shy, cute, little guy.” Latta then went on to explain how the Burracuda was afraid to swim with the dolphins in the Bahamas.

That may explain Latta’s reaction Tuesday afternoon to a photo Burakovsky posted on Instagram. While holding up his dukes, Burakovsky, a veteran of 0 NHL fights, posed in front of a punching bag, looking tough.

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john-druce-courtney-druce

Photo: Peterborough Examiner

For most Capitals fans, the end of April was a joyous time. The Caps had just beaten the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and looked poised to do the same to the Pittsburgh Penguins in round two.

Lost in the shuffle of the Caps playoff run however, was the news of a deeply difficult time for one of the organization’s most prolific playoff performers: John Druce. Druce’s daughter Courtney died on April 27 in hospice care, eight days shy of her 28th birthday, after her fifth bout with cancer. First diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 15, Courtney courageously fought the disease for 12 years.

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“It’s been fun, see you never,” Michael Latta tweeted to Andre Burakovsky in September.

After feeling “older and more mature,” the Burracuda moved into his own apartment, leaving the original Caps’ roomies, Latta and Tom Wilson, a brobean short.

Fast-forward to today and things have become harrowing. Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan non-tendered Latta, a restricted free agent, while tendering Wilson — metaphorically evicting Latta from the team. Talk about awkward. Latta will be free to sign with another team on July 1, breaking the lease between the Caps Roomies for good (at least physically in Arlington). Latta said his goodbyes this evening.

Wilson responded.

During difficult times like these, we must openly weep, become irrational, and eat buckets of Häagen-Dazs. And also: remember the good times!

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