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: Bruce Bennett

Washington Capitals goaltender and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby rocked a stunning John Varvatos number to the 2016 NHL Awards on Wednesday, noting that he enjoyed the “rock and roll” motif of his new suit. Caps video coach Brett Leonhardt appeared wearing socks with Barry Trotz‘s face on them to go along with a fancy tuxedo. When Trotz, who won the Jack Adams, appeared on the red carpet, he was also wearing new attire, ditching his usual black for a fresh blue suit with narrow pinstripes.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt (he’s tall) has lived an eventful hockey life. Originally a producer and videographer for the Capitals’ website — and occasional Verizon Center DJ — he became known throughout the hockey world when he served as an emergency goaltender for a game in December 2008.

After Jose Theodore injured himself during a pregame skate, Stretch signed an amateur tryout agreement before the Caps faced the Ottawa Senators. Leonhardt later left DC for a job in the NHL’s war room in Toronto before coming back as Washington’s video coach in 2012. In 2013, Leonhardt, a former junior hockey and NCAA Division III goaltender, once again served as a backup, preforming his usual video editing duties during the intermissions.

Now, he’s added a notch in his storied career: wearer of absurd Barry Trotz themed socks.

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Ovechkin poses with the Rocket Richard Trophy, which he won again this year, at the 2014 NHL Awards. (Photo: Harry How)

The Washington Capitals had a domineering regular season in 2015-16, running away with the Presidents’ Trophy by 11 points. On Wednesday evening in Las Vegas, their personal feats from this past season will be honored. Well… most of them.

One Caps player already has hardware locked up: Alex Ovechkin, who won the Richard Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer. It was his third straight 50-goal season. But there will be no crazy blue suits on the red carpet this year. Ovechkin will not be in Las Vegas to claim his prize.

“Alex will not be attending the Awards this year,” a Capitals spokesperson said in an email to RMNB, declining to elaborate further. A spokesperson for the NHL also confirmed Ovechkin’s absence.

Ovechkin is also a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award for the work he did for the American Special Hockey Association. Let’s assume he’s not going to win that one, lest the Awards become even more awkward.

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Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt has done many amazing things in his life. He made the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team in college and was named an All-WCHA First-Team All-Star in 2012-13.

Schmidt fulfilled a lifelong dream in making the NHL, playing his first career game on October 12, 2013. Schmidt has scored a NHL goal and played in the postseason. With his high-profile gig, Schmidt even got a free Tempurpedic pillow just for being him.

But on May 11, the highlight of Nate Schmidt’s life happened. Jimmy Fallon made fun of him on The Tonight Show.

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After finishing the regular season as the NHL’s best team, the Washington Capitals fell short of their ultimate goal, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games during the semi-finals. Captain Alex Ovechkin hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs during his entire 11-season career, but despite some national media reports, this season’s early exit was not Ovechkin’s fault.

Ovechkin, along with John Carlson, led the team in points (12) this postseason. Ovechkin finished second to TJ Oshie in goals with five. During breakdown day Thursday, Ovechkin admitted to struggling through the regular season with a nagging injury.

“It was my back, lower back,” Ovechkin said. “Right now it’s gone. The trainers did a great job to keep me safe and healthy.”

This weekend, we also learned of something else Ovechkin was dealing with privately. According to a Russian TV program, two days before the playoffs began Alex Ovechkin’s father Mikhail suffered a heart attack, which caused the family to call for an ambulance.

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Photo: @CapsYapp

Ahead of Game Two, one bold Caps fan brought a fluorescent pink sign to Verizon Center. Written haphazardly in marker and in all-caps, the message read “SHUT UP PIERRE.” The fan held this sign near NBC commentator Pierre McGuire during warm-ups. It was a hit online.

And apparently it has started a revolution.

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Sunday night, Caps owner Ted Leonsis was in the U Street Corridor and posted a landscape of the 9:30 Club. The concert hall’s iconic broadcast antenna (from its days as WUST-AM 1120) was lit up in red and white colors. “Red rocking around DC,” Leonsis captioned the photo.

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Photo: @designo_motoring

Covering practices and morning skates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex is always an adventure. You want to provide your readers with good coverage, but you also want to make it out of there within three hours so you only have to pay a dollar to park.

Today, I made it by just a few minutes. As I was entering the on ramp to Route 66 West, there was a discreet vehicle in front of me. It was a white Mercedes S65 AMG with vanity plates. Everyone knows that car belongs to Alex Ovechkin.

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