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: @kuzy092

We’re still 7 weeks away from training camp, but two important Washington Capitals players have already made it back to the district: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov.

(A whole month early for training?! What a bunch of lazy, unreliable Russians! Am I doing this right?)

We were tipped off to the players’ movements when Kuznetsov posted a selfie with his wife on Instagram shortly after boarding a plane at 2AM on Thursday. His caption was, “✈️✈️✈️ DC,” which means either that he had two connecting flights or — like me — he realizes that emoticons are effective only if you repeat them a lot.

Eight hours later, Orlov posted a photo posing with his girlfriend at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in D.C. I cannot tell if his broken left arm is healed or out of the cast yet.

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On Monday, Maria Kirilenko announced through R-Sport that she and Alex Ovechkin were dunzo. “There are a lot of reasons, but I wouldn’t want to go in detail,” Kirilenko said, as translated by Fedor Fedin. “I’ll say just that our relationship is over, but I respect Sasha as a person and an athlete and sincerely wish him athletic success in the future.”

Without sharing those details, the gossip hounds turned to speculation.

Case in point: Ovechkin, who is currently vacationing on a French beach, posed in photos that got published on the internet. One person in those photos was gymnast Karolina Sevastyanova. Sevastyanova was scrutinized in particular for a) being a woman, and b) being near Alex in those photos.

R-Sport, who first broke the break-up news (say that three times fast), later published a nonsensical story, which later got translated by Sport Illustrated’s Allan Muir. That article, entitled Alex Ovechkin dumped by Maria Kirilenko over Instagram photo, was shared widely across social media. Despite the fact that Kirilenko and Ovechkin hadn’t been seen together in weeks, the article made it seem as if the pictures were the scandal that split the couple up.

On Tuesday, Kirilenko shot back in an interview with Sovetsky Sport’s Nikolay Mysin, calling those reports “laughable.” “I made my decision to break up the engagement long before these pictures appeared on the social networks,” Kirilenko said, as translated by RMNB’s Igor Kleyner.

Kirilenko added, “it is not a secret for anybody that Sasha has certain habits and particulars of behavior that I did not consider worth tolerating anymore.”

Her full comments are below.

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Photo: @BrooksLaich

You’re bummed right now. I get it. Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko have broken up, Weezer is making new music (their new single is terrible), and the second Hercules movie of the year is about to drop and it’s got The Rock in a wig. It’s a bad time to be a human. Heavy Ovi thoughts tonight.

But there is some happy news on the romance beat. Brooks Laich used the L word in a happy birthday tweet to girlfriend Julianne Hough.

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Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko are engaged

Ovechkin and Kirilenko after they got engaged. (Photo: @Ovi8)

This morning, R-Sport announced that Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko have parted ways and ended their engagement. Kirilenko gave an official statement and retweeted R-Sport’s article on Twitter around 10:30 AM.

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There were probably folks who had their hearts set on Alex Ovechkin winning a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Award. I don’t know any of those people, but they probably exist. Probably in Fairfax County. Anyway, those people are all heartbroken right now. Ovechkin has lost the award for Sickest Moves (no, seriously) to soccer star Alex Morgan.

This is okay. Everybody breathe.

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CSN Washington Thinks You’re a World-Traveling Sex Fiend

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The Capitals page of CSN Washington’s site has some funny ideas about what’s trending among fans on social media. The “Capitals Pulse” widget scans for popular tags and topics on Twitter. You can see dev camp stud Jakub Vrana getting a lot of mentions because of his new contract. Alex Ovechkin’s up there too because he’s freaking Ovi.

And then, at right, the widget has picked out YOUR active hashtags.

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Welp.

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Photo: Jeff Zelevansky

On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Capitals announced the signing of 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana to a three-year, entry-level contract. The (adorbs) 18-year-old impressed in Development Camp, showing off exceptional speed, hands, and vision. He authored a nifty shootout goal that got national attention.

The signing does not mean much. Vrana is likely to be loaned back to Linkoping of the SHL for 2014-15 season unless something unexpected happens. The Czech winger was not selected during the CHL Import Draft held earlier in the month, so coming to North America for junior hockey seems unlikely– though he is eligible to play with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. In an interview with RMNB, Vrana seemed unsure if he’d attend Caps training camp during the fall. He is signed to a multi-year deal with Linkoping and the SHL season begins in early September.

Were he to play in the NHL, Vrana would make $832,500 per year. With Hershey Vrana would earn $70,000.

As we learned with fellow prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov however, just getting pen to paper can be an accomplishment worth pursuing. So someone give me a high-five and let’s party.

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Caps Re-sign RFA Nate Schmidt to Two-Way Deal

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One of last season’s brightest surprises on defense, Nate Schmidt, has re-signed with the Washington Capitals on a one-year, two-way deal. Mike Vogel reports that Schmidt will make $625,000 at the NHL level and $110,000 in the AHL.

The goofy-grinned, soon-to-be 23-year-old was probably best among all the fresh faces on the blue line. Spending nearly half of his time with Mike Green, Schmidt put up a positive possession score of 50.6%, a rarity amongst Caps defenseman last season. He has a big shot, a good first pass, and a great attitude.

With the signings of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, Schmidt will likely be relegated to Hershey– barring injury or something unexpected during training camp. Schmidt is a key part of the Caps’ blue-line depth and should receive the big minutes in Hershey that he needs– including on the power play and penalty kill– to continue his development.

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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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