Photo: Chris Gordon

Sergei Fedorov left the Capitals in 2009, leaving a hole in the middle of the second line that the team hasn’t been able to keep filled since. There’s been Brendan Morrison and Eric Belanger and Jason Arnott and Mike Ribeiro, but no player has stuck at 2C for any length of time.

Looking at his options on Friday’s free agency frenzy, general manager George McPhee saw nothing to fill that hole. “We didn’t think it was a great class of players,” McPhee told the press after development camp practice on Monday afternoon. McPhee admitted he had a few discussions, but said that contract term was a frequent deal-breaker. “Salary you can compete with,” McPhee said, “but when people get into term that’s too long, you can ultimately hurt your competitiveness down the road.” That’s certainly in line with owner Ted Leonsis’ edict regarding signing veterans.

And so the club looked inward to fill its abscess at 2C. A nation’s capital turns its lonely eyes to Brooks Laich.

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Red’s definitely his color. (Photo credit: Harry How)

Back on January 6, 2011, Team Russia made the biggest comeback in World Junior Championship history, scoring five unanswered third period goals against Canada to win the gold medal. Then-18-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov centered the team’s first line and led the charge, assisting on three of the team’s goals.

Kuznetsov’s assist on Vladimir Tarasenko’s game-tying goal made him a hero in Russia and known to hockey fans worldwide. The play was was a perfect example of how he might play center in the NHL. Kuznetsov back-checked a Canadian player and stole the puck. After some diligent forechecking, he found Vladimir Tarasenko in the slot with an uncanny no-look pass.

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The Washington Capitals have announced that Czech defenseman Tomas Kundratek has signed a two-year contract worth $1.1 million. Kundratek played 49 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears last season, scoring 16 goals and tallying 31 points. His surprising breakthrough resulted in an extended look in the NHL, where Kundratek played in 25 games, netting one goal and seven points.

This new deal with the 23-year-old blueliner is another example of George McPhee’s crafty management.

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Say sayonara to the swag. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Renaud Lavoie of RDS broke the news Sunday night that the Capitals will allow Mike Ribeiro to go to the open market on July 5. No deal will be struck with DC’s second line center, and that’s a smart move by the Capitals front office. Not as smart as trading his rights away — like they did with Semyon Varlamov, a trade for a pick that eventually turned into Martin Erat— but it’s still pretty nice.

Not everyone will agree with that. A big chunk of RMNB readers have been clamoring for a new deal for Ribeiro ever since the trade deadline, and Yahoo Sports’ Harrison Mooney’s takeaway from Chuck Gormley’s profile of possible replacements was that Capitals really should have re-signed him. But to keep Ribeiro in Washington would have been to violate one of Ted Leonsis’ own rules for smart management:

“Signing long-term, expensive deals for vets is very risky.”

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vinny

Photo credit: Eliot J. Schechte

Ian and I don’t feel particularly strong about the idea of signing compliance-buyout victim Vincent Lecavalier to the Capitals, but some of you guys apparently do. RMNB is a community, not just a few dudes shouting their opinions at you, so we’re turning the site over to you to make the case why Tampa Bay’s veteran center should come to DC.

For the record, Tampa GM Stevie Y bought out Lecavalier’s $7.7M per year contract, which had 7 more years on it. Vinny is 33 years old, a captain, a former Cup-winner, and a reliable .5 goal per game scorer. Pierre LeBrun reported that Lecavalier met with representatives from the Capitals on Saturday.

Many of you tied your argument for Lecavalier to the assumption that Mike Ribeiro will not be back next season. Some made the point that re-signing Ribeiro is a priority as well, and while I strongly disagree with that, we’ll talk more about that later. For now, the site is yours.

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The Washington Capitals have been reluctant to move their first round picks in recent years. Sometimes they’ve entered the draft with more than one first round pick: last year and 2004, when the Caps had three: Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz, and Mike Green. In most cases, holding on to those picks is the smart move – 80% of players picked in the first round between 2000 and 2011 have played at least one NHL game. For comparison’s sake, only 49% of the second round picks ever suit up in the NHL. The only time the Caps haven’t had a first round pick recently was in 2011, when they traded away the 26th pick to cap-saddled Chicago in exchange for Troy Brouwer.

“We didn’t like where the [2011 Draft] was going and we had an opportunity to use our pick to get Brouwer, and it turned out to be a heck of a move for us,” Capitals GM George McPhee said Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “He’s a guy we all liked.” He also added that the trade was an example of a “good working relationship” between the team’s pro and amateur scouts.

This year, it might be smart for the Capitals to trade away the 23rd pick.

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bylsma-boudreau

Let’s play a game. I’ll quote from an article, and you tell me if the author is talking about the 2011 Caps or the 2013 Penguins.

For the second straight postseason, [Coach] let the reins slip on his team. In both series, he fumbled and bumbled and finally grabbed them again, only it was too late to guide the wagon train away from the cliff’s edge.

That in consecutive playoff eliminations, the [team] haven’t just lost, they’ve come unhinged.

Guesses?

That’s Greg Wyshynski, the Puck Daddy himself, writing last week about Dan Byslma’s recent struggles, but he might as well have been talking about Bruce Boudreau after the Caps’ 2011 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a second round sweep.

Bylsma’s contract would have been up after the 2014 season, so action by GM Ray Shero seemed necessary before the season began. Shero extended Byslma, a move that the Pensblog said makes “unlimited sense.” As they put it before the signing, “If the Pens don’t extend Bylsma, firing him will be all anyone talks about next season.”

Now that Ray Shero has re-upped Bylsma and voiced unwavering support for his embattled coach, we might expect smooth sailing for the Penguins from here on out. But to do that, we’d have to ignore all the eerie similarities between Bylsma and Boudreau– and the not-too-distant memory of what happened to Bruce just a few months after his own GM endorsed him.

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RMNB Stanley Cup Finals Predictions: Peter vs Ian

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Oh, is this still happening? Is hockey still a thing? I was too busy having barbecues and drinking Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter and wearing flip-flops and liberally smearing SPF 250 all over myself to notice. Who even made the finals? It was the Pens and the Kings, right?

Ahh, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. The #2 and #4 best possession teams in the league. The regular-season dominating Hawks and some jackholes from a city we’d normally be allowed to call a cesspit but some ultra-jackholes spoiled that, so now we have to pretend to be nice. Yay for Boston. Their accents are endearing, and Ben Affleck totally didn’t ham up Daredevil.

Now we dance. One last time, Ian and I will offer our predictions for the winner of the Stanley Cup. The winner will bask in infinite glory until the dawn of the Second Age. The loser will have to eat 100 pennies.

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Hide yo kids, hide yo wife

Looks that matter: Hetfield ’91

Wut. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel)

Jaromir Jagr is a lot of things: a future hall of famer, a late-night gym rat, and a mullet connoisseur. He’s also a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and at 41, he’s about to make what may be his final run for a cup.

It’s a great story, but Jagr now looks poised to repeat his disappointing performance in Washington–  once again lacking the mental fortitude to persevere in the face of adversity. Yeah. Jagr totally quit on his playoff beard.

As Jagr spoke to media on Tuesday, he showed off his new facial hair. I will to describe it to you, so don’t be alarmed or upset. Small children may want to skip this article.

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How to Block Bleacher Report From Google Search

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Bleacher Report is a bad website. I won’t go into detail here, but I’ve got a quick smattering of their article titles that should make the case for me:

  • 10 Reasons Alex Ovechkin Would Be Better off Staying in Russia
  • 3 Reasons the Washington Capitals Should Cut Ties with Alexander Ovechkin
  • Alex Ovechkin: 6 Reasons Why It’s Time for Washington Capitals to Trade Him

Bleacher Report offends me on a hockey-smarts level and on a journalistic level. (On a shameless evil-SEO-wizard-level, I am awed and humbled.)

Google used to have a great in-line option that I used to block Bleacher Report from my search results. It was how I kept my sanity. It’s gone now. (Not my sanity, the in-line block option.) So if you wanna banish Bleacher Report from your results, you’re gonna have to follow these instructions.

Don’t worry; it’s easy. You’ll be glad you did it.

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