ovi-judge-miss-moscow

Photo: ITAR-TASS

On Thursday night, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin returned to the spotlight for the first time since he accepted his fourth Rocket Richard Trophy in Las Vegas. The re-emergence was for good reason.

Ovechkin was the head judge of Miss Moscow 2014. (Hall of famer Pavel Bure was on the panel too.)

“In my opinion everything went very well, very lovely,” Ovechkin said to TV reporter Ivan Obydenkov. “For us, the judges on the panel, it was one hundred percent clear who the winner was.”

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The Orpikalypse Test

orpik

I’m starting to get the feeling not everyone agrees about the Brooks Orpik signing. The ex-Penguin defender brings experience and grit to a blue line that lacked both, and for some that makes him a good acquisition. For others, he’s an aging, struggling player on a too-long and too-expensive contract. I count myself among that campI think Neil Greenberg at WaPo did a good job summarizing that position.

Still, there’s always a chance I’m wrong. I’ve certainly been wrong before. I was wrong about the decline of Marcus Johansson. I was wrong about the viability of the Chimera-Ward pairing. I was wrong about the Capitals’ playoff chances in 2013. I could be wrong about Orpik. Like any rational person, I reserve the right to change my mind when more information is presented.

Maybe this is a good opportunity to set terms. What would make for a successful tenure for Brooks Orpik in Washington? I’ve got a proposal for you.

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Let’s Get Olie Kolzig 10,000 Twitter Followers

Ian Oland, age 17.

A lot of people hate RMNB right now, and I don’t blame you one bit. I’m stupid, we’re all unprofessional, and our opinions are nerdy and statistical. So how about we stop talking about free agency for a minute and concentrate on something that’s actually important: getting Olie Kolzig 10,000 followers on Twitter.

Last week, Kolzig logged into to the social media site for the first time in two years to promote his new Instagram account and his new website. And early returns indicate that he is a huuuuuuuuuuge fan of hashtags now.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Mikhail Grabovski is now a former Capital. Wednesday afternoon, Grabo signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Metropolitan rival New York Islanders. The talented center will be on Long Island until he’s 34.

Grabo’s deal is one year shorter and worth $7.5 million less than the contract Brooks Orpik signed with the Caps. I can’t wait to see how well that works out.

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wilson-injury

On Wednesday afternoon Mike Vogel of the Washington Capitals announced that second-year forward Tom Wilson suffered an ankle injury in Ontario. Wilson may miss training camp and the beginning of the regular season, which would be a huge loss on top of Dmitry Orlov’s broken wrist.

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orpik-ovechkin

The Washington Capitals were aggressive on the first day of free agency, adding three players to their roster: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Justin Peters. Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog that the Caps “added offense, versatility, and experience in Niskanen and signed a shutdown D-man in Orpik.”

He also added, “priority No. 1 was to upgrade our defense, and we made significant strides today.”

I agree. The Capitals will dress better defenders next season. The team’s defense in 2013-14 lacked a true top pairing and the third pairing hemorrhaged shots on net all year, no matter who was put on the ice. The Caps were either going to have to be aggressive via trades or free agency, or they’d have to wait a few seasons for prospects to mature (Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey, and Connor Carrick).

Caps GM Brian MacLellan decided to go the UFA route. Despite spending a ton of cash (nearly $70 million) and landing perhaps the best defenseman on the market, the mainstream hockey media filleted MacLellan for his moves.

Let’s review.

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Trotz MacLellan (8 of 13)

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

On a hot late spring day a little over a month ago, Brian MacLellan met the media for the first time as general manager of the Washington Capitals. The move to hire him was surprising, with MacLellan’s only executive experience coming under his recently fired boss George McPhee. But in his first press conference, MacLellan conveyed a more analytic tone than McPhee. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis praised MacLellan as someone who would “refresh” an organization with an already strong core.

Many fans feared MacLellan would be a continuation of McPhee, accepting the status quo and perpetually insisting the Capitals could paper over their flaws. Instead, he has transformed the team in one day, spending a stunning $67.5 million.

“I think we had some needs and we addressed them,” MacLellan told reporters. “We had cap room. Ownership gave the green light to get to the cap and we spent the money where we thought we needed to spend it the most.”

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niskanen

It’s not over yet. The Capitals have announced that they have signed defenseman Matt Niskanen to a 7-year contract with an AAV of $5.75 million. Niskanen joins Brooks Orpik, who was signed to a five-year deal earlier today.

Washington has now acquired two UFA defensemen off the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were not a good defensive team, at a total cost of $67.75 million. What is going on in Arlington?

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Words are Wind

“It’s going to be hard to take advantage of me.” – Brian MacLellan

Orpik. Five years. $5.5 million AAV.

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latta-guns-out-suns-out

Photo: @Latta17

New Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has made some polarizing moves on Tuesday. First, he signed Justin Peters to a reasonable deal to serve as Braden Holtby’s back-up. Then, GMBM unloaded a boatload of cash to Brooks Orpik’s door, which he has been roundly criticized because Orpik is old and bad.

Mixed in with those signings, the Caps announced that they have re-upped restricted free agent Michael Latta to a two-year, $1.15 deal. That’s worth celebrating.

Latta, the only remaining gem of the Filip Forsberg trade, is a straight-up good hockey player. Playing mostly with Tom Wilson and possession anchor Aaron Volpatti, Latta managed a better-than-it-seems 48.6 percent possession score. He also tallied four points — including the GWG against Detroit — and drew a ridiculous amount of penalties. The dude can penalty kill. He can also fight (poor Rinaldo). And he is a pest– a good one at that.

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