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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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The Washington Capitals have addressed their defensive woes in the worst way possible, signing former Penguin Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5-million disaster of a deal.

Orpik, 33, has never played a full NHL season. He was a defensive defenseman in Pittsburgh, logging over 20 minutes a night. He has been outshot his whole career and hasn’t posted a positive relative possession score.

In Washington, he will likely will be used as a second pairing defenseman.

Let’s review Orpik’s career and his new contract:

  • Orpik played at the 2014 Olympics, maybe because the coach was Dan Bylsma.
  • Orpik concussed Loui Eriksson with a hit he was not suspended for.
  • Orpik has been on a steady offensive decline for years. It probably would have been more noticeable had he not played with two of the best players in the world.
  • Orpik will be 38 at the end of this contract.
  • Orpik is known as a poor skater and his contract with the Caps almost takes him over the hill.
  • Orpik will command Washington’s fourth highest cap hit next season.
  • Orpik’s salary is higher than anyone’s in this FA class (as of right now) except for Paul Stastny and Ryan Miller.

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Photo: Grant Halverson

Around 12:30 PM, the Washington Capitals made their first splash into free agency, signing a minor yet potentially important player. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters has signed a two-year, $1.9 million deal, worth an annual average salary of $950K.

Peters, drafted 34th overall by the Hurricanes in 2004, will likely be the back-up for Braden Holtby. Peters played in the AHL before earning a call-up. He proved himself a solid goaltender as Cam Ward struggled with injury.

Peters is a notorious Caps-killer, posting a 4-3 record with a 1.67 GAA, .938 SV%, and two shutouts in seven career games against his new team.

Simply put: Peters is a solid goalie who can handle a potentially larger role if necessary. And he comes at a good price.

This move also signifies that Capitals prospect goalie, Philipp Grubauer will now be relegated to AHL Hershey and have to play out of his mind to force his way to the NHL.

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Free Agency Frenzy Open Thread 2014

NHL teams have had an extra handful of days to talk to players before free agency officially begins, so some are expecting today to be more bananas than usual. Considering the first day of free agency is traditionally already pretty bananas, I’m not sure I’m ready for the sheer volume of bananas we’re about to see.

Who’s gonna get the most ridiculous contract of the day? I’m gonna say Ryan Miller. Which defender will the Caps take? I’ve got no clue. Who’s gonna make a crazy trade? Probably Hextall.

Follow all the madness below. The comments should be fun. Please go GIF bananas.

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Starting at noon, it’ll be open season on unrestricted free agents in the NHL. Last year’s contracts will be up, and we’ll be inundated by a flood of exorbitant salaries and impractical terms. For the last few years the Caps have mostly been bystanders to the free agency frenzy, but with $12.7M in salary cap space, they’ll likely be a bit more active today.

I cut this video to discuss what might animate the Caps’ offseason strategy: where they stand as a franchise, what holes they need to fill, and where the problems are not.

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Christian Ehrhoff’s buyout makes him the best defenseman available. (Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Caps didn’t acquire any NHL players at the draft, so they now look to fill empty roster spots in free agency, which begins at noon.

The team’s primary need is a top-four defenseman who can play with Karl Alzner, Mike Green, and John Carlson. Dmitry Orlov did an okay job at that role last season, but the Caps may want to see a more seasoned player there, especially if playing away from Mike Green might mean Orlov could better utilize his offensive tools.

Here’s my take on four options for defense on the open market.

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Matt Niskanen: A Case Study in Context

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Matt Niskanen, late of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is one of the marquee defensemen expected to go to free agency tomorrow. New Caps beat writer Alex Prewitt covered the buzz around Niskanen in the Post this morning.

A move to Washington would keep Niskanen with his old defensive coach, Todd Reirden, who coached the blueliner in Pittsburgh and can speak knowledgeably about the player to the Caps front office. And at a glance, Niskanen looks like a very strong player.

Let’s check out ExtraSkater.com, which is the best site on the internet next to the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator. Last year with Pittsburgh, Niskanen saw 53.4 percent of shot attempts belong to his team during 5v5– a number 7.3 percent better than when he was off the ice. In 2012-13, he had a 51.2 percent shot-attempt percentage, a 3.6 percent improvement compared to when he was on the bench.

That looks fantastic, but hold on a second.

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Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana slid during their draft years but got selected in the first round by the Caps (Photos: Getty Images)

Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana have a lot in common. Both are high-octane offensive wingers who made names for themselves by putting the puck in the net. And both were drafted out of Sweden after impressive showings at the U18 World Championships.

But they have one more thing in common: both saw their stock drop significantly during their draft years after struggling to adapt to the professional game in Sweden.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Capitals complete the 2014 Draft by picking three players in the last three rounds: Shane Gersich, Steven Spinner and Kevin Elgestal. Let’s recap their late-round activity.

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Photo: Washington Capitals

The Capitals have traded up again to get a pick in the third round back, moving the 104th and 118th overall picks for 89th overall selection. They then selected Australian forward Nathan Walker from the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

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