Photo credit: Scott Levy

Mike Ribeiro is a hot topic surrounding the Washington Capitals lately — not just because he’s been the team’s best player. Instead, Ribs is looking for a five-year deal in a market where free-agent forwards get big money, even with the salary cap decreasing by $6 million next year (from $70.2 million to $64.4 million).

Ribeiro is 33-years-old and is on the last year of a five-year, $25 million dollar deal. His next contract will certainly be the last big one of his career, and he wants his family to have a good, stable home. We shouldn’t expect his production (11 goals, 35 points in 33 games this season) to stay this way as his enters the latter part of career. On the other hand, however, the Caps haven’t a quality second-line center in years.

Within the next few games, the Caps may figure out if they want to– or even are able to– re-sign Ribeiro for a price that’s reasonable. Ribeiro told me he would have discussions with the team about a new contract before the trade deadline on April 3. Presumably, if his demands are too high for Washington, they may trade him.

“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” Ribeiro said of a possible extension in Washington. “We’ll talk, obviously, before trade deadline and see where they’re at, where I’m at. We’ll go from there.”

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2012 2013 Division Standings Standings   NHL.com   Standings

Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.

The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.

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Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub

The Washington Capitals have the third worst record in the National Hockey League. They’re lacking in top-six talent and defensive depth. It struck me, then, that their last two transactions have not gone towards solving their problems, but rather have compounded them — at least in my mind.

In the past week the Caps claimed Aaron Volpatti (who had 28 penalty minutes in 16 games with the Vancouver Canucks) off waivers and signed Hershey Bears D-man Steve Oleksy (with 151 PIMs to his name in 55 games) to a three year contract. I’m not suggesting the Caps should try to fix all their woes with a call-up or waiver pick up — they can’t. I would, however, prefer if they didn’t exacerbate the team’s issues. The Caps don’t have a problem with toughness, they have a problem with talent.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

A few weeks ago I published a piece explaining why I wasn’t freaking out the Capitals. My point was that bad luck had been quashing good possession numbers, a trend that I predicted would soon reverse. That did not happen.

The Caps have just two wins through eleven games, making them the worst team in the league. During media time on Friday, General Manager George McPhee primarily blamed that record on bad goaltending and undisciplined, “selfish” penalties. CSN’s Alan May agrees.

I admitted on Thursday night that I was baffled by why the Caps were losing, so I thought we could use this time to figure out what exactly isn’t working. Because I’m pretty sure it’s not the penalties.

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Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz rid the Metro, look miserable because they are on the Metro.

Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz ride the Metro, look miserable because they are on the Metro.

Caption contest! (Photo credit: @tombeline)

The Washington elite and tourists turned out in droves on Monday, filling the nation’s capital for the second inauguration of Barack Obama. Revelers packed the mall and filled (most) of the streets along the parade route. The crowd downtown reached around 800,000 by the time people finally got off their Metro trains, down from the estimated 1.5 million people four years ago. Members of the Washington Capitals were no exception. General Manager George McPhee — a dual citizen of the United States and Canada — scored a spot at the Canadian Embassy, a prime viewing area near the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania. From my view next door at the Newseum, the scene looked festive with our friends from the North putting up a large “Canada salutes Barack Obama” banner and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police patrolling their sovereign land.

McPhee wasn’t the only Cap in attendance. Matt Hendricks, an American, posted a picture of Canadians Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz stuck on MetroRail with approximately 348,236 other people on their way downtown to view the celebrations.

The parade wasn’t much to write home about. Sadly, there were no massive inflatable Muppets. There were, however, a bunch of high school marching bands and a 40 minute delay. And then another couple thousand high school marching bands. But that’s neither here nor there. This was a day to come to together and freeze as one.

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Ovechkin speaks to the media

Miss the media? “Not really,” says Ovechkin. (Photo credit: @SWhyno)

This morning, a bunch of Washington Capitals players jumped back on the ice for an informal practice. Those who skated include Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Jack Hillen, and John Erskine.

At 11am, Caps general manager George McPhee then spoke to the press for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth. GMGM revealed that injured defenseman Dmitry Orlov is “improving” but questionable for opening night (but you already knew that), and side-stepped questions on Nicklas Backstrom’s health, acknowledging that the team can’t examine him until a new CBA is ratified. Hershey Bears defense prospect Cameron Schilling will also be given a shot to make the team out of training camp. McPhee’s full comments are below.

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

One of the best moments of this year’s NHL draft was when George McPhee stepped up to the podium to make the first of his draft picks and was roundly booed by Pittsburgh Penguin fans. McPhee responded to the crowd with some sass, “Thank you, Pittsburgh. We’re touched. Thank you.”

Forsberg hugs his dad while Pens fans boo in the background.

Despite the heckling, McPhee somehow found the composure to draft Swedish forward Filip Forsberg with the eleventh overall pick.

Forsberg, sitting alongside his father, mother, younger brother, and two agents, was overjoyed upon hearing McPhee, exchanging hugs with his family and friends. Meanwhile, as he walked down to greet the Caps caravan and get his first ever NHL jersey, the boos — now somewhat softer — rained down from the crowd.

Forsberg did not understand why.

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Photos by Chris Gordon

We know the Capitals have plenty of skill players, but when the team drafted Tom Wilson last month they added something else: a big, bruising forward who isn’t afraid to push people around. In the first two scrimmages of Washington’s Development Camp this week, that something was on display as the 6′ 3″, 205-pound winger bounced around the ice making a myriad of hits and occasionally jawing with prospects on the opposite team. This, it seems, is exactly what Capitals General Manager George McPhee was looking for when he took Wilson 16th overall, somewhat ahead of his projected draft slot.

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Free Agency Open Thread

Today is the day. At noon on Sunday, free agency begins. You should probably read the RMNB guide to free agency immediately.

This is your open thread. In here, we’ll post short little updates (with links to credible sources) about big signings and transactions as they happen. If it’s Caps-related, that bad boy will be bold-faced. Keep refreshing the page as the day goes on, as we’ll be updating throughout.

And sound off in the comments. This is your place to sound off about the departures and arrivals that stir you. We use fancy DISQUS comments now, so you won’t have to refresh to see new posts, just keep an eye out for the “new comments” prompt.

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Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta

Ever since Ron Wilson — the only coach to the take the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals — was dismissed after the 2001-02 season, George McPhee has consistently hired head coaches with no NHL experience, with varying degrees of success. While Bruce Cassidy (2002-03) and Glen Hanlon (2003-2007) put up a miserable 125-169-55 record after a combined five seasons, Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter had better luck, taking the Caps to the playoffs for five straight years and racking up a 231-111-47 record, the best five-year stretch in the history of the team.

Former Capitals captain Adam Oates, who was introduced to the media Wednesday, continues the trend and is the fifth straight hire without any previous experience as an NHL head coach. However, McPhee is confident that he found what he calls “a real difference maker.”

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