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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GMGM’s finger-circles: an apt metaphor for his negotiations with Ray Shero.

Jordan Staal maniacally laughing.

Since the offseason began, it has been a well-circulated rumor that Penguins center Jordan Staal wanted to leave Pittsburgh to play with his older brother Eric in Carolina. When he turned down an offer of a ten-year deal from the Penguins, that rumor seemed all but confirmed.

It wasn’t much of a surprise then, when Gary Bettman stepped up to the podium at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and announced that Staal had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round pick, Brandon Sutter, and prospect Brian Dumoulin. Jordan got his wish (to be on a team which someday may only consist of Staal brothers), and apparently nowhere else was even an option.

This was disappointing news to George McPhee, who identified acquiring a respectable second-line center as a major goal this offseason. Despite landing veteran center Mike Ribeiro from Dallas a half an hour before the draft on Friday, McPhee was sarcastic and abnormally expressive (hand motions, stomping) when asked by the media if he had a conversation with Penguins GM Ray Shero about making a deal to bring Jordan Staal to DC.

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Photo via Kristy Morrison

Before General Manager George McPhee even had the chance to select Filip Forsberg with the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, he was met by a loud round of boos by Pittsburgh Penguins fans. Fortunately, a noticeably irritated GMGM brought the sass, and unleashed his fury on the crowd.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

When Dale Hunter’s made his decision to resign as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the disappointment of his players was manifest as they conducted their exit interviews at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For all the talk of Hunter’s defense-first game plan, the coach’s strategy was barely mentioned by the players. Instead, they praised something else: the accountability he brought to the team. Gone were the days of stars — or captains — getting a free pass. Every player was forced to work together, no matter what line or how much ice team they got.

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Caps General Manger George McPhee Joins Twitter

“How do you follow someone again?” (Photo credit: Bridget Samuels)

For those who keep asking who next coach of Washington Capitals is going to be, you can now direct your questions straight to the man making the decision: @GMMcPhee – better known as Capitals General Manager George McPhee. The Twitter account was recently created and Caps PR confirmed to us it is indeed his.

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There were a few common themes to the Capitals’ last postseason interviews, before they went their separate ways for summer. The first question posed was always about Dale Hunter, who has made the decision to return to the London Knights franchise in Ontario rather than stay on to coach the Caps. The team expressed universal admiration and gratitude for what he brought to the Capitals in his short tenure, often focusing less on his system than on the character and sense of accountability he was able to instill.

There was clear disappointment at the early ending to the season, but a different tone to the team’s assessment of their year than the year before — many of the Caps mentioned that they thought they were able to go out in a way that they feel better about this year, though of course they’d all still rather be playing hockey.

Read on for the details of Jay Beagle‘s injury, Brooks Laich standing outside Hunter’s window holding a boombox, and Hunter’s odd career model for Alexander Ovechkin.

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