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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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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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Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds after his first period fight with Troy Bodie. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds. No big. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media

The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.

So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.

Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.

Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!

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