The Capitals opted not to give a qualifying offer to Michael Latta, but the pugnacious six-foot forward didn’t linger in free agency long. Elliotte Friedman has announced that Latta has been signed to a one-year deal by the Los Angeles Kings.
Photo: Patrick McDermott
On Monday afternoon, checking-line forward Michael Latta was not tendered a qualifying offer, ending his tenure in Washington. Lats will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
“We struggled with that one,” Barry Trotz said to Elliot in the Morning the next day. “He’s been a really good soldier for us. We felt with where the game is going, in terms of our team, with four centermen, Lats is best playing in the middle and right now we don’t really have a place for him. And plus we have a couple centerman, Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson, who have really stepped up from the minors. Their skill sets are a little different. They’re more about speed and skill. And Lats is more about the physicality and the grind.”
“We wanted to give him an opportunity somewhere else,” Trotz continued. “Lats has been exceptional as a teammate. A lot of his teammates are sorry to see him leave. But I’m hoping the best for Lats. He’s a terrific guy. He’s a guy’s guy and a great teammate.”
On Tuesday night, I spoke to Latta and he opened up about the team’s decision to not bring him back. He also discussed his time in Washington – a time he will remember fondly – and also spoke seriously about his close friendship with Tom Wilson.
He also had some very sweet words for Caps fans.
On Tuesday night, a day after news broke that Michael Latta would not receive a qualifying offer from the Washington Capitals, I had a lengthy interview with the forward, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Latta told me that he was caught off guard by the team’s decision to non-tender him, but had nothing but good things to say about his teammates and his time in Washington.
“I was getting texts from everyone,” Latta said when the news dropped. “I wasn’t replying right away to [Tom], so he double, triple, quadruple texted me.”
“I think that’s one of the best things about hockey, the relationships you build,” Latta continued. “Tom and I obviously have become very close and will probably be one of my best friends forever. I’ll take a lot of good things from Washington, like the friendships I’ve built.”
Latta, who according to Hockey Fights has dropped the gloves 106 times in his professional career, will now look for a new team. He’s hoping to find a spot where he can bring energy every night and penalty kill. Depending on where he ends up, Latta could find himself playing against his former Caps teammates next year. It may get very awkward for fans.
In February, I spoke to soon-to-be-former Capital Michael Latta and we chatted about his one-time roommate, Andre Burakovsky.
“He’s a little shy,” Latta said. “He’s a shy, cute, little guy.” Latta then went on to explain how the Burracuda was afraid to swim with the dolphins in the Bahamas.
That may explain Latta’s reaction Tuesday afternoon to a photo Burakovsky posted on Instagram. While holding up his dukes, Burakovsky, a veteran of 0 NHL fights, posed in front of a punching bag, looking tough.
Photo: Patrick Smith
News broke Monday afternoon that the Caps would not extend a qualifying offer to checking-line forward Michael Latta. The Caps had two options, submit a qualifying offer to Latta for $632,000 or let him become an unrestricted free agent come July 1st. The Caps chose the latter, while retaining the rights to RFAs Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, and Tom Wilson.
For many fans, the move to non-tender came out of nowhere. A few seasons ago, the Caps gave up a top prospect to acquire both Latta and Martin Erat. Latta remains an inexpensive player and his underlying play suggests he could bring value as an everyday player. On top of that, Brian MacLellan had indicated the Caps planned to qualify Lats, even after the Lars Eller trade Friday night.
Two days later, Latta was let loose and saying his goodbyes. Ian and Pat discuss the decision below.
“It’s been fun, see you never,” Michael Latta tweeted to Andre Burakovsky in September.
After feeling “older and more mature,” the Burracuda moved into his own apartment, leaving the original Caps’ roomies, Latta and Tom Wilson, a brobean short.
Fast-forward to today and things have become harrowing. Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan non-tendered Latta, a restricted free agent, while tendering Wilson — metaphorically evicting Latta from the team. Talk about awkward. Latta will be free to sign with another team on July 1, breaking the lease between the Caps Roomies for good (at least physically in Arlington). Latta said his goodbyes this evening.
Thank you Washington, love the city, love the fans. Looking forward to earning an opportunity somewhere else.
— Michael Latta (@Latta17) June 27, 2016
Going to be sad not having you around next year brother. It was an amazing few years and you'll always be a great friend @Latta17
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) June 27, 2016
During difficult times like these, we must openly weep, become irrational, and eat buckets of Häagen-Dazs. And also: remember the good times!
Michael Latta’s time with the Washington Capitals appears to be over.
The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan tweeted today that the team will not extend a qualifying offer to Latta, meaning the restricted free agent will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Though the Caps could still pursue Latta as a free agent, General Manager Brian MacLellan appears to be focused on qualifying the team’s other RFAs — Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, and Tom Wilson — and trying to sign and re-sign other pieces of the puzzle, possibly including Latta’s linemate, Jason Chimera.
During his season-ending press conference with reporters, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan lamented the loss of Joel Ward while also stating his desire to see Tom Wilson expand his role. “I think it’s on us to turn Tom Wilson into Joel Ward,” MacLellan said. “It’s on Tom and on us to turn him into that kind of guy that has a net-front presence, that finds loose pucks, finds rebounds, plays good along the wall. I think Tom is our answer to that.”
Wilson, who has led the Capitals in penalty minutes over the last three seasons, has not seen the offensive ability he showed in junior translate to the NHL. On Wednesday night, Wilson gave us a front row seat to the intense summer training that may or may not take him to the next level.
It did not include squats, but did include a samurai bun.
Let’s be real. When you decided to read RMNB’s season recap of Michael Latta, you didn’t think, man, what a great season. You thought, oh fun, there’s gonna be photos of him at the beach and ketchup bottles stuff.
There is. There definitely is, but I swear that Michael Latta is a solid NHL player who is ready for regular assignments on the fourth line. He’s a gamer. Let’s talk about it.
It’s already felt like way too long of a summer and the NHL playoffs aren’t even over yet. Thankfully for Caps fans, they can pass the time by endlessly perusing through players’ Instagram photos to see who Tom Wilson and Michael Latta have chirped lately.