Category Archives: NHL

Caps off-season: What would you do?

This weekend on Twitter we asked what roster moves you make would this off-season if you were the GM of the Caps. None of the answers were too shocking, and there were a few answers that were pretty popular. Below are a few quick thoughts on some of those answers that popped up more than once.

Re-sign Mikhail Grabovski

Yes, yes, and more yes. There seems to be a lot of agreement here amongst Caps fans. It’s easy to understand why, as during Grabovski’s absence from injury Jay Beagle was centering Alex Ovechkin. The Caps revolving door at the 2C position has been one of the perennial shortcomings of the latter half of the McPhee administration. In Grabovski, we’ve got a guy who can lock that position down for a few years and, thanks especially to the deadline deals, we’ve got the cap room to pay him a deserving salary (not sure what he will bring in, but I’d guess 4 or 5 years at around $5 million per). Evgeny Kuznetsov could mature into a player capable of filling this position, but as a team with a finite number of prime years left of Backstrom and Ovechkin, the time to reload this roster as a true contender is now and the best way to do this at 2c is to re-sign number 84. Oh, and apparently this could happen sooner rather than later.

Trade Mike Green

No, no and more no. To be clear, no player should be untouchable, and if there is a trade involving Green that will help this club, I’m all for it. But I’m not part of the crowd that thinks this team is better off without Mike Green than with him as a fact in and of itself. Yes, he makes egregious mistakes in his own zone, but I still believe this team is better off with Mike Green than without him and there are numbers to support this claim. Yes, during close games during 5-on-5 play, only one player sees more shots go for the Caps than against the Caps when he is on the ice than Mike Green, and that player is Dmitry Orlov. I just don’t see how getting rid of a player like this is beneficial to a team that generally gets out-shot so handily. I don’t like the Green-Orlov combo because I think they play the similar high-risk/high-reward style. Give me Mike Green and a partner that isn’t just breaking into the league and isn’t named John Erskine, and I think you’ve got a very good NHL defensive pair. (side note: How have John Carlson and Karl Alzner largely escaped blame during this debacle of a season? I’m not so sure their development as a top D pair is trending in the right direction this year)

Re-sign Jaroslav Halak

This is another one I’m not on board with. In fact, I don’t think the trade for Halak was as much about getting him than it was about trading our disgruntled, oft-injured backup Michael Neuvirth, as well as gaining cap space this summer. I am 100% comfortable with Braden Holtby being this team’s number 1 goalie. I’ll say the same thing that I told Ravens fans who complained about Joe Flacco before the Ravens won the Super Bowl: Holtby may not win you a Cup all on his own, but he certainly won’t be the weak link on a Cup contender. Braden Holtby is fully capable of being the Number 1 goalie on a Stanley Cup team.  The money it would take to bring back Halak would be better spent elsewhere. After all, Holtby ranks 12th in the league in 5-on-5 save percentage, while Halak comes in at 21st.

Use the team’s last compliance buyout on Brooks Laich

The water is a little murky here on whether this will be allowed since buyouts of injured players are not allowed. However, there are a lot of technicalities not readily available to us that may or may not make this an option. If it is allowed, as painful as this is to say because Brooks Laich is one of the more likable guys in the league, I think the Caps have to pull the trigger on this (though I would bet against them doing it). That $4.5 million per year for the next 3 years can be much better spent than on a guy who has played 60 games and totaled 19 points over the past two seasons. On top of that, we have plenty of players (Brouwer, Chimera, Ward, Fehr) who can fill the roles Laich would be asked to fill on this team.  Like I said above, this may not even be an option, but I haven’t done the necessary digging to sort out the injury/buyout technicalities.

 

Thanks to extraskater.com for always being a great resource, to RMNB for their Weekly Snapshot (my favorite weekly Caps read), and to all of you who interacted with us over the weekend on this topic. 

 

 

 

Caps play-by-play man John Walton: “Thug hockey back” in Philly; Calls Flyers goalie Ray Emery’s actions “a disgrace” and worthy of NHL suspension

From Washington Capitals radio play-by-play man John Walton’s call of the Ray Emery-Braden Holtby incident last night (Listen to it on Walton’s blog through the link below):

“Emery takes him down. Oh my goodness. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Ray Emery sucker punching Holtby. He’s still punching him. The referee hasn’t stopped it yet. Oh what a dirty play by Ray Emery. Taking Braden Holtby down. Thug hockey back in town. You’re losing by a touchdown and you just grab a sweater. If you think that’s gonna get you standings points, think again. The Buffalo Sabres are the only thing saving this team from being the bottom of the Eastern Conference and now they’ve taken it to the alley in the dirtiest way possible. Ray Emery went after Holtby. Holtby did not want it. He absolutely didn’t want to fight him. And Emery sucker punched him six times. It’s the only cheer you’re gonna hear out of this building tonight. That’s a disgrace. Ray Emery, a disgrace what he just did.”

“Suspend that guy. Suspend him right now,” Walton went on to say regarding Emery.

full audio clip of Walton calling the Emery-Holtby goalie altercation is available on his Capitals Voice blog.

And here’s a great shot of Michael Latta being waved off during the fight by referee François St-Laurent:

Low secondary market prices for upcoming, not-yet-sold-out Penguins-Caps game; NHL resale prices up overall

Washington Capitals tickets on secondary market sites like StubHub and NHL Ticket Exchange have been selling at their lowest average prices since the 2010-11 season (10/8/13) and the team’s upcoming November 20 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while one of the higher priced Caps home games on the resale market, is no exception.

“We’re seeing an average ticket price of $120 for that game, which is the lowest for a Caps-Penguins game in D.C. since we began tracking data on the NHL resale market [in 2010],” wrote Connor Gregoire, Communications Analyst with ticket search engine SeatGeek, in an October 22 email. “The average resale price in the 400 level for that game is $71 per ticket.”

Average Resale Price for Pittsburgh at Washington since 2010
for tickets overall and 400 Level tickets (Source: SeatGeek)

Date Avg Price 400 Level Avg
2/6/2011 $166 $117
12/23/2010 $159 $112
1/11/2012 $146 $100
2/3/2013 $138 $95
12/1/2011 $138 $93
3/24/2010 $126 $81
2/7/2010 $121 $75
11/20/2013 $120 $71

The November 20 match-up against Pittsburgh is not yet sold out. Tickets remain available through TicketMaster, starting at $84 in the 400 Level of Verizon Center. The lowest priced tickets for sale to this game on the secondary market as of this posting are a pair for $63 each in section 431, Row G on the NHL Ticket Exchange.

Overall, average NHL resale prices are on the rise. Gregoire explained, “We’ve actually seen a 10 percent uptick in the average ticket price across the league through this point in the season as compared to the lockout-shortened year. The average resale price across the NHL is $89 per ticket so far this season compared to $81 through as many games last season. In the 2011-12 season, tickets sold for $87 each on average through this point in the year, so it appears that we’re seeing a recovery in demand for tickets in 2013-14 after the lockout.”

Washington has been promoting value-added ticket deals via email for some games in recent weeks, including Ticket-Food-Drink packages starting at $59 per ticket and another offering two upper level seats and a signed puck for $99. The November 20 game against Pittsburgh is not listed as part of either offer.

The team also continues to promote “Fan Packs” for some games, offering two tickets for $69. But that deal doesn’t make much sense for customers, considering seats to those games are available at far cheaper prices in the same sections of Verizon Center via the secondary ticket market, including NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps also promote via email (“Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing,” 10/7/13).

The Caps did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Here’s where Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick played juniors last season

While in Detroit this past week, I took a side trip to one of my favorite craft brewers, Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then stopped by the home of the Plymouth Whalers on the drive back to the city.

Plymouth is where Michal Neuvirth won an OHL championship in 2007 and where Caps rookies Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick (recently assigned to the Hershey Bears) played junior hockey. Former Cap Pat Peake’s jersey is hanging from the rafters as well.

I snapped a few pictures:

Home of the OHL Plymouth Whalers

end rink

champs

Program advertisement that includes Connor Carrick

pat peake

And here’s Mike Ribeiro (63) in a Coyotes jersey during the Phoenix-Detroit game at Joe Louis Arena the night before. We were able to grab seats 11 rows from the ice for $39 (face value of $110) through StubHub. Not a bad secondary ticket market bargain!

IMG_1731

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Stanley Cup Finals TV broadcasting approach feels disjointed, shortsighted

There are certainly television and sports executives who know this stuff better than I do, but there’s something in the current NHL/NBC television deal that strikes me as an odd way to best build interest in the NHL.

Under the current agreement, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals airs on NBC. That’s great; it means the three-overtime-thriller between Boston and Chicago last week could be seen on almost any TV with either basic cable or a set of rabbit ears within range of an NBC affiliate. The game drew the best overnight ratings for Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Final in 16 years.

However, anyone who watched that game and then tuned into NBC Saturday night for Game 2 discovered the game wasn’t being carried there. The second game of the Blackhawks-Bruins series was airing on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), as the current TV deal calls for Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to be carried on NBC and for Games 2 and 3 to air on NBCSN. Unfortunately, millions of people who get NBC in their homes don’t have NBCSN [Note: After lowering our cable bill by around $100 a month, I'm now one of these people].

On the one hand, this approach by NBC and the NHL seems like a great way to build a sports network. You reel people in with Game 1 and then shift them over to your newer sports channel for the next two games, hopefully building more awareness for it and getting more people to sign up for a cable package that includes NBCSN, which brings in more money via cable fees for NBC.

But there will no doubt be plenty of people—casual sports fans, those who stumbled upon Game 1, etc.—who don’t have NBCSN and who aren’t going to change their cable package for Games 2 and 3 just because they saw a great Game 1. And how many of these people whose interest in hockey rose with Game 1, but who can’t watch Games 2 and 3, will still be dialed into the series by the time Game 4 rolls around?

I’m willing to bet that a good number of people who aren’t die-hard hockey fans are going to lose some interest between Game 1 and 4 if they don’t get the two games in between on TV. For some potential new fans, the series will completely drop of their radar if they can no longer watch. The ‘NBC to NBCSN and then back to NBC’ broadcasting approach seems like an odd way to build momentum. Even if ratings rise during the series, I have to wonder if they would have been even higher if the TV deal put all of the Finals on the major network and stuck with it.

While growing NBCSN is important, there are few opportunities for the NHL to showcase its brand each year the way they can during the Stanley Cup Finals. And turning new fans onto hockey during the Finals should ultimately help future NBCSN ratings, as more people start following the league and seek out NBCSN during future regular seasons and earlier playoff rounds.

NBC could air every game of the Stanley Cup Finals on its major network (as Fox did with the World Series and ABC is currently doing with the NBA Finals), get people hooked on what can be some of the most exciting hockey of the year and then cash in when some of them subscribe to a cable/dish package with NBCSN to watch even more hockey going forward. The current set-up feels disjointed, shortsighted and, while it might help NBCSN more immediately, doesn’t strike me as the most ideal way to get as many people as possible wrapped up in the Stanley Cup Finals and converted into NHL fans.

The good and the bad from Game 2 of Caps-Rangers

I’m always glad when an afternoon game ends well so the rest of the night isn’t spent brooding.

Here’s some thoughts in the immediate aftermath:

The GOOD:

1) Braden Holtby. Again, not much else needs to be said. Aside from a couple of lackadaisical passes to his defense, he was on tonight. He also benefited from a bit less work, as I thought the Caps defense as a whole played better. Even when Nash hit the post, I thought Holtby’s decision to poke at the last second caused Nash to change his shot ever so slightly.  Nothing like a big 1-0 win in OT for your first playoff shutout. It’s interesting that he told reporters after the game he didn’t even realize it was his first. Shows you just how focused he is.

2) Steve Oleksy. He continues to show up night in and night out. A great hipcheck, a great pass to Chimera in the slot, etc. Even when he gets beat, he’s somehow able to get back into position. I’ve never really been sold on him over Orlov, but it’s beginning to look more and more likely that it will be Hillen and Orlov battling it out next year.

3) Adam Oates.  He continues to push all the right buttons. His players ooze confidence, and I think a lot of it has to do with their coach. They all LOOK happy too, which they obviously were not last year all the time. His post-game press conference was so refreshing today. “It’s hard for me to tell players to shoot the puck when I never did.” Reminds us fans that we can second guess all we want, but in the heat of the moment, even the coach knows its tough. He also sounds like the Dalai Lama after listening to Tortorella.

4) Green OT Winner .  That is all.

The BAD:

1) John Erskine. Probably the only thing I will criticize Oates/Calle for is continuing to play this guy so much. He’s just too slow, especially against quick Rangers forwards like Stepan, Callahan and Nash. I’m still scratching my head over the amount of money given to him mid-season.

2) Backstrom/Johansson. Too much passing from them today. They aren’t playing terribly (although Backstrom is still not looking like himself yet this series), but they aren’t playing well either. Obviously Oates says you can’t blame the players for not shooting in the heat of the moment, but at some point they need to make better decisions.

3) Henrik Lundqvist.  This is “bad” in the sense of being a Caps fan. He was brilliant today. Aside from that 7 minute stretch in Game 1, he’s been nearly perfect. Fortunately Holtby (and some timely posts) have been slightly better. If he keeps playing this way, the Rangers have to feel good about winning both games at home.

4) Second Line. I’m still not feeling it. They didn’t play horribly and they continue to show flashes where they keep the Rangers buried in their zone for long periods of time. But I still think they need to get on the same page. Erat needs to look for his shot a bit more as right now he and Ribeiro are playing almost the same game.

5) The 3rd period. For as good as the 1st, 2nd, and OT were, the 3rd was kind of a snoozer. Only five shots a piece and lots of chess moves out there.

6) The Delay of Game Rule.  I don’t hate the rule, I just think it needs tweaking. Only obvious shots and passes over the glass should be called. The fact that Alzner conceivably COULD have gotten a penalty for attempting to poke the puck out of the reach of Dorsett is kind of silly.

All in all, it was a great game for the Caps. I had more in the Bad column, only because it was hard to single out players for good games tonight. Alex Ovechkin was stellar as always, and I thought the third and fourth line played better than their counterparts from NY.  That’s all you can ask them to do this time of year.

Up 2-0 in the series, let’s go get one at MSG.

Three good, three bad from Game 1 of Caps-Rangers

Mike Kelly will be providing some guest posts during the playoffs. Here’s his first:

DVR is an amazing invention. Got home late so I figured I’d take my time eating dinner and get to the game later. After fast forwarding through commercials and intermissions, BOOM…only finished about 25 minutes after the actual game ended.

I’m going to try and post the good and the bad in my mind immediately after the game. So here goes from tonight’s big Game 1 win.

The GOOD:

1) Braden Holtby. Cool, calm, collected…almost to a fault. He almost got caught cheating across a couple of times (the Nash shot in the 2nd period is the first one that comes to mind) but he seemed 99% in control. Barring a meltdown of some sort, the rest of his team can feel confident with him back there this post-season. And if he does make a mistake, at least his pants will be there to stop the puck (still not sure how that one didn’t go in). 36 shots and 35 saves…that’ll do every time.

2) The Third Line. What a solid game by these guys. Chimera gets the big third goal caused by Perreault’s relentless forechecking. And then there’s Eric Fehr making George McPhee look like a genius again. Fehr is finally using his long reach and big frame to his advantage…and at times seemed to be skating just as fast as Chimera. I can’t recall any time where this line really got bogged down in their own zone. And they were constantly pushing the puck up ice.

3) Mike Ribeiro. He didn’t make it on the score sheet tonight, but he played the kind of game we all criticized him for not playing so often during the regular season. Aside from a couple of silly turnovers during those first few power plays (more on that later), he played a solid team game tonight. Back-checked several times to break up Ranger chances. Dumped the puck in late in the game. And as always he made smart passes. Was very impressed with his game. I’ll also say that his line’s shift with about nine mintues left in the game tonight was the one that may have broken the Rangers. He, Brouwer, and Erat kept the Rangers pinned in their zone for a solid minute after the Rags had been all over the Caps. I thought it really changed the feel of that period and put the Caps back in the driver’s seat.

The BAD:

1) Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. This one started off pretty bad with the first power play…and the next two weren’t all that better. The turnovers at the blue line are especially maddening and one almost led to a Hagelin breakway goal. Fortunately Holtby bailed out Backstrom. But even not on the powerplay, the Caps were turning it over more than usual tonight. Green, Backstrom, and Erat stick out as the worst offenders tonight. Even the normally sure handed Karl Alzner was coughing the puck up. This is clearly something that must be fixed as the series goes along.

2) The Rangers first line played well. This partly goes along with the first point. But it seemed like Nash, Richards, and Zuccarello were all over the Caps tonight (Nash leading the way with eight shots on goal). I actually thought the Caps did well keeping Callahan and Stepan in check, who traditionally seem to be Cap killers. But I thought they gave Nash and Richards too much room tonight. Nash is always going to get his chances, because he’s too good of a player not too, but let’s not make it too easy for him.

3) Martin Erat. Let’s just say this was not his finest performance. A really stupid penalty, some bad turnovers, and just overall seemed lost tonight. Aside from one very good third period shift and his almost goal that Lundqvist got a glove on…i gave his performance a big, Meh.

In the end, they won…by two goals! It’s nice not to have the infamous coin flip game we were so used to last post season. Still, the Rangers had their chances and have to feel relatively good about how they played. The Caps need to clean up in their own end. And both of the Caps top two lines have to be better, especially the second line. Ovechkin and Holtby…just keep doing what you’re doing.

In trading for Erat, Caps’ McPhee makes a move with guts

McPhee Scowls Down

George McPhee (Photo credit: clydeorama)

The Washington Capitals caused a stir on Wednesday, trading highly touted 18 year-old prospect Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators at the NHL trade deadline for 31 year-old winger Martin Erat and 21 year-old prospect Michael Latta.

Regardless of how these players perform from here, Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee has made a move with guts.

In the Alex Ovechkin era, the Caps have become an organization that often seems be waiting for the future to get here. And something they’ve rarely done is take a risk by dealing young prospects to try to change that.

McPhee has made his fair share of deadline acquisitions in recent years for players such as Sergei Fedorov, Jason Arnott and Cristobal Huet, to name just a few. But these have often been deals to bring in older players or ones in the final year of a contract for a short time, and without having to sacrifice a great deal in return. There’s always been somewhat of a “we’re not trading away the future for today” mentality. The Caps have made their moves in the time of the Young Guns, but they’ve never really been all that bold.

Erat isn’t simply a rental player, acquired for the stretch run. He’s under contract for another two seasons after this one at a very reasonable $4.5 million salary cap hit. The Caps have potentially filled a hole that existed in their top six forwards for the near future and without having to take on a long-term or expensive contract.

Erat has averaged .67 points per game in his 11 year NHL career, playing mostly in a defensive-minded system in Nashville. His numbers could be similar in Washington or they could make a jump now that he’ll be playing in a more offense-driven set up and with higher caliber offensive talent. It could certainly be argued that no forward on Nashville’s current roster has the established playmaking talent of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom or Mike Ribeiro.

Could Erat end up being a bust and produce less than he has for the Predators? Absolutely. Could Forsberg be a 20-plus goal scorer or better in the league for a decade or more? Sure. But these are the chances the top teams in sports often take, sacrificing some of tomorrow for a better shot now.

The Caps have not suddenly made the leap to serious Cup contenders with this one move, though anything can happen in the playoffs if they make it. But they’ve made a trade to improve their chances at the post-season now and to make themselves better for the next two years, rather than waiting to see if prospects pan out. If Forsberg and others take a season or two to adjust to the NHL, that’s more sand through the hourglass with the current core of Caps.

And the Caps do still have several promising prospects, including forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. A roster balance must be maintained to remain competitive in the present, yet positioned for down the road. The Caps have hardly thrown away the future with this one risk.

Except for the once-in-a-generation types, new players can be found via trade, the draft and free agency. Another player of Filip Forsberg’s caliber will come along—there will be several of them available every single NHL draft day, in fact. Barring some huge scouting breakdown, the Caps have not dealt away the next Backstrom or Ovechkin. They traded a still very young player who should not be impossible to replace.

What you can’t get back is time. And unless the Caps want to wake up one day with a 35 year-old Ovechkin on their roster and no Stanley Cups or serious runs at one, they need to take some chances. McPhee just did.

Three possible Mike Ribeiro replacements for the Caps from the Western Conference

I asked through Twitter for suggestions on topics you’d like to see written about.

Here’s the first one we got back:

There are many different ways you can go with this.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Caps either deal Mike Ribeiro by the April 3 NHL trade deadline or don’t re-sign him and then seek to replace him via an off-season trade, the same way the team acquired him last June from the Dallas Stars for prospect Cody Eakin and a 2012 2nd round draft pick.

Before diving into this, if anyone has #fancystat-like insight they wish to provide on the players named below, I welcome and would appreciate your input in the comments. There are also people who follow the three teams mentioned below far more closely than I do, who may be able to offer better perspective on this from the other organizations’ angles. Please feel free to jump in and add your thoughts as well—and that goes for everyone.

10 Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers, Center

Shawn Horcoff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As good as he’s been, finding a replacement for Mike Ribeiro is far from impossible. You can comb NHL rosters and come up with a number of centers that might be a good fit for the Caps second line next year and that Washington could reasonably land in many cases, provided they are willing to pay the asking price.

Let’s rule out an in-conference trade for now and, partly for the sake of simplifying the list of options, focus on three teams currently toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings that might be looking to make some changes. These are also three teams that have not made the playoffs for several consecutive seasons, listed here along with the last time they qualified for post-season play: Calgary (2008-09), Colorado (2009-10) and Edmonton (2005-06).

One that might be better to avoid

We’ll begin with the option that seems to have the most people talking, but that might not make the most sense: Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.

With a pair of 22 year-old centers in Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene on their roster, the Avalanche could move the 27 year-old Stastny to acquire other assets and free up cap space to fill other needs. Stastny’s numbers have declined the past two or three seasons, dropping below his current .86 points-per-game career average, but he’s still young and has shown the ability to put up big numbers; there have been three seasons when he’s posted just under or above a point per game.

One big issue with trading for Stastny is that he only has one season remaining on his contract, yet will likely cost a good bit to acquire given his age and abilities. If he can not be re-signed, Stastny would become a very expensive one-season rental.

Stastny currently earns $6.7 million, which is above what Ribeiro is likely to make going forward. However, if a team trades for Stastny and decides to commit to a long-term deal with him, it makes far more sense to give one to him at age 28 next year, than it does to sign Ribeiro to one at age 33.

As for the cost to acquire Stastny, Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner writes that the asking price is: “Likely Washington’s first-round pick in the loaded 2013 draft – possibly a top 10 selection, if not higher – and either an NHL roster player or one of the top prospects [Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, Tom Wilson, Riley Barber and Philipp Grubauer].

If the Caps think they can work a deal like this in the off-season, the price they’d need to pay for a player like Stastny is even more reason to deal Ribeiro before the April 3 deadline, allowing Washington to stockpile a few more assets, including another first or second round pick in the deep 2013 draft if possible. But, with or without those assets, a move for Stastny really might not be the best one for the team to make.

The biggest concern of all with a trade for Stastny is that, with prospect Kuznetsov possibly coming to Washington as soon as a year from now, the Caps might not want to acquire a center as young at Stastny, who has such little time left on his deal and likely comes at great cost. The Caps may just need someone to fill the second line center roll for a season or two; it all depends on when Kuznetsov gets to D.C. and how quickly he adjusts to the NHL.

One that sounds like a pretty good fit, if he stays healthy

The Edmonton Oilers have a situation somewhat like the Avs, with two young centers in the picture that could make a more veteran player expendable. As 19 year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 23 year-old Sam Gagner will likely fill the center role on the top two lines going forward, 34 year-old center Shawn Horcoff is an expensive player the team may want to move.

Horcoff is much older than Stastny and has not put up nearly the same numbers, but he’d likely come at a smaller price in trade and has two more seasons left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million.

Horcoff has also put up some decent power play numbers in the past and is known for his leadership and two-way play. He’s less similar to Ribeiro than Stastny is when it comes to offensive numbers, but would be an interesting option for the Caps to consider, especially given the time he has left on his contract and the current stage he’s at in his career.

Horcoff could potentially fill the Caps second line center roll next season and the season after if necessary, with Kuznetsov taking over when ready. The Caps could still look to re-sign Horcoff for less money after that, keeping him as a third line center, an option on the power play and for his defensive play.

One factor that must be considered with Horcoff though is injuries, which have been an issue at times in his career and could occur more the older he gets.

One that’s cheaper, if his current team wants to give him up

The Calgary Flames don’t appear to have a great deal of NHL-level depth at center, but do possess a pivot that could be an interesting fit for the Caps next season, though he’s certainly no Stastny in the offensive production department. He also comes with a much lower salary.

29 year-old center Matt Stajan has two seasons left after this one on a deal that pays him $3.5 million and, while he has not been putting up the same offensive numbers as Ribeiro has, he’s shown signs that he’s capable of contributing more points than he currently is. Perhaps inserting Stajan into what could be a more high-powered offense in Washington would bring back some of the numbers he put up with Toronto a few seasons ago (.72 and .75 points-per-game in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively), giving the Caps a decent second-line center without a long-term commitment or large cap hit.

However, of the three potential Ribeiro replacements discussed here, Stajan may be the player most likely to be held onto by his current team, given salaries and depth at the position.

That’s a start on some replacement options via trade. There are other teams that can be examined and the free agency market can be considered as well. Please use the comments below to add your suggestions or find me on Twitter at @mikeholden.

More on trade or re-sign Ribeiro

Dave Nichols has a new post up on DistrictSportsPage.com explaining why the Caps should re-sign Mike Ribeiro and it’s a good read in the ongoing debate about what the team should do with their second line center.

A long-term deal for Ribeiro (which I look at as anything greater than three years in this case) still concerns me, with the number of years being a bigger issue than whether the cap hit is $5.5 or $6 million, for example. As I said in my post on selling high on Ribeiro, having him until he’s at least 37 as another highly paid player on the team is a risk I’m not sure I’d take, when there could be other options available:

Chances are Ribeiro won’t continue to put up the numbers he is right now for many more years. He’s posted 1.10 points per game this season through Tuesday’s loss in Pittsburgh, while averaging 0.77 per game since joining the NHL in 1999. Only once before has Ribeiro averaged over a point per game for an entire season, back in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars, and he’s likely to face a decline in production over the coming years now that he’s reached his mid-thirties.

There is the outside chance that Ribeiro could prove his career averages wrong and continue to produce at his current level for a couple or few more years. But the Caps might also be able to get solid production from a less expensive veteran or a slightly younger player in that role, without having to take on the larger risk of a long-term deal, while also freeing up a million or so in cap space to spend on other needs.

NHL.com writer Corey Masisak summed up this sentiment well in a tweet yesterday:

ribeiro tweet

When I suggest the team sell high on Ribeiro at the deadline, it’s not to just walk blindly into next season with no idea of who the second line center will be. As I wrote in my post the other day, if the Caps choose to deal Ribeiro—an idea that gets less appealing with every game they win and the playoffs remaining in the picture—they should have a plan to replace him this summer with another qualified second line center from outside the organization.

On the other side of this, before I could fully embrace the idea of signing Ribeiro long-term at whatever it takes to keep him, I’d need for someone to convince me that it’s unlikely the Caps can find another quality second line center in the summer trade market like they did when they acquired Ribeiro.

Here’s another way to look at this whole situation though:

If Ribeiro’s production declines by the third or fourth year of a new deal with the Caps and his numbers no longer justify the cap hit at some point, it could be viewed as part of the price the team paid for the more productive seasons they might get from him. Granted this season is still one in which Ribeiro’s putting up more points per game than he ever has before, save for one year in Dallas, so he may never match this again…or maybe he will. But if Ribeiro does follow the path of many players at the ages he’ll soon hit, the Caps could just hope to get the most from him in the earlier years and then write off the latter ones as part of the cost of the biggest seasons that he has, which hopefully help to bring the team more playoff success.

Here’s a good analogy that someone used when discussing this with me on Twitter:

My next thought though is, do you keep that expensive car at the risk it loses some power a few years from now? Or do you trade it in by April 3 if there’s a lucrative offer on the table and then replace the car with a less expensive two-year lease this summer (i.e. a guy toward the end of a deal like Ribeiro was when the Caps acquired him) or a younger but established option that might have more big years left to help justify a long-term deal?

If the Caps keep winning though and are in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, a huge piece of this all goes away. So the easy solution is for them to just win the Cup this season, with Ribeiro earning the Conn Smyth. Simple, right? Then George McPhee can just figure the rest out this summer.

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