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Matt Hendricks at near $2 million for three or more years wouldn’t make much sense for the Caps

Hendricks Smiling

Hendricks Smiling (Photo credit: clydeorama)

NHL free agency season is here and Washington Times columnist Mike Harris writes that the Washington Capitals should do two things that will “be worth every penny spent.” He suggests the team “go all in on Vinny Lecavalier (The Flyers have since signed him)” and “bring back Matt Hendricks.”

Harris says, “Hendricks, who made $850,000 last season, will have a few other suitors and probably should be able to command about $2 million a year for three years or so. For the Caps, it would be money well spent.”

I love the way Hendricks plays and mean no disrespect to Harris, but if the salary cap-challenged Capitals sign Hendricks for near $2 million per year for three or more years as Harris suggests, General Manager George McPhee should immediately be drug tested. As hard as losing Hendricks might be for some Caps fans and as important a role player as he’s been for Washington, the 32-year-old, bottom-six forward is replaceable, just as fan favorite Matt Bradley was.

If Washington were a rebuilding team or one with boatloads of room to spend under the salary cap, perhaps $2 million per year to a player like Hendricks might be possible. But at this point, with other holes needing to be filled and higher-upside, young players like Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson to be re-signed, there are cheaper ways to replace Hendricks if his price tag ends up being as high as $2 million per year.

Aaron Volpatti and his $575,000 salary, Michael Latta (acquired along with Martin Erat in the trade for Filip Forsberg, yet rarely talked about compared to the other two pieces of that trade) and 2012 first round draft pick Tom Wilson could all get an opportunity to fill that role at a smaller cap hit than Hendricks would come with at the price Harris wants the Caps to sign him for.

Much like Hendricks in some ways became the new Matt Bradley for Washington, someone can become the new Matt Hendricks. As great as guys like him are to cheer for and to have as teammates, the Caps cannot afford to give Hendricks a substantial raise given the other contracts on their roster and the other ways their remaining cap space could be used to further solidify it.

Kundratek a low-risk bargain at $575,000
On Tuesday, the Caps re-signed defenseman Tomas Kundratek and the deal really couldn’t be much better: $575,000 a year for two years, with the 2014-15 portion being a two-way contract, which would pay him $150,000 if he’s in the American Hockey League (AHL). Kundratek is only 23 and showed potential this season in 25 games with the Caps. If he becomes a regular in the Caps line-up over the next two seasons or even is just a reliable seventh defenseman or call-up from Hershey, Kundratek’s contract is a bargain. If Kundratek doesn’t pan out, at $575,000 a season, he’s a low-risk option that can likely be dealt easily, released or kept in the AHL.

What’s next for the Caps?

Some of the Caps fanbase on Twitter and other social media outlets seems a bit uneasy about the fact that the Caps have not yet made a big splash in the free agency market.  While certain players may have made some sense (i.e. PA Parenteau), I’m in no way bothered by the Caps lack of activity thus far.  I would rather the team save the cap space to address needs at a date later than July 1st than rashly fill a hole in a manner that will likely prove to be inadequate or with a contract that will become regrettable.  That being said, there are holes on this roster that need to be fixed, most notably, a winger to replace Alex Semin on the second line.

The Caps filled a major hole on the roster by acquiring Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars. However, with the impending departure of Semin via free agency, the Caps still have some work to do in terms of their top 2 lines.  Given the lack of top-6 talent on the free agent market, the Caps may be best served to make a deal for a winger to play on one of the top two lines, which brings us to scenario one…

Trade for Bobby Ryan or a similar player.

This scenario was brought up recently over at Japers’ Rink with the hypothetical package of Dmitri Orlov, Marcus Johansson and a 1st round pick going to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan.  For a good debate on the value of that deal, head on over and read the comments section.  For my purposes here, I’ll assume the value makes sense for both teams.  If this trade were to happen, or one for a player similar to Ryan, the Caps group of forwards would look like this:

Ovechkin-Backstrom/Ribeiro-Brouwer

Perreault-Backstrom/Ribeiro-Ryan( or similar player)

Chimera-Laich-Ward

Crabb-Beagle-Hendricks

Is Perreault a top-6 winger? No.  But could he be a serviceable option given the quality of the players on his line as well as the quality of the other lines?  I would vote yes.   The top two lines would have plenty of scoring and prove difficult to play against with physical players such as Ovechkin, Brouwer and a Ryan-type player.  I see no question marks with the third and fourth lines listed above, they’d make Dale Hunter proud (and probably be his first and second lines).

However, we can play arm-chair GM all we want, but it doesn’t magically make Bobby Ryan or a similar player available and/or affordable.   So what if the Caps can’t bring in a second-line winger?   What if the contract or asking price for such a player is currently at a level that will do more harm than good for the Caps?  This bring us to scenario 2…

Sign Jason Arnott

This comes with a disclaimer. Ultimately, the Caps need a to acquire a 2W, not Jason Arnott. Without acquiring a winger to play on the second line, the Caps are not legitimate Cup contenders.   But what if nothing makes sense? Should the Caps stand pat?  Depending on the what’s available, possibly, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.   Instead, the Caps should put a band-aid on the situation and wait until a trade for a 2W opens up.  A band-aid type fix would involve bringing in a player on a short-term, low-risk deal so as not to handcuff the team should a 2W becomes available.   To me, the easiest way to do this is to sign a player to solidify the center spot on the third line to free up Brooks Laich to play wing on the second line.  Of all of the available free agents, Jason Arnott strikes me as the player best suited to serve in this role.  He’d likely be available on a one-year deal for a reasonable amount of money.  The forward lines would then look like this:

Ovechkin-Backstrom/Ribeiro-Brouwer

Laich-Backstrom/Ribeiro-Perreault/Johansson

Chimera-Arnott-Ward

Crabb-Beagle-Hendricks

I wouldn’t have a lot of faith in this team contending for the Cup, but I don’t think it’d be a disaster over the short term, either.  The intention here is to put a band-aid on the 2W situation until a legitimate one hopefully becomes available via trade during the season.  This is  certainly not an ideal option, but it’s better than signing Player X, who is questionably adequate to play as a 2W for the duration of his contract, to a deal that will be harmful to the team’s cap management.

Regardless of what the Caps end up doing, I like the patient approach they have opted for thus far.  Doing nothing to address glaring needs is generally a better approach than addressing those needs in an inadequate or fiscally irresponsible manner.  That being said, signing a player such as Arnott makes sense for the short-term.  The would allow Laich to fill-in as a 2W while also not handcuffing the team financially when/if a 2W becomes available.

Show Tim Thomas your “O” face at Game 3 on Monday at Verizon Center

Before anyone on the right or left gets too excited, this is about the politics of winning a playoff series and nothing more…

Remember how Tim Thomas, in protest, skipped the Bruins Stanley Cup trip to the White House earlier this year?  Well, apparently the subject is still a sore one with Tim (no word yet on if it’s more sore than his bruised ego after this Matt Hendricks shootout goal). Last week, he shut down his media session when asked again about the skipped White House ceremony and whether he was worried it might come up during the playoff series against the Caps.

Regardless of political affiliation or whether you think the issue is overplayed and blown out of proportion, the fact is, Thomas clearly doesn’t want the issue brought up as his team plays the Caps in the first round.  As fans of his opponent, it is our duty to betray his wishes.

Below you will find Barack Obama, Capitals fan extraordinaire.  Print it, Print it, Print it.  Take it to Game 3 on Monday.  Take it down by the glass during warm-ups.  If you’re sitting behind a goal, print out enough for your entire section.  Thomas may skip the White House, and the real Obama may not attend Caps games, but we can still ensure that this issue that Thomas wants to avoid is right in his face when he comes to D.C. Thanks to Erick at sparkexperience.com for the design work!

ObamaSignForThomas

Download it, print it & hold it up to the glass for Timmy to see during warm-ups (or all night) at Game 3 on Monday.

To download, click the image above or on this link:
http://brookslaichyear.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/obamasignfortimthomas.pdf

Talking with the enemy: Bruins blog ‘Days of Y’Orr’ answers our questions about Caps-Bruins series

Tim Thomas NopeBetween now and Thursday, when the Caps-Bruins series kicks off, we’ll be bringing different features to have you all geared up for Game 1.  Bruins bloggers ‘Days of Y’Orr‘ were kind enough to answer our questions about their team and we did the same for them.  Below are their answers to our questions.  You can find our answers to their questions about the Caps here.

1) Other than the obvious choices (the headline players), what player should Caps fans be most wary of going into the series?

Chris Kelly or Rich Peverley. The fun thing for Capitals fans will be that they can watch these guy potentially play on the same line together. Here’s a couple reasons for each player:

Chris Kelly is playing for a contract so that usually motivates a player to play better. He also scored 20 goals this year, which is the first time in his career that he’s done that. Kelly is also second among Bruins’ forwards in terms of short handed time on ice, only behind Mr. Selke himself Patrice Bergeron by a second (in SH TOI per game). Actually, since I have the stones, I would say that Chris Kelly is a carbon copy of Patrice Bergeron this season. He can kill penalties, he plays on the power play and he’s a great two way forward.

Rich Peverley is a wildcard here. He’s a couple weeks removed from a knee-to-knee hit by Hal Gill that left him on the sidelines for 6 weeks. Normally, Peverley plays on the power play and fits well in Claude’s defensive scheme. He uses his speed along the outside to move the puck and start rushes. He can score, he can kill penalties.

2) What player are Caps fans most likely to hate after the series?

Brad Marchand. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. I would expect to see one of your players slew-footed by Marchand and his unusually long honker at least once. The thing is, Marchand is a pest. And no, I don’t mean the Matt Cooke type of pest where if you’re not paying attention, you’re getting an elbow to the temple. He’s an old school pest. What’s even worse? He backs it up. Marchand scored 28 goals this season, so not only will he frustrate you with his antics, he’ll frustrate you on the ice.

3) Going into the last day of the season, what team were you hoping to face given the potential opponents? Why or why not the Caps?

Honestly? The Ottawa Senators for the sheer fact that Boston has owned Ottawa this season. Boston is 5-1 against Ottawa with Tim Thomas posting a 4-1 record, a 2.41 GAA and a SV% of .932. In short, Thomas has made Ottawa his bitch and it would’ve been nice to see guys like Lucic and Seguin clown Erik Karlsson so people will stop talking about Mike Green V 2.0 as a Norris Trophy candidate. Ah well, I guess we’ll have to see the Rangers take them to task.

I don’t mind the Bruins facing the Caps. The only thing I’m worried about is that they’ve seemed to hit a hot streak as of late….but then I look at their goaltender and I know all is right with the world.

4) Why do you think the Caps have matched up so well against the Bruins this year?

They usually play down to their competition.

5) Tyler Seguin seemed to take a significant step forward in the regular season this year, do you anticipate the same in the playoffs?

Absolutely. The kid was 1 goal away from 30 and last year’s playoffs was really his coming out party. I expect the Bruins second line of Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin to really do some damage against Washington.

6) Is Tim Thomas still pissed from when Matt Hendricks broke his hip in the shootout?  Does he always fall like that when he goes to the locker room?

Thomas is fine. I spoke with him a few days ago about the Hendricks shootout goal and Thomas stated that as a free citizen, Hendricks has the right to score in the shootout and Tim Thomas was not going to oppress him by stopping the puck. Then Thomas posted from stuff on Facebook.

7) Repeat, yes or no? 

I’m going to say no, just because it’s hard as hell to do. Should all 4 top seeds win out, Boston then goes on the face Florida and the winner of the Rangers/Penguins and that’s a series that can really beat a team down. I wouldn’t say Boston has the upper hand, but if they go through Washington and then Florida and have to face either a Rangers team that had to go through Pittsburgh or a Pittsburgh team that had to go through Philly AND New York, than it looks like the easier path.

I’m not sure how they would fare against the West though. The one game they played St. Louis, they hung in it. Vancouver seems to know how to beat the Bruins, as shown in their January 7th game at the Garden. It’ll be tough, starting with Washington. It’s the playoffs, nothing’s guaranteed.

Hendricks, Laich, Semin and a gritty Caps goal to like in Montreal

There was a lot to like about the Caps second goal in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Montreal.

First, there was the hard work by Alex Semin, who managed to keep the puck moving along the boards after falling to the ice in the corner. Brooks Laich then followed that up by not wasting time or looking to do anything fancy—he simply took the puck directly to the net. Finally, Matt Hendricks was headed toward the crease and picked up the Laich rebound, hammering it in decisively.

The play was gritty, simple and just what the Caps needed with only a one goal third period lead at the point.

Video: Matt Hendricks from Brooks Laich & Alex Semin vs Montreal, 2/4/12

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