Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Washington Capitals - Ovechkining Their Pulse


The Washington Capitals made the 2nd round this past season, their best finish since 1998. The team has arguably the NHL's best player in Alexander Ovechkin and a host of young stars. The salary cap monster rises quickly though, and the signings George McPhee have made to augment this club have almost all gone poorly. The Capitals will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming months - a lot of what happens to the franchise depends on how much money Ted Leonsis is willing to spend.

Capitals Salaries
(Estimates in Green, Red Field indicates UFA)

Wow, That's A Lot Of Terrible Contracts: Indeed it is, Sherman. With Nylander, Pothier, Poti, and Chris Clark, the Capitals paid around 13.5 million dollars for almost zero production. Poti was an effective defensive D-man, but he's still overpaid as his once-promising offensive game has completely deserted him. Nylander was a healthy scratch for much of the season, and Pothier and Clark spent most of the season injured, and weren't particularly good when healthy. At least two of these guys have to pick their game up for the Capitals to contend next season.

Projected Lines for 2009-10




Future Watch

Forwards: LW Chris Bourque has been knocking on the door. He's waiver-eligible so he will likely be on the roster in some capacity. LW Oskar Osala got a look last season as well.

Defense: Karl Alzner had an impressive pro debut and spent 30 games with the Capitals. If the Capitals can find another home for Brian Pothier, Alzner should slide right into his place.

Goalie: Michal Neuvirth was the Bears' playoff goalie for their run in the playoffs - he took huge strides forward and should be NHL ready in two years.


The Capitals may be looking to fob off Brian Pothier on another team - his 2.5 million might be useful somewhere else or on someone else. Unless the Capitals are also packaging a prospect along with Nylander or Theodore, they are unlikely to be able to trade these players.

Free Agent Discussion

Money to Spend: 5.9 million
Holes to Fill: 1

The Capitals have more than one hole to fill. With Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov both headed to the KHL, they may be looking at upgrading their 2nd line - Nylander has shown no ability to play 2nd line center at this point in his career. Regardless, there's a ton of wingers available - Erik Cole, Maxim Afinogenov, Brian Gionta, etc. who could fill this spot. It's sure to be a huge career boost, so a make-good 1 year deal wouldn't be unexpected. The Capitals cannot get too crazy in free agency - they only have 9 players signed for 2010-11.


The Capitals likely want to upgrade at center, wing, and defense, but barring some surprising trades, that won't be happening. They may be missing their window - Nicklas Backstrom will get a ton of money as an RFA in 2010-11, Alex Semin will too, and the team will be soon sunk by the terrible contracts they've signed to players like Nylander. Somehow getting rid of Theodore or Nylander's deal, even if it means sacrificing 1st round picks down the road, would be ideal - the team could load up this off-season.


The Capitals are not among the league's elite, but they're only a step or two away. As long as Ovechkin and Backstrom are there, the team should be at least in the playoffs, but a Stanley Cup may be a long way off.


  1. Bad contracts and you didn't even mention Jose Theodore. The good news for them is that he is off the books after this year.

    Chris Clark seems to have stolen 2.6 million a season after one 30-goal season. He has only playaled 50 games since that time. If Clark can actually stay healthy and score 20 goals, that is almost like a nice free agent aquisition. The reality is he scores 1 goal in 32 games, which is inexcusable.

    Man the Caps really are the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NHL. One giant talent and so many bad signings including overpriced role players and washed up has beens.

  2. this is where pittsburgh and washington differ - i think pittsburgh would let clark walk after such a season. clark scored 30 because he was playing with ovechkin on the power play - just look at his shooting percentage skyrocket. but since clark is a 'leader' they lock him up to that deal, which actually acknowledges what a fluke season it was.

    george mcphee is a bad GM who constantly underestimates his own ability to find young players.