Welcome back to "Capital Letters," a sporadic feature where I answer any and all questions relating to the local professional hockey team.
On 14 separate occasions this postseason, a team facing a multi-goal deficit has rallied to win a game, setting a new NHL playoff record. The Capitals, blowers of 13 two-goal leads this season, are surely feeling left out. Your questions.
With this summer's draft class lacking in NHL-ready prospects as compared to previous years and the free-agent market not particularly strong, it is expected that general managers will be actively seeking trades to bolster their respective rosters.
“I do think there’s more [trade talks] based on the conversations I’m having," Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney told ESPN's Craig Custance. "I think there should be more things happening. There’s just fewer players available in free agency. Therefore, as you set up a team for next year, you’re going to have to make some deals. Nobody is sitting here and saying, 'Let’s wait until July 1 and fill two or three holes.'”
It is no secret that the Capitals' roster could use some retooling. GM Brian MacLellan certainly seems eager to put his stamp on said roster, but the number of realistically tradable and desirable assets available to him is fairly low.
As Jacob points out, two of the options are Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, right wingers who are coming off career-best seasons. Ward spread out his 24 goals and 49 points throughout the season, while Brouwer finished with a flourish, scoring 15 goals in his final 27 games after scoring 10 in his first 55.
Their respective values are certainly at their highest. In Ward's case, it is likely that he will play out the final year of his four-year, $12 million contract in Washington with his former coach, Barry Trotz, becoming his current coach. The two have a close relationship from their shared time in Nashville, where Ward broke into the league full-time in 2008. Trotz will surely lean on Ward.
That leaves Brouwer, who has two years left with an annual salary cap charge of $3.66 million. I am not sure what he would fetch on his own (though he was worth a late first-round draft pick when the Capitals acquired him at the 2011 draft). A package deal may be required to bring back adequate value, though this all is purely speculative.
I believe the impetus for a Brouwer trade would be to dissipate the logjam at right wing and in turn provide Tom Wilson with more playing time, which is something MacLellan would have liked to see last season. Of course, with former coach Adam Oates' left/right preference no longer a hindrance, that depth chart may be reconfigured without the need for a trade, especially if Trotz elects to move Alex Ovechkin back to left wing.
Either way, the trade market will be something to keep an eye on this month as the draft nears.
Washington has one major free agent decision to make this summer and that involves Mikhail Grabovski, who was limited to 58 games by injury but fit in nicely throughout the lineup.
As previously mentioned, the free-agent market is thin this summer, particularly at center. If Grabovski decides not to re-sign in Washington, teams will be clamoring for his services.
The Capitals can exclusively negotiate with Grabovski through July 1, when free agency opens throughout the NHL. If they would like to sign him before he can hear other offers, then they need to by June 25. That is when the interview period begins and other teams can express their interest.
Following the regular season, Grabovski expressed his desire to remain in Washington. Yet he did not want to make any sort of commitment until the fates of Oates and former GM George McPhee had been determined.
“We need to know what’s going on here and what’s going to be here,” Grabovski said in April. “So we’re in a position to hold and wait and we’ll see what’s going to happen in the next month.
“Any years makes me happy. Any money makes me happy. Any team makes me happy. It doesn’t matter how long for me, I just want to find what’s best for my family and for me. Right now that’s nowhere because I don’t know what’s here. Here is right for me, but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next month.”
Of course, Oates (who personally recruited Grabovski last summer after he was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs) and McPhee are gone, so it remains to be seen if Grabovski will want to play under Trotz. Considering Trotz's desire to play a puck-possession game and Grabovski's place as the best possession forward on the Capitals last season, it seems like a fit in theory.
The pressing question is how much Grabovski is worth. After making $3 million last season, is he worth $4.5 million? Or $5 million? Everybody has a price.
It is believed that Grabovski is seeking a four- or five-year contract worth $5 million per season. Whether that is worth it to MacLellan remains to be seen.
For the sake of this mailbag, let us assume that Grabovski does not re-sign. If Trotz envisions Evgeny Kuznetsov as a center, the youngster could mitigate Grabovski's loss. If not, then that pesky hole at second-line center goes unfilled once again. I believe Kuznetsov's potential role will have something to do with how the Capitals proceed in the coming weeks.
Long story short, the roster needs a lot of work.
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