After a season that was sure to have left every Washington Capitals fan heartbroken, the Caps are making some moves during the offseason to help ensure an early exit from the playoffs does not happen again.
What has to be the Caps biggest move this offseason was resigning Nicklas Backstrom to a 10-year, $67 million contract. Backstrom has quickly become one of the best centers in the NHL and making sure that he returned to the Capitals roster for the 2010-2011 season was vital. Backstrom set a career high last season with 33 goals and 68 assists; and his 101 points tally ranked him fourth in the league. He also has yet to miss a game in three NHL seasons. Having him and Alex Ovechkin together, who combined for the league’s highest scoring teammate duo last season, is certainly a strong move.
The Washington Capitals also re-signed free agents Boyd Gordon to a one-year contract, defenseman Jeff Shultz for four years, and winger Eric Fehr to a two-year extension. This leaves Tomas Fleischmann the only unsigned restricted free agent remaining.
The Capitals came out of the draft with some promising prospects from Russia. The Caps first-round pick was center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was one of the best players in the draft. He has good scoring potential, but still needs some time in the gym. The Caps second pick got them winger Stanislav Galiev who they are hoping overcomes some inconsistencies and becomes a play-maker. They also picked up goalie Philipp Grubauer, center Caleb Herbert, and defensivemen Caleb Herbert.
Washington is still looking to fill the void for a strong center on the second line. They seem to have high hopes for Marcus Johansson, their first-round pick in 2009. Johansson spent some time this summer at the Capitals development camp, and has spent the past two season playing for Farjestads of the Swedish Elite League.
However, on Thursday the Caps signed center Andrew Joudrey to a one-year contract and center Jay Beagle to a two-year contract. Joudrey, 26, just wrapped up his third season in Hershey where he recorded 19 assists and 34 points in 78 games, and two assists and three points in 21 playoff games to help the Bears win the Calder Cup. Beagle, 24, appeared in seven games for the Caps last season and scored his first NHL goal on Nov. 23 at Ottawa. He has played 10 career games with the Caps including four Stanley Cup games during the 2008-2009 season.
The Caps signed veteran winger Brian Willsie, who was Ovechkin’s former roommate, to a one-year, two-way contract. Willsie played for the Caps during the 2005-2006 season tallying 19 goals and 22 assists in 82 games. He has been seeing time in the NHL and AHL for the past two season and will most likely start next season in Hershey.
Some questions still remain regarding the Caps goaltending. They released Jose Theodore, who struggled in the playoffs last season, and picked up veteran goalie Dany Sabourin. However, it seems that Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be the Caps go-to’s this season and Sabourin is just there for back-up and will be spending time in Hershey.
While the Caps haven’t made too many big moves during the off-season they have resigned some key veterans, which is definitely a strong move. Washington should still be looking for a solid defensemen who can help out Mike Green, who is sometimes too offensive minded. The Caps also need to make sure they have a clear starting goalie when the season begins because struggles in the net again are not going to keep them in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.