George McPhee spoke with the media yesterday and answered some of the questions I posed recently. All in all, it was a typical George McPhee presser. He’s a very intelligent guy but, he plays it close to the vest. A stout Free Agency conservative, McPhee said it wasn’t a great class and he doesn’t like to compete with other teams on contract length. The Capitals did sign D Tyson Strachan and a two other minor leauge players. Strachan will compete for a bottom two position. McPhee alluded that the Capitals made the best offers they would make to their UFA’s before the trading deadline and that they knew they would lose both Matt Hendricks and Mike Ribiero with most certainty, given the nature of Free Agency, long ago.
The biggest news to come out of all this was Brooks Laich being named the Capitals second line center. Washington pays Laich 4.5 million, according to CapGeek.com, and will need him to live up to that contract with a 45-50 point season. Letting Mike Ribiero go will hurt the PP but McPhee said he hopes some younger players will step up and Brooks centering the second line will lead to a “faster pace” and better two-way play. Laich plays more physical than Ribiero, who ended up minus on the year. Ribiero has some tricky skills but, McPhee believes Laich will do well in Adam Oates “North and South” featuring chip and chase and aggresive rushes. He compared him to Mike Fisher of Nashville, Mike Richards in LA and David Bakcus of St. Louis. Caps fans hope he is right. Laich will face off against Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin often, as the Caps are back in a division with hated Pittsburgh. It should be noted Laich brings considerable intagibles to the table with gritty play and heart (see bottom for Brooks Laich highlight).
McPhee also mentioned that Tom Wilson showed up in good shape and that the team would be evaluating off-ice maturity and presence just as much as on-ice this week. The camp also serves as an educational platform to teach young prospects about nutrition and being a pro. McPhee has been known to play dead in situations like this and then pull off a semi-large trade for midsize players but, for now, Caps fans should think about the players they had last year and hope some of them take that next step.