Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Capitals Qualify Nine Players

"Two days after the completion of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and three days before the start of the league’s free agent shopping season, the Washington Capitals got back to business on Monday. The Caps issued qualifying contract offers to nine players for the 2010-11 season.

The list of players qualified is as follows: Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Gordon, Boyd Gordon, Patrick McNeill, Zach Miskovic and Jeff Schultz."

-Mike Vogel

I do not know much about the Hershey boys (Beagle, Bourque, A. Gordon, McNeill, Miskovic), but they have been together for a bit and have great chemistry. Do any of them have the talent to crack a top three line for the Caps? Probably not any time soon. Do any of them have anything to offer as a fourth liner? Definitely not. Qualify them and keep them buried in the minors, and use as trade bait come March.

The others, well they are a mixed bag. Fehr has come a long way, at long last. He was the 18th overall pick seven years ago, which sounds like a long time, but he is only 24 years old. However, he did not play more than 23 games in an NHL season before he turned 23, which is typical of power forwards. Herein lies the problem. He's not a power forward. Just because he lowers his shoulder and shoots from less than 12 feet away does not make him the next coming of Neely. He is not physical (less than one hit per game, and less than one blocked shot every third game), and other than his surprisingly clutch scoring, does not bring much to the table.

Why do I say clutch? Of his 21 goals scored in the regular season, 11 of them came with the score tied, and another 6 of them came while the Caps were losing.

Fehr is due for a 5% pay raise, however, he will need a 25% raise to garner the Caps any sort of compensation. Is he worth a million dollars? Not right now. This leaves our hands tied - sign him and use him as a trade chip in March.

Fleischmann is one of the streakiest players in the league, right up there in the company of Kovalev and Afinogenov. He too had a career year, posting over 50 points and shooting a very respectable 19%, especially given his paranoia of blue paint. Flash is one of the fastest Caps, and provides great versatility in his ability to not only play passive hockey at center, but also at left wing. And he is a great Swayze impersonator in April.

However, he can skate, plays well with his teammates, and has a good shot. And, like Fehr, over half of his goals came with the score tied. Does this equate to earning a roster spot next year? Maybe. The Caps have a bunch of cap room, but after the bungling of the cap two seasons ago, I am sure they will be much more cautious. Fleischmann comes at a steep bargain; he will probably not earn enough to justify letting him walk to receive the compensation. Maybe he will be trade bait, but I see the Caps keeping him for a few more years.

I will leave you with one telling stat: +24 in 47 wins, -15 in 22 losses.

Boyd Gordon. For years, one of my favorite Caps. His tireless work ethic is unmatched among most of the Caps forwards, in the defensive zone at least. He is also a very clean player - just 33 minor penalties in over 300 NHL games played. Very reminiscent of a younger Jay Pandolfo. However, that is about the limit of his game, and in recent years, injuries have become a serious concern. Sign him for another one year deal - he is a good piece of the puzzle, and comes at a great bargain.

Jeff Schultz. What an enigma. The guy has size for days, but never uses it. Imagine if Hal Gill had a kid with Mother Theresa. That's Schultz. He had an absolute monster year though, and will get a huge pay raise, whether it be from the Caps, or from another team. I expect to see someone else offer Schultz a fat offer sheet, a la Bobby Clarke/Ryan Kesler. Maybe even Philly - they are in the market for a depth defenseman, and Schultz would make a great third pair dman for the Flyers.

This would be a great time to lock him up long term. Not 10 years, but a nice 4-5 year deal in the $2 million per year price range is appropriate. Why not more? There is something to be said about a defenseman who gets benched in the playoffs two straight years.

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