Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Filling out the defense

It is a foregone conclusion that the Capitals will ice a drastically different roster next season.  Just how effective at making changes the Capitals are remains to be seen.  Having previously covered some possible replacements for outgoing forwards, it is time to turn to the other side of the puck.


Karl Alzner: Alzner has been a mainstay on the blue line since opening night 2010, having played in 540 consecutive regular season games.  Consistently flying under the radar as a quiet complementary player, Alzner, like Edmonton's Kris Russell, is a benchmark for the stats vs. eyes test, who gets clobbered year after year in puck possession stats.  It will be difficult to replace him on the penalty kill, but he is due for a considerable raise over the $2.8 million he made this season.

Kevin Shattenkirk: The biggest deadline deal in Capitals history was, in true Caps fashion, all for show.  The team had no problem on the powerplay, so bringing in another quarterback never made much sense anyway.  However, Kevin will have no shortage of suitors, and has earned the huge paycheck he will have for the foreseeable future.  But that future will not be in Washington.

Dmitry Orlov: Nothing is decided yet, but Orlov will certainly have a pretty offer from the KHL to return home.  Hopefully this does not happen, as Orlov has developed in a fine second pair defenseman who surprisingly landed the best hit of the season for the Capitals, while playing in all situations of every game.  There is a reasonable chance Orlov will be gone next year.

There is a lot of value on the market, either available through free agency, or trade (less ideal).  The question is whether that fits within the Capitals budget:

Brian Campbell: The former Cup winner is old and not as mobile as in his heyday, but will neither command a high salary nor top minutes.  But Campbell is a winner, which would be a welcome change.

Eric Gryba: Not particularly mobile, but posted positive shot differentials in part time duty and is a steady, stay at home defenseman who can be an effective penalty killer.

Yannick Weber: He does not see the toughest assignments, but in a depth role, would be useful.

Eric Gudbranson: The oft-injured former Panther played just 30 games after being traded to the Canucks.  He is certainly due a significant raise, but may be worth freeing up cap space for, since he is 24 and a restricted free agent.  Philipp Grubauer will almost assuredly be chosen by Las Vegas, and with Ryan Miller out in Vancouver, a one-for-one swap would help both teams if the Capitals feel that Orlov will jump across the pond.

Matt Hunwick: He may resign with Toronto, and for good reason, as the Leafs figure to be highly competitive next season.  But a 32 year old without much long-term upside may be squeezed out of the Leafs roster.  Hunwick would be a solid third pairing defenseman who plays a lot on the penalty kill.

Other names: Dylan McIlrath, Fedor Tyutin, Deryk Engelland.

One thing is clear: the Capitals need to promote from within.  Djoos and Bowey figure to both get long looks in the preseason.

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