Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roster Thoughts for the 11-12 Season

Tonight. You.
So McPhee finally went ahead and signed Karl Alzner. Two years, $2.57 million. Considering most people, myself included, thought Alzner would get at least $3 million *per* year, that's a steal. While I really do believe that Alzner needs a new agent, and only half-jokingly think I could take on that role, this is a great deal as far as the Capitals organization is concerned. Today was also the last day of development camp. While the roster likely is not complete, the recent moves by McPhee have given the team some upgrades in secondary areas and given a much clearer view of who to expect on the ice this fall. My well-documented thoughts on trading Varly and Fehr and the Ward signing aside, I actually do think the roster is pretty strong.. As it stands today, here is what the roster (most likely) looks like:



This lineup assumes a couple of things, of course. First, that McPhee will not make any other trades, or at least ones involving these particular players. Second, and piggybacking on the first, that Poti will not count against the cap due to retirement or placement on long-term injured reserve, thus actually giving the team the cap space to dress these lines and give the team about $2 million in space. We know the top line is not going anywhere, same as the third line. Laich, Halpern, and Hendricks aren't going anywhere either. Nor are any of the defensemen not named Schultz.  Semin is pretty much constantly attached to various trade rumors, and Chimera is looking more and more like the odd winger out. Chimera simply does not have the skill set to be a second line winger, and he did pretty poorly last year on the third line with Johansson centering him. At the same time, he doesn't really show the physicality that is typically expected on a fourth line in today's NHL. There is always a chance that McPhee could trade him for a piece that better fits the puzzle, but I haven't seen anything on the interwebs to substantiate that thought.
A little clumsy, but it gets the job done
Likewise, Schultz is looking a bit out of place, too. Last season was not a particularly good one, and 09-10 is looking more and more like a fluke year. I would be surprised to see Hamrlik, with his experience and contract, to play anywhere but on the top pairing with Green (Schultz's usual spot), while Carlson and Alzner are too good to play third pairing. I would expect Wideman, as the other big-money puck-moving D-man, to see time on the third line as a result, with the remaining roster spot going to whoever plays best alongside him. Poti has almost no chance of seeing the roster, and Erskine is at best the 7th defensman now, possibly 8th if uber-prospect Dmitri Orlov makes the lineup. So we will accept this "lineup" with a grain of salt.

The top line is pretty much set in stone at this point. Everything else has a bit of leeway. Assuming Semin stays, he is locked in at the second line RW. There have been rumblings that Laich will see a lot of time on the third line, but I just cannot buy into that with the current payroll. Johansson is by no means ready to be a second line center on a team shooting for the Cup (honestly, I still don't see why he is on the team, but that is a different story and a battle that was lost long ago). Brouwer will probably see most of his ice time in the 2LW role. Johansson somehow won the Caps' confidence last year despite what (only I think?) was a pretty mediocre year, even for a rookie. Ranking 271st in the league while playing in 69 games really is not what you are looking for from a top-6 forward, so I think he will probably spend most of his time on the 3rd line. Joel Ward will almost certainly play the 3RW the entire season, and his skill set makes him a good fit there.

Taking "strides" to improve his game?
As for the 3LW, that was usually Jason Chimera's spot last season, but as I noted, he did not perform very well there. Instead of Chimera, I would expect that spot to go to one of the prospects. Top pick right now is probably Matias Sjogren, since he has experience playing in the Elite League, is a self-proclaimed defensive forward who has shown some scoring skill to boot, and is older than the other kids. Stanislav Galiev, while young, has looked pretty good, and will be a strong competitor for the role as well. Cody Eakin fell just short of making the team last year, and you know a guy like that has only gotten better. Not to mention ever-present fan favorite Mathieu Perreault itching to keep a Capitals sweater on for more than a few games. Chimera and Johansson have some very serious competition, and in my opinion, don't have a great chance of beating that competition based on skill alone. That being said, Boudreau and McPhee have odd loyalties, and the Caps' third line is the most volatile in terms of roster moves and line changes. The 3LW and 3C roles will be hard to know for sure until training camp, but my bets are on Sjogren and MoJo, respectively, although I think Eakin or Perreault *should* get Johansson's spot.

Coming to the fourth and final line, we all know Jeff Halpern is locked in at 4C. Matt Hendricks had a very strong season, and you can expect him to play wing. I have Chimera in at 4LW solely because I don't think he fits anywhere else, but I think he actually could fit in relatively well in that role. Halpern and Hendricks score a bit more than Gordon and Bradley while bringing comparable faceoff ability and willingness to fight the gloves, respectively. Chimera is a very fast skater, but does not have the best shot. If he plays a bit more physical, the Caps could have a very threatening fourth line in terms of energy, faceoffs, physicality, and scoring. Don't forget that the team still has D.J. King on the payroll, and he proved to be more than adequate at filling that spot the very few times he was called on to play.

This is about what it takes to pay the Capitals this year

The blue line is pretty set, too, as I hinted at earlier. Despite possibly his best season yet, I really do not see Erskine cracking the lineup on a regular basis, probably because "best season yet" still isn't all that good on a top-tier team. Schultz's primary competition will probably be from Orlov, who has spent the past year proving himself capable at moving the puck and knocking guys around. With his $2.75 million cap hit, too, a team struggling to reach the cap floor could be interested in Schultz. Erskine's $1.5 million would help some teams, too. Shedding either of those contracts would further help the Caps by giving them a bit of breathing room in terms of salary cap. Those kind of moves may come after the season starts, though. But Orlov is still young, and would not be hurt by a year with the Bears. Lastly, the goaltending situation is all but set in stone. Vokoun is your starter (as he should be), Neuvirth is your backup (as he should be), and Holtby will get one more year with the Bears (including a year being coached by Kolzig, as he should).

It is very hard to deny that Washington has a very strong roster on paper. I still do not feel all that confident about the season. Boudreau showed himself to be a fairly laughable coach last season. I know he is the winningest coach since the lockout, but let's be honest, with that team it would be pretty hard not to be, unless you have lost the team a la Glen Hanlon. Which is what I expect this year. Boudreau will be coaching a lot of guys that he doesn't know from his time with the Bears. He will have to deal with guys coming from other teams, both successful and otherwise. Ovechkin and Backstrom languished a bit last year while BB tried to figure out how not to get fired. Brouwer has made it clear that he does not want to play the linejumping game, being one of the top reasons he did not want to re-sign with Chicago. The team has made terrible showings in the playoffs. They finally broke the seven-game-per-series trend this year, only to barely play more than seven games total. Add the way that McPhee treated Varly and Fehr in terms of keeping them posted (or even aware) of trade negotiations involving them, and how little he paid Alzner after dragging the process out, and I do not think that team morale will be all that high. Bad morale + bad coaching = bad season. I hope I am wrong, that McPhee's moves will free the scorers up to score while the grinders grind and play responsibly, and the veterans lend their experience and knowledge. Until then, I remain cautiously pessimistic.

Guess which one I am

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking at the Eric Fehr Trade

Since my last posting, the Capitals have really only made one big move: trading away Eric Fehr to his hometown team, the old-is-new-again Winnipeg Jets. I have always liked Fehr, and even more so this season living in Pittsburgh. For those of you who have forgotten, Fehr scored two of the three goals for Washington in the Winter Classic. Varlamov was the backstop for that game. Both received high praise for their performances (at least from the room filled with Penguins fans that I was in), and now both are gone. The Varly move has already been looked at, and since there was only one NHL move by the team in the past almost-week, I get to analyze this one a little more.  Note: I am not including various moves made in terms of the Hershey Bears. The AHL affiliate has indeed lost several players and picked up several new ones, but I like to focus on the Capitals themselves.

"Why aren't we winning? I've been doing the
same thing for years! It should work, right?"
The team has still failed to resign Karl Alzner, arguably one of the top RFA defensemen in the league, and certainly the team's number one priority since signing Brooks Laich. How this has failed to happen while so many other moves have been made is downright befuddling, if not incredibly frustrating. This has been a major major concern of mine when it comes to McPhee: he has a terrible tendency to place his focus in the wrong spots in hopes of gaining some kind of upper ground over key players, rather than just working with them to create a happy environment for everyone. The team always seems to have their bottom-6 forwards and the 5/6/7/8 defensemen worked out long before any of the top, crucial players. Rather than first focusing signing the stars and necessities, like that second line center or top-4 defenseman or second line winger, and then focusing on the remainder of the roster with the remainder of the cap space, McPhee has repeatedly opted to sign the "lesser" players first, often time to bad contracts. I'm looking at Erskine, Sloan, Neuvirth, Steckel, Poti, and Schultz in terms of just the last two seasons. Sloan has been bought out, Steckel traded. Erskine and Schultz's futures are in some question with the team.
Erskine will likely be the 7th defenseman this year, while Schultz, in large part because of his hefty contract, is possible trade bait. Poti is injured to the brink of retirment, and Neuvirth... well I think everyone knows my thoughts on Neuvirth. McPhee makes these moves, in my humble opinion, for two reasons. First, because these are the sure things; these are the guys who you don't have to haggle with for long and will be more than happy to sign and take one more thing off your checklist. Second, if lowers the amount of cap room, allowing McPhee to say to the bigger name guys "Hey, we only have X amount of money left, and we're a strong Cup contender. We can only afford to give you this much, and I know it's less than you may get on a different team, but they'll be worse, and you won't be as satisfied." While those may seem like logical, even decent reasons, the problem is the team hasn't won when it counts. The players are starting to feel used and played with. Meanwhile, other GMs who do it the other way around have teams that win the Cup: such as the Blackhawks and the Penguins. They address their glaring needs first, then deal with the consequences of winning later.

Why do I rant about McPhee's questionable signing strategies? Because, along with the crazy spending-spree, those strategies played a major factor in trading Eric Fehr. The Caps were over the salary cap as of the official Troy Brouwer contract. Teams are allowed to go 10% over the limit during the offseason, but they must be cap-compliant by the start of the season. Again, the team had not signed Alzner, either. The current cap numbers are a little shifty, mind you, as Washington's cap hit currently includes Jay Beagle's contract, a player who has almost no chance of breaking the roster this year, despite playing a good portion of last season, and does not include any of the players who may make the roster as a result of development and training camps (mainly Eakin, Orlov, Sjogren, and Galiev). Eric Fehr had a cap hit of $2.2 million as a RW who saw limited minutes, usually on the ever-shifting, not-very-productive third line, and has missed many a game over the past two seasons due to shoulder injuries. As of right now, he is not expected to even start the season due to his recovery from his latest bout of shoulder surgery. To a guy like McPhee, he seemed to be the perfect trade bait. The Caps, in return, got a 4th-round pick and a low-level prospect. By low-level I mean he scores the same amount of points Fehr does, but in the ECHL. In other words, the team pretty much got a bag of pucks, which is all McPhee and Boudreau ever seemed to see in Fehr. I present to you my rebuttal of this notion:
Part 1 of my rebuttal: Eff the Pens

Fehr, as I noted, was a third-line RW on Boudreau's Capitals. The first-line RW was Mike Knuble, and the third-line LW was Jason Chimera. Knuble is set to be 40 years old, and has a cap hit of $2.0 million. Chimera is 32, and has a cap hit of $1.875 million. Both of these players are in the last year of their contracts, and will become UFAs. Fehr's contract is also ending, but he will be 26 at the start of the season and an RFA at the end of his contract. Additionally, the guy who likely has taken Fehr's spot is Joel Ward, 30-year old RW getting $3.0 million from Washington for the next four years. McPhee has stated that after the free agency signings,  the Capitals had a "glut" of right wingers. By my count, before the Fehr trade, they had four: Knuble, Semin, Fehr, and Ward. He may be counting Troy Brouwer, who can play RW, but prefers LW. He might also be counting Matt Hendricks, who can play any role at forward. But then the team's left wingers are just Ovechkin and Chimera. So I count Brouwer on the LW. Either way, the team has eight wingers, if you include Hendricks. This does not a glut create. Strike 1 for McPhee.

Then you look at the guys with the closest contracts in the closest roles to see who would be better kept on the team than Fehr. To me, that's Knuble and Chimera. Let's see how they stack up. All stats here only include time the players have with the Caps.


Knuble 148 53 93 2577:07
Fehr 230 46 93 2605:35
Chimera 120 17 43 1565:22

One thing here that is immediately apparent is the Chimera is not as productive as Knuble or Fehr. Yes he has played fewer games, and significantly fewer minutes, but he has less than half as many points and more than half as much ice time. Of note, as well, is the Knuble has played arguably the best hockey of his career with the Caps, and that Fehr's numbers include his rookie seasons, such as playing 11 games in 05-06, when he was only 20, and had zero points in 63:13 of ice time. Even still, Fehr has the same number of points as Knuble, including a comparable number of goals, in only 28:28 more total ice time with the Caps. Yes, he has far more games, but he is also getting pretty crappy ice time, and did not have a real spot on the team until 08-09. In fact, if you were to take out that first 11 games, his points total stays the same and he has less ice time with the team than Knuble. Additionally, nearly all of Knuble's time comes on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, both of whom broke 100 points in 09-10, Knuble's first season with the team. Fehr has jumped around the
Well when you put it like that...
lines some, but traditionally has seen his time on the third line, often with Jason Chimera playing opposite him. In short, Fehr is far more productive than Chimera while playing on the same line, and is roughly as productive as Knuble while playing with demonstrably inferior linemates. Fehr is also hitting that age where most players enter their prime in terms of offensive production. A friend of mine here in Pittsburgh asked me after the Winter Classic "Why is that guy not playing on the top line?" I had no answer for him.

Now, of course, a player's value is not measured only in his offensive production, but you also have to look at things like grittiness, physicality, and defensive playing. These don't always show up in the stats, but when they do, they manifest themselves in things like hits and blocked shots. Joel Ward was brought in this year because he is perceived to be a defensive forward that can bring his game up in the playoffs. Granted, this is based off of only this year's playoffs, and not the previous year's first round exit where he had four points in six games. I have also never really watched the guy play. What I have done is looked at and pulled up his stats. Based on stats alone, I don't see where he earns $3 million from a team like Washington, especially when they had a guy like Fehr on the squad. Here are their stats from 2010-2011:


Ward 1,365:48  80 67 57 120:18:00
150:33:00 5
Fehr 654:39:00 52 34 20 101:36:00
0:00 7

I can't say this looks totally legal,
but I can say it looks totally awesome
Now looking at Ward vs. Fehr, I try to see where Fehr was deficient that Ward is able to get a long term contract for more money and take his spot on the roster. In terms of hits, Fehr had roughly 3.116 hits per sixty minutes to Ward's 2.943. This number actually surprised me. I never thought of Fehr as a particularly physical player, especially given his shoulder injuries, but it looks like he is at least as much of a hitter as Ward is. Take this with a grain of salt, though, as it is the home teams' stat-keepers that determine hits, and it is a very subjective, fluctuating stat. Looking at blocked shots, Fehr blocks about 1.833 shots per sixty minutes while Ward blocks roughly 2.504. There is a pretty significant difference there. Remember, we're talking about forwards, not defensemen. However, Ward spent 150:33 minutes killing penalties, while Fehr was not used for that job even once last season. The PK is a time when everyone, including forwards, are called to block shots. On the PK, you're playing a man down and facing, in theory, a lot more shots than you would during two minutes of even strength. Given Ward's ice time on the PK, it is not surprising that he has a good number more blocked shots than Fehr. I am sure the research is out there for how many Ward blocked at even strength and on the powerplay so that I could get a more reasonable comparison, but I don't know where to get those numbers.

Speaking of the powerplay, though, notice that Fehr has seven points on the PP in nearly 19 minutes less ice time than Ward, who scored five points, although they were all goals. Another important distinction is that Ward had the second most ice time per game on the Predators last season, behind only center Mike Fisher. As for points in 10-11, Fehr had 10-10-20 to Ward's 10-19-29. Same amount of goals, less assists, 28 fewer games and with far less ice time.

Now, I understand that Eric Fehr has been injured a decent amount. He has some shoulder issues. He is also young and has one year remaining on his contract. His trade, even with taking Poti off the cap due to retirement or long-term injury reserve, may not be enough to sign Alzner. McPhee has still failed to come to an agreement with Alzner's agent over the course of the season, after all. As far as I can tell, Fehr was replaced with an older, somewhat worse player for more money, while older, comparable or worse wingers were also on the team with only slightly smaller contracts. I see no reason for the team to have ever signed Ward in the first place and put the Capitals in the position they are now in, and were in when they decided to move Fehr. Oh, and they never warned him that he was going to be traded, let alone shopped around.

If you ask me, Fehr should have been on the Caps this year, and playing on the top line. Knuble is 40, people. He isn't exactly the future of the squad on the top line. He's been a great complement to Ovi and Backstrom, but Fehr is putting up the same numbers and is 14 years younger. Watch him rehabilitate over the summer and fall, and get decent ice time with Winnipeg. You'll see what I'm talking about. Same as with Varlamov and Fleischmann. Good luck to those guys. Good luck to the Caps, too, but I think I'd rather see some shift in management and coaching. I open this debate up to the interwebs: Should the team have traded Fehr? Do you think he will play a full, healthy season after returning from his latest shoulder surgery? Who will take over for Knuble if and when he becomes an irrelevant player? Why does Ward get $3 million and Fehr gets traded due to cap issues? I have not understood what McPhee is thinking much of this off-season, so if somebody out there can spell it out for me, please, comment on the article. In the meantime, so long F16, you will be sorely missed.

I know, Bruce. I know.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on Caps Free Agency Week 1

Well, I tried to get a post up about the (then) upcoming UFA's for the Capitals a week before July 1st, but an error with Blogger/Firefox/CapGeek/my keyboard/my twitchy fingers deleted an entire post that took several hours to research and write, when I had one measly sentence left. Le sigh. So now we are at the end of the first week of free agency, and for Washington it has been pretty busy. For those who have paid any attention to me on Twitter or Facebook, you know the gist of how I felt on Day 1. But there is more to it, so here you go:

Brooks Laich (C, LW): 6 years, $27 million, avg. 4.5 per year

I dare you to stare deep into his eyes and sign him for less
Occurring prior to July 1, this is, in my opinion, a great signing. Laich is hitting his prime, and was a pending UFA. Widely regarded as the second best UFA forward behind Brad Richards, Laich was going to command a hefty salary on the open market. If he took a hometown discount, which does not seem likely, it was slight. For the demand out there, that is just how it had to play out. But now the Caps have one of the best, most consistent, and hardest-working two way forwards locked up on a team he loves and that loves him. He may not honestly be worth $4.5 a year, but given the scenario and market, this is about as good as it could have been.

Jeff Halpern (C): 1 year, $825k
Hopefully Bondra comes back, too. Just not that jersey.
The first signing on July 1, this was a great move. While Boyd Gordon had a solid year and was the longest tenured player on Washington, he was able to command a raise from other teams lacking depth. A raise that the Caps (rightfully) were not comfortable giving him. Halpern's contract is a mere 25,000 more than Gordon's last year, while Halpern put up far far superior numbers offensively. Not to mention his history with the team, being from Potomac and all. Oh yeah, and he used to be the Caps' captain. Excellent signing.

Semyon Varlamov (G): Traded to Colorado for Avs 2012 1st round and either Boston's 2012 2nd round or Avs 2013 2nd round picks

The Capitals made huge news with their two goalie-related maneuvers. This was the first, coming shortly after the Halpern signing. Colorado finished as one of the worst teams in the league, largely due to abysmal goaltending. Varlamov was an RFA who cared little about term or money, but demanded a guarantee that he would be the Capitals' starting goalie for 2011-2012. Despite a GAA and SV% that, combined, statistically put him behind only the three Vezina finalists out of all goalies who played more than 25 games, McPhee and Boudreau refused to give in to this demand, saying that he could contend for the starting gig with Neuvirth and Holtby. Same as he had in 2010-2011, same as he had in 2009-2010 with Theodore and Neuvirth. Same as he had in 2008-2009 with Theodore.
Good times... good times. Best of luck in Colorado.

Feeling defeated and furious, Varlamov seriously entertained the idea of leaving for the KHL, a move that would guarantee a good paycheck and a starting gig, but one that would ruin his reputation in the NHL, where he truly wanted to play. Despite earlier assurances to the contrary, McPhee announced the trade with Colorado. Many viewed it as an absolute fleecing, as the Avs likely could have come at Varlamov with an offer sheet for the amount they would end up signing him for (3 years, $8.5 million, avg. 2,833,333) and would only have had to part with their 2nd round pick when the Capitals inevitably opted not to match. My opinion of all this? Varlamov is one of the best goalies in the league. He is young, highly skilled, still approaching his prime,is fiercely competitive and extremely confident. I believe this trade will be one that haunts the team for some time, and that Varlamov will be a Vezina contender this season. Fears about his health are somewhat founded, as he has been injured for portions of each of the past three seasons. Unlike forwards or defenseman, however, even the best starting goalies are by no means expected to approach anywhere near 82 starts in a season. Varlamov was available to start 50+ games in 2010-2011, easily enough to establish himself as the starter. So even if Varly is injured for 30 games a season (which he won't be), he is still healthy for enough games to be his team's starter and more than capable of earning 30 wins a season. The Avalanche get this for unknown, unproven players that may or may not ever play in an NHL game for Washington. 90% of people think the Caps made out like bandits, but I am firmly on Team Varly, and think Colorado made the right move.

Tomas Vokoun (G): 1 year, $1.5 million

Sliiiiiide to the left. Two hops this time!
Vokoun is widely considered to be one of the best goalies in the game, consistently putting up top-10 numbers on bottom-5 teams. Three straight years with a SV% of .920 or better on the Panthers? Pretty damn good, I have to admit. I like him a lot more than Neuvirth... but not nearly as much as I would have liked Varly. Add to that the fact that Vokoun has minimal playoff experience and mediocre-at-best numbers in March and beyond over the course of his career, and you can color me hesitant to hop on the "Holy crap that's awesome!" bandwagon that the hockey media has started. Given the Varly move, though, this was easily the best move the team could have made, and at a great price. It likely
will also give Holtby (or Neuvirth?) more time in the AHL to develop his skills even better, and groom him for the starting job next season.

Joel Ward (RW): 4 years, $12 million, avg. 3 per year

While Ward is thinking "I Believe I Can Fly"
his teammates are thinking "Thriller"
Ward just came off a Nashville team that made it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in team history, and he was a major part of that, scoring at just over a point-per-game pace (13 points in 12 games), including seven goals. That nearly matched his season total of 10 goals. With that in mind, I am thoroughly unimpressed by this move. The Capitals already have a glut of wingers, and ones who can score more than 10 a year. Ward's regular season numbers have steadily decreased over the last three years. McPhee supposedly signed Ward because he is serious about playoff success. I am by no means impressed by a winger who had what appears to be one fluky/opportunistic year in the playoffs after coming off a weak regular season. I am also not interested in wingers who haven't made it past the second round. The Caps have more than enough of those kinds of players. Ward, to me, is the epitome of redundancy. And at $3 million a year, he is getting paid more than Knuble, Fehr, Chimera, and Hendricks, with the same or less experience in the playoffs and worse offensive numbers during the year. Supposedly he is gritty, but with 67 hits and 57 blocked shots in 80 games to accompany his 6.8% shooting percentage, I don't see the grittiness. Ward may be half-decent, but he is largely getting this contract on the hopes that he can replicate one year's playoff success. Keep in mind, he was 2-2-4 in six playoff games the year before. Much like Max Talbot on the Penguins (now Flyers), there is a lot of focus and value likely misplaced on what was probably only being in the right place at the right time. I don't like this at all.

Troy Brouwer (LW/RW): Acquired RFA rights from Chicago on Draft Day for Caps' 1st round pick, signed 2 years, $4.7 million, avg. 2.35 per year

This is a bit misleading: Brouwer actually went to shake his hand, but
Bieksa thought he could draw a penalty anyway, as is of course tradition
Faced with what seemed to be a weak draft year and a dire need to address team issues, McPhee traded the Capitals' first round pick to Chicago for the rights to Troy Brouwer. Brouwer was set to become an RFA with arbitration rights on July 1, and Chicago needed to clear yet more cap space. As of today, Brouwer has signed with the team for a two-year deal. The winger was fifth in the league in hits last year and played on the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup team the year prior. He appears to be what the team needs: a gritty, hard-hitting player with Cup-winning experience and a slight scoring touch. He is capable of scoring 20 goals and about 40 points a year, even when cycling between lines and linemates and knocking around the other team. This could turn out to be a great deal for the Caps, but it will very largely depend on how Boudreau (or whoever is coach by season's end) handles the team. Brouwer has expressed resentment toward the Blackhawks coaching staff and management for the way they handled lineups and player contracts, respectively. The Capitals are currently in a position to have very serious issues with the salary cap, and Boudreau is (in)famous for constantly changing lines during the play game/season. Brouwer wants to win a Cup again with a team that gives him a consistent spot with consistent teammates. He has also stated that he feels more comfortable playing left wing rather than right, although he is capable of playing both. Contrast that with the talk of the town that pictures him regularly cycling between the second and third lines, typically on the right side, and I start to see a picture being painted. That picture is of a player who feels disrespected and loses his competitive edge when he leaves a bad scenario and ends up in the exact same position. Only time will tell, though.

Roman Hamrlik (D): 2 years, $7 million, avg. 3.5 per year

Hopefully he doesn't kill the
Caps' hopes of a Cup again this year
Hamrlik is a solid, veteran defenseman. Heavy on the veteran: he will be 40 by the time his two year contract ends. Despite his age, he was a great combination of shutdown and puck-moving styles for Montreal over the last four years. He will be a great mentor for the Caps young-ish blue line. Green, Carlson, Schultz, and Alzner (hopefully?) all have a lot to learn, still, and the team would be hard pressed to find a better teacher than Hamrlik in this year's free agent pool. His contract reflects these intangibles at least as much as his skill, and his addition to the team makes the Capitals an even more formidable defensive opponent. He is probably still being paid a bit much for his age, but McPhee is taking what even I think is a justified gamble on the long-term benefits that will be reflected in the younger guys' play for years to come.

Next up: my thoughts on the roster/lines for the 2011-2012 season.