A Closer Look: Free Agency Signings + Departures
Hello Hockey Fam,
Sorry for being M.I.A. this weekend. I was in Columbus, OH for my best friend’s wedding and was unplugged for the weekend.
The Capitals have made a couple exciting moves so let’s jump right into it...
1. Henrik Lundqvist officially signs with the Capitals – As expected, Lundqvist signed with the Capitals on Friday October 9th. The deal is for 1year-$1.5 million. This is a phenomenal deal for the Capitals for such a veteran goalie. Lundqvist was likely willing to do the deal because the Rangers had just bought him out. The Rangers are on the hook to pay Lundqvist $5.5million in 2020-2021 and $1.5million in 2021-2022. Here are Lundqvist’s stats as of late:
Goals Against Average:
2015-2016: 2.48 GAA
2016-2017: 2.74 GAA
2017-2018: 2.98 GAA
2018-2019: 3.07 GAA
2019-2020: 3.16 GAA
2015-2016: .920 SV%
2016-2017: .910 SV%
2017-2018: .915 SV%
2018-2019: .907 SV%
2019-2020: .905 SV%
Lundqvist has not played well these most recent years. Let’s just chalk it up to playing on a team in the middle of a rebuild. Most goalies are going to have a hard time putting up elite numbers in front of a young defensive core like the Rangers have had over the last few seasons. With the Capitals, Lundqvist will now have a much more experienced group of guys playing in front of him. The Capitals themselves did have their fair share of defensive lapses last year but it is clear they are making it a priority right now during free agency. More on that in a moment. Lundqvist will not be asked to be “the guy” in DC. He will be playing backup duties for what I am imagine will be a 60-40 or even a 70-30 split in favor of Samsonov. Lundqvist brings tons of experience and especially for the playoffs. At a $1.5 million cap hit, that is a steal of a deal for the Capitals for a veteran goalie.
2. The Capitals Improve the Blue Line - This was probably the biggest issue that needed to be addressed in the offseason. The Capitals were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year under Todd Rierden. The Capitals Signed the following players this weekend:
a. Justin Schultz, RD, 2-year-$8million total
b. Trevor Van Riemsdyk, RD, 1-year -$800,000
When asked about Justin Schultz, Brian MacLellan said the following “We really like his offensive potential. His ability join the rush. His ability to quarterback a power play. I think Peter’s teams activate defense aggressively. So we were trying to find a guy that fit that bill for him.”
Justin Schultz scored a career high of 12-39-51 stat-line in 78 games played in 2016-2017. The following seasons looked as follows:
2017-2018: 4-23-27 in 63 GP
2018-2019: 2-13-15 in 29 GP
2019-2020: 3-9-12 in 46 GP
Schultz’s offensive numbers have declined in recent years and he doesn’t appear to be able to stay healthy. If he can reverse that trend, he will make a very positive impact on the team. The Capitals are likely looking to place him on the second pairing with either Dillon or Orlov. I am hopeful Schultz is a perfect fit for a Peter Laviolette coached team.
For Trevor Van Riemsdyk, the Capitals got him at a very affordable price. I am not sure how the Caps were able to steal him away from Carolina at the price. Carolina has a lot of talent on defense so maybe he was just looking for another opportunity for playing time on another cup contender. If he crushes it next year in Laviolette’s system, he will likely earn a nice little pay raise for whoever is willing to pay him.
Defensive Pairings could look like this next season:
Dillon – Carlson
Orlov – Schultz
Siegenthaler – Van Riemsdyk
Where does Nick Jensen go (if anywhere)? Does this mean Martin Fehervary will be developing in Hersey for another season?!This defensive core is pretty exciting, and I think it is perfect timing under Peter Laviolette. The Todd Rierden experiment was a disaster. This just feels like a clean slate and a fresh start. The core is shaping up to really go after it during the last few seasons while the Stanley Cup window might be open (or so they say).
Other notable signings and departures:
Travis Boyd signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 1year deal worth $700k. This is a good depth signing for the Leafs. Boyd could shine in Toronto like Stephenson has in Vegas. Lastly, Braden Holtby signed a two-year deal with Vancouver. He carries a $4.3 million AAV. My next blog will be 100% about Holtby so stay tuned for that. Congrats, Holtby!
Let’s see where the rest of this week takes us! Go Capitals
If any Penguins fans are reading this, feel free to give some honest opinions on Justin Schultz and his fit with the Penguins/Capitals.
Thanks for reading!