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New Caps Blog-New Caps Writer

October 9, 2018, 5:32 PM ET [20 Comments]
Marcus Boutilier
Washington Capitals Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Ek’s note:

Our new Capitals writer, Marcus Boutilier, is happy to be back in the eastern time zone closer to the Washington Capitals after 10 years in Oiler Nation. Growing up in Kingston, Ontario he has been long embedded in hockey including interning with the Oshawa Generals during their 96-97 OHL Championship and Memorial Cup appearance.
Marcus has followed the Capitals since Scott Stevens 1983 rookie year. He brings an honest non-biased opinion of over 35 years of NHL and Capitals knowledge and we are very excited to have him aboard this season!

While the Washington Capitals players celebrated their Stanley Cup win, GM Brian MacLellan was hard at work trying to assemble a squad with aspirations of defending the franchise's first Championship. He’s basically brought back the same roster with only a couple of new faces as only Jay Beagle and Phillip Grubauer left DC with rings on their fingers. With a team coming off a championship season and winners of the last 3 metro division titles it's hard to debate his strategy. The Capitals are in new territory as a defending champion and will need to be ready as teams always look to bring their best game vs the champs.

The "off-season" kicked off with the biggest FA question mark hovering over the Capitals being answered as John Carlson resigned with the club for $64M over the next eight seasons. An important signing, MacLellan was able to lock down the 2017-18 NHL's leading defenceman scorer who will again look to propel the Caps vaunted power play. Carlson was second in the NHL in PP points. The blueliner plays in all situations and was arguably being underpaid the last couple seasons. With his heavy shot and ability to set-up Ovechkin for the one-timer, Carlson is an integral part of one of the NHL’s best power plays. The Caps PP finished 2nd in the league at a 29.3% rate in 2017-18.

In order to sign Carlson and other FA's, MacLellan had to shed some cap space and was able to pull off a shrewd trade and sign with Colorado in which the Caps sent Orpik and back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer to the Avs for a 2nd round draft pick. The Avs then proceeded to buy-out Orpik and he resigned with the Caps at much more cap friendly deal at $1M per year saving the Caps $4.5M in space. While some questioned the transaction,the move fell under the current CBA and it may be looked at in the next bargaining cycle. Orpik's presence in the dressing room is valued at more than just playing time as he has helped mentor the Caps backend. Last season was the first time in over 20 years the Capitals had two rookies on their blueline. With Orpik's help coaching "on the fly", the Caps can deploy Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and others knowing the have veteran support much deeper then just playing time.

The next day Carlson's playoff partner Michal Kempny was resigned to a 4 year contract with a $2.5M cap hit. Acquired last season from Chicago, Kempny found a home in DC and is a great contract. Injured in the pre-season on a hit by St. Louis Robert Bortuzzo (he was suspended) Kempny looks to return to the Caps lineup possibly Wednesday vs Vegas. Playoff goal hero Devante Smith-Pelly returns on a one year deal at $1M and the Capitals then signed Nic Dowd who will slot in as Jay Beagle's replacement on the 4th line. Madison Bowey will look to finally find his niche as the young former Canadian National Jr Team member was resigned to a 2 yr $2M deal.

Finally Tom Wilson was extended to 6 yr $31.02M deal in a move some questioned around the league. But the Caps and their fans know how valuable he is to their team and this deal was expected. Wilson's ability to play top line minutes allows for the Caps depth to be pushed down and is one of the most vital components of creating mismatches for opposing teams. This was very apparent in the playoffs last spring. Suspended in the pre-season for 20 games, Wilson and the NHLPA are currently appealing the suspension. A repeat offender, Wilson's style of play has caught up to him over last couple seasons and the league looks looks like it is serious in making a point with Wilson. Missing 25% of the season is harsh and the Capitals depth will be tested. Look for Brett Connolly to take some time on the top line in the interim.

Another key future signing came back during the playoffs. In early May, Caps 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov signed his entry level deal coming off his KHL commitments. The highly anticipated goalie prospect will look to adjust to North America and the Caps system in AHL Hershey, but look for him to get a start or two in the NHL this year.

Aside from the players on the ice another significant move the Caps dealt with was the departure of head coach Barry Trotz. When Trotz chose to leave and sign on Long Island the Caps decided to name long time Caps associate coach Todd Reirden as the new head coach. While there may be some details changed with a new bench boss, the club will maintain needed consistency and expectations with messages the players will be already familiar with.

The Capitals opened their first week of the season with a convincing 7-0 victory over Boston and then fell 7-6 in OT to the Penguins on the second night of a back-to-back. TJ Oshie has the hot hand early with 3 G’s and 2 A’s for 5 points in those two games. Braden Holtby earned the shutout vs the Bruins which is significant as the former Vezina Trophy winner failed to record one last year after recording nine in 2016-17. Alex Ovechkin had 2 goals in the two games as well as he looks for another 50 goal season.

The second week of the season has the Capitals in another back to back facing their Stanley Cup opponent Vegas on Wednesday and a visit to New Jersey on Thursday. Look for Phoenix Copley to possibly start in NJ. The week wraps up on Saturday night as the new and improved Toronto Maple Leafs and John Tavares pay a visit to Capital One Arena in DC.
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