Photo credit: Paul Bereswill
Hey you: thanks for reading RMNB. Crazy season, right?
We started the year with our Winter is Coming promotional series. We documented a crazy winning streak, and then its astonishing decline. We said goodbye to one coach and hello to another. We saw gruesome injuries. We analyzed the Caps’ struggles at and before the trade deadline in our Capitals During Wartime series. We made posters and signs to pump up the fans and the team both. And we tracked the Caps as they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.
Yeah, we had exhaustive coverage this season, but there are so many questions left unanswered. Here are few we’d like to address this summer.
The NHL Players Association and the league have to find common ground this summer lest they risk another lockout. No one wants a repeat of the lost season, but with hockey’s popularity on the rise the stakes are pretty high. Many decisions hinge on the outcome of these negotiations.
The following Caps players will be unrestricted free agents this summer: Alex Semin, Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern, Keith Aucoin, Dennis Wideman, and Tomas Vokoun. If McPhee doesn’t re-sign him, Semin will command a lot of attention on free agency day. Mike Knuble is getting older but wants to keep playing. Jeff Halpern is a hometown boy with fantastic talent on the faceoff dot. Dennis Wideman is an all-star/playoff goat who might want a big pay day. Tomas Vokoun’s crummy goaltending is mostly responsible for Bruce Boudreau getting fired. Anyone wanna take bets?
On the RFA side, Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, John Carlson, and Mike Green are all on the docket. Will the Caps risk a qualifying offer on Mike Green? Perreault didn’t play in the postseason, but Jay Beagle was a star– who gets paid?
Word leaked that Hunter’s contract as head coach of the Capitals was for one year only. George McPhee and Brooks Laich each have said they want him back next year, but Hunter has a very comfortable gig as demigod of the London Knights association. We’ve been very critical of Hunter hockey here, but his postseason results were attractive. Will Hunter give it another shot?
The Capitals’ current AHL farm team, the Hershey Bears, do not have contract for next season yet. They signed a one-year extension over a year ago. Both teams struggled this season, and the Caps pretty much depleted Hershey’s talent in the spring– so what will happen during the offseason? And will the Norfolk Admirals, who were freaking amazing this year but who have a similarly frayed relationship with Tampa Bay, be involved?
And why do we keep hearing about Baltimore whenever this topic pops up?
Ovi is probably going home to Russia this summer. There’s no real drama here; we just wanna know what kind of wacky hijinx he’ll get in to. No way he can beat the wookiee suit. I mean: no way, right?
The KHL superstar has been playing games with our heart all year. Will he come to the Caps this year or not? We don’t know. We’re gonna keep on translating and covering anything we can get our hands on– but at this point we trust nothing until there is ink on paper one way or the other. We’d love to have another Russian on the team for selfish reasons, so we’re firmly in the “C’mover, Kuzya!” camp.
For a span of 16 hours last year, Braden Holtby was the presumptive #2 netminder for the Washington Capitals. Then the Caps acquired Tomas Vokoun for a song, and Holtby had to toil in Hershey all year. He had a disappointing season until the Caps called him up for some late-season heroics. Holtby became a star, besting one future hall of fame goalie and nearly felling another. But goalies are passed around like sriracha in the offseason, and you know he’s an object of desire for many teams (Brian Burke, what up.) So is Holtby our future franchise goalie? If not, will the Caps use him to acquire what they truly need…
Aside from deadline acquisitions that didn’t last, the Capitals have been without a strong second line pivot for the past few years. Whereas many other teams are supposedly built from the middle out, Washington has treated its 2C as a swappable part. Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, and Mathieu Perreault have all given it a shot, but it hasn’t worked out. Having a talented top-six guy backing up the top line can give the Capitals options on offense that they’ve never had before.
That’s all I’ve got. What did I miss? What other questions will be plaguing you between now and September? Whatever happens, we’ll be here writing and cracking jokes. Don’t be a stranger.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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