This post is part of a series in which we enter an alternative universe where I get to call the shots during the Caps offseason.
Yesterday, I wrote about filling the Caps hole in the top six with Patrick Sharp. For the tl; dr crowd, this is what my Caps top-six looks like now:
I also touched on the Caps’ depth forwards who would find themselves in the top six if poor play or an injury left a void there.
The Caps could stand to acquire some more scoring depth, but that’s an issue for another day. Today, we’re shifting focus to the Caps bottom six, specifically the third-line center role. Eric Fehr, who apparently won’t be re-signed, has been the team’s primary third-line center over the past two seasons.
But this isn’t Brian MacLellan’s Cup-winning team, it’s mine.
Unlike a top-six winger, the Caps can likely find a third-line center either internally or via free agency. Here are some of the options.
Cap hit: $4.5 million, 2 years remaining
2014-15 stats: 66 games, 7 goals, 13 assists, -1.94 relative shot-attempt percentage
Laich isn’t worth his cap hit, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective NHL player. He appeared in 66 games, the most since appearing in all 82 in 2011-12. And while he didn’t light the world on fire, he looked really good at times.
There’s reason to hope Laich can be more productive next season. Laich, a career 9.8-percent shooter entering the season, shot just 6.6 percent in 2014-15. While some of this is due to him getting PP time earlier in his career, there’s reason to hope for a few more goals out of Laich with a little more puck luck in 2015-16.
There’s also reason to believe that Laich generates a lot of offense when he’s on the ice through his passing.
Cap hit: Just finished a 2 year deal with a $1.5-million cap hit
2014-15 stats: 75 games, 19 goals, 14 assists, minus-1.28 relative shot-attempt percentage
Over the last two seasons, Fehr has made himself into a respectable third line center who can chip in 15-20 goals. Often given tough assignments, and playing with teammates who don’t possess offensive instincts and talents as good as his, Fehr still managed to have respectable possession numbers.
Eric Fehr is good at hockey and will have a positive net impact on any team he plays on.
Cap hit: Just finished a 3-year deal with a cap hit of $900k.
2014-15 stats: 62 games, 10 goals, 10 assists, minus-1.56 relative shot attempt percentage
Beagle had himself a career year at a convenient time. That being said, just before he hit unrestricted free agency. Beagle shot a career-best 10.6 percent at 5v5 this past season, and his team shot 8.5 percent with him on the ice, another career-high. While Beagle did show surprising offensive flair at times, is there really reason to believe his uptick in production wasn’t primarily caused by a little puck luck?
There aren’t a lot of better 3C options among the other soon-to-be free agents. There’s an effective player like Marcel Goc, who is better served as a 4th line center. A guy like Mike Santorelli could be appealing, but the price tag is likely too heavy.
The Caps should re-sign Eric Fehr to be their third-line center. I know, it looks like this isn’t happening. But, remember, this is Holden’s Caps, not MacLellan’s.
Eric Fehr is the type of forward the Caps need more of, not less. He can be effective in a checking role and still chip in on offense. He’s more than capable of playing a top six role, ideally as a winger. But hey, if something were to happen to one of the Caps top two Centers, there are worse solutions to have than Fehr filling in on the second line for a spell.
Money is obviously an issue here. It seems as if Fehr may have priced himself off of MacLellan’s Caps. But, we’ll make room for him on Holden’s Caps (This is the part of Armchair GMing where we can get dangerously close to an unrealistic EA Sports-type atmosphere). On Holden’s Caps, we can offer Fehr a 3 year, $8.25 million deal. Would this get it done in real life? I have no idea. But is it unrealistic to think it’s possible? I don’t think so.
(On MacLellan’s Caps, I think the most likely scenario is Laich entering the season as 3C.)
In the next post, I’ll take a look at the rest of the Caps forward, where they need to add some scoring depth. I’ll also start to flesh out the salary cap picture, because yes, it gets tricky bringing in Sharp and re-signing Fehr.
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