Welcome back inside GM Holden’s war room. Previously, we’ve added Patrick Sharp to the Caps forward ranks and re-signed Eric Fehr to be the team’s third-line center. Next up: adding scoring depth and skill the the forward ranks.
Last season, when the Caps acquired Curtis Glencross, it seemed like an unnecessary move. Glencross was a redundant piece on a team that already had plenty of forwards who brought a similar skill set. While talent level and some specific strengths may vary, Glencross is similar to Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Brooks Laich, and Jason Chimera. As these names show, the Caps have a lack of skill players among their depth forwards.
Finding a player who is more finesse and less grit to play a depth position can be tricky; often these types of players are in the top six and command that type of money.
Holden’s Caps have about $2 million to spend on this player. Getting this type of player under contract for $2 million is going to take some patience. The best play will be to let the player fall through the cracks of the market. Once that happens, the Caps can offer a one-year “make good” deal to a player looking to have a bounce back campaign to strike a bigger deal next offseason.
In the real world of MacLellan’s Caps, there’s no certainty on what players will fall through the cracks and become available for an affordable price. In fact, part of the risk in this strategy is coming up empty handed if these players are signed before their price drops. But, here are a couple forwards who the Caps should keep their eyes on, hoping one falls to them on the cheap.
After getting bought out of the final year of his deal with the Canucks, David Booth signed a one year, $1.1 million deal with the Maple Leafs prior to the 2014-15 season. In terms of production, Booth didn’t do much to raise his value, as he notched seven goals and six assists in 59 games. Booth has notched 22 or more goals three times in his career, with his career high being 31 in 2008-09. The following season, Booth suffered two concussion five months apart and, while he has 23 and 16 goal campaigns since the injuries, he’s definitely a health risk, as any player with multiple concussions is.
Booth is known for his skating speed, but he’s also willing to use his 6’2″ frame to battle along the boards and go to the net.
In 2014-15, Booth had a relative shot attempt percentage of plus-1.2. In his nine seasons, Booth has never been a negative relative possession player and has a career relative shot attempt percentage of plus-4.2. Booth’s 15.57 shot attempts per 60 in 2014-15 would rank second among all Caps forward to Alex Ovechkin.
If Booth signed for $1.1 million with Toronto last offseason, it’s hard to see him getting much, if any, more than that this summer. While there’s plenty of reasons not to sign him, as there are with any buy-low signing, his speed and ability to generate shot attempts could be a welcome addition to the Caps forward ranks.
Yup, I just went there. Sure, people think he’s soft. And we’ve “been there, done that.” But we’re bargain hunting here, and if Fleischmann’s lackluster production the past two seasons causes him fall through the cracks of free agency, the Caps should pounce at the opportunity to add his skill for cheap.
Fleischmann turned 31 in May and is at the end of a 4-year deal that paid him $4.5 million per season. He’s scored just eight goals in each of the past two seasons and hasn’t topped 30 points in either.
But Fleischmann’s underlying numbers suggest he can still be an effective hockey player, and Caps fans are well aware that his game is more of a skilled game than a gritty one, which is the type of forward Holden’s Caps are looking for. Despite his drop in production the past two seasons, he still has a plus-0.25 relative shot attempt percentage during that time.
Fleischamann is also still generating shots. In 2014-15, he attempted 14.49 shot per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time. This ranked 79th among the 359 forwards who skated 500-plus minutes. After Ovechkin, the next Caps’ forward (Fehr), ranked 124th.
At 31, Fleischamnn’s best seasons are behind him, but with a little more puck luck, be can be more productive than he’s been the past two seasons. As you can can see by looking at his 5v5 shooting percentage, it doesn’t look like he’s been getting any of the bounces the past two seasons.
While Fleischamann isn’t likely to top 20 goals again in a season, he’s still a shot-generating forward who plays with some finesse and can fit in up and down the Caps’ lineup.
Holden’s Caps would target Fleischmann first, hoping he’d come cheap on a one year deal to try to prove himself and cash in again next offseason on a bigger deal with a different team. But Booth would be a good backup plan, and I’d also keep an eye on guys like Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll use Fleischamnn’s name in the lineup, keeping in mind it can be a similar player, including the ones listed above.
Remember, here’s what the Caps top six now looks like:
The Caps third and fourth line center spots are also now secured, with Eric Fehr and Michael Latta. The wingers now include the addition of Fleischmann. Fleischmann would likely slot in on the third line, but could play in the top six if a hole opens up due to injury or bad performance.
I was planning on giving a salary cap update here, but that will come later. Remember, teams can exceed the cap by 10 percent in the offseason.
What’s left is adding a depth defenseman, as well as sorting out the crowded wing situation. In sorting out the wing situation, the salary cap issues will be worked out.
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