By Stu Krantz
To date, the Capitals have had a very aggressive offseason, with a lot of experts opining that they did the best in the NHL. GM George McPhee wheeled and dealt throughout the NHL Entry Draft and the first few weeks of the offseason. Let’s take a look at how he did in the Draft, free agency and through trades.
GM GM had previously traded away the Caps’ 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2010 and at the 2011 trade deadline, respectively. The 2nd was used to acquire Joe Corvo from the ‘Canes, who was mediocre (in my opinion) before he went back to Carolina in free agency. The 3rd was used to get Dennis Wideman from the Panthers in a deadline deal. Wideman was brought in to help on the power play while Mike Green was sidelined with a concussion. He tallied 1 goal and 6 assists and was a +7 in 14 games for the Caps before he was knocked out with a leg hematoma (the hell?) and missed all 8 of the Caps playoff games (not that it would have mattered-zing!). Wideman is still under contract for next season.
Anyway, McPhee’s big move of the draft was to trade the Caps’ 1st for Blackhawks RW Troy Brouwer. The Vancouver native is considered a power forward. He is good in front of the net, forechecking, and on the Kill. He is the type of player the Caps need. Initially, many thought he was a replacement for Brooks Laich, who was due to hit the free agent market. However, he (somewhat surprisingly) re-upped with the team (more on that in a moment). The jury is still out on this trade, as Brouwer obviously hasn’t played a game in a Caps uni yet. How Philip Danault, the left winger from the Q’s Victoriaville Tigers who the Hawks selected with the Caps’ pick, obviously factors into the decision as well.
The Caps didn’t make much noise the rest of the Draft, which is what happens when you only have a 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round pick. They selected Steffen Soberg,a goalie from Norway, Patrick Koudys, a d-man from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (or RPI, if you don’t want to waste 5 minutes of your life trying to pronounce that), Travis Boyd, a forward from the US National team Dev Program who will be heading to the U of Minnesota this fall, and Garret Haar, a defenseman from the Fargo Farce Force of the USHL in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds, respectively. Honestly, I don’t know much about any of these guys, but here’s the consesus about each from what I could find:
-Steffen Soberg: 17 years old, selected by the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL in the CHL Import Draft. Played in the most senior Norwegian league for the past 2 years on a bad team. Save % was .915, which I would say is not bad at all on a bad team, but then I remember it’s the Norwegian league.
-Patrick Koudys: from hockey’s future
Koudys is a smart, hard-working defenseman with good size that could potentially blossom into an excellent two-way defenseman. The thing that immediately jumps out about Koudys is his size. At 18 years old, he already possesses a pro-style frame that simply needs to continue to develop and get stronger. He utilizes his frame and long reach quite effectively too. Where it is particularly noticeable is in one-on-one situations. During his first season at RPI, two areas where Koudys made great strides were in his shooting and being more physical. Koudys possesses a cannon-like shot that got better as the season went along. He also possesses remarkably good puck skills. He moves and distributes the puck quite well. And while it really didn’t show on the stat sheet this season, Koudys does have some outstanding offensive ability that will become more evident as his collegiate career progresses. One area that Koudys will need to improve to be successful at the next level is his foot speed. He moves quite well for a big man, but lacks the necessary speed.
Koudys will look to build on a solid freshman season at RPI. As he fills out his frame and develops his all-around game, he could contribute at the pro level down the line. Long-term, he is a project, but with continued development he could be a diamond in the rough. He’ll likely spend several more years at the NCAA level before he’s ready to turn pro.
Travis Boyd- Quick, good hands, reads the play well, good hockey sense. However, he is 5’9, so that puts a cap on what he can do, a la David Desharnais of my Habs.
Garrett Haar-couldn’t find anything on this guy. If you want to know something about him, check out the Caps organization in 5-7 years. If he’s still there…you know what to do.
In and Out
Out: -Semyon Varlamov: I don’t know what Avalanche GM Greg Sherman was smoking when he pulled the trigger on this trade. Paint thinner? I don’t know, but whatever it was, George McPhee and the Caps pulled a major rip job. The Avs sent next year’s first rounder, which could potentially be the no. 1 overall pick (which would likely land the Caps another Russian superstar, Nail Yakupov), and a 2nd round pick either next year or the year after. All that for the Caps’ backup goaltender, one who I thought looked out of place during the year and was the 3rd best in the organization. The Caps had a great offseason even without this trade, and when you factor in this probable lottery pick…wow. Depending on how Varlamov plays, Sherman’s job could depend on this. Don’t expect great results.
-Matt Bradley: the gritty forward was not resigned by the Capitals, instead signing with division “rival” (more like East Coast acquaintance/punching bag) Florida in their insane 2-day spending spree. The Caps lose a little heart with his departure, and not much else.
-Boyd Gordon- the fourth-liner was the Caps’ best faceoff man. However, he wasn’t worth what Phoenix eventually gave him (2 years, $2.65 million). I don’t blame the Caps for letting him go.
-Eric Fehr: Fehr, a Caps 1st round pick in 2003, was traded to Winnipeg for a forward and a 4th round pick. The Jets acquired another Winnipeg native. Fehr has a 25-30 goal ceiling. The Caps had too many right wingers, and Fehr was the one they felt they could get the best value for.
-Others: Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm
-Roman Hamrlik: I liked Hammer when he was in Montreal. He brings a solid offensive game. However, he tends to give the puck away in the defensive zone and really wore down near the end of the regular season and the playoffs, however that can be attributed to his being the only one who was healthy the entire year on the Montreal blue line. The Canadiens rightfully did not want to give him the 2 year contract he wanted and he instead bolted for Washington. He will bolster the Caps’ blue line, but signing him for 2 years was stupid, given the way he wore down during the latter half of last year. Have fun when that happens, Caps fans.
-Joel Ward: the former Predator had an outstanding Playoffs, netting 7 goals and 6 assists in 12 games and was due for a payday come July 1st. That was why the Caps signed him-he had an outstanding Playoffs. Hopefully Ward can rub off on Semin, Backstrom and Green. If he does, it’ll be well worth the 4-year, $12 million contract they gave him.
-Jeff Halpern- the former Cap who is from the DC area and whose mother’s funeral was at my synagogue, signed a 1 year, $825,000 contract. He comes from Montreal with Hamrlik, where he potted 11 goals and 15 assists in 72 games last year. He is solid on faceoffs, and brings what the Caps need-veteran leadership. If it were up to me, Halpern would be the Captain of the 2011-12. But hey, I’m just a kid.
-Tomas Vokoun- perhaps the most shocking of any of the Caps’ signings. It wasn’t just that they signed him, it was what they signed him for- 1 year, $1.5 million, or roughly ⅕ of what Scott Gomez is slated to make this year (shut up, shut up). Vokoun is an extremely quality NHL goaltender who has had the good fortune of playing with the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators for the last 20 years.
The Caps are, of course, way better on paper than the Panthers and Predators from the Vokoun days. However, unless Ovie, Backstrom, Semin and Green get rid of the party boy act and put it together in the playoffs, none of these signings will make a difference. McPhee hopes they will. I’m less optimistic.