Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moving and Shaking

With the 2006-2007 season officially over, save for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, teams have already begun making personnel decisions aimed at improving their chances for the upcoming season or, in the case of Nashville, seasons beyond 2007-2008.

The "general consensus" on the Caps is that going into 2007-2008 they need to get two top line centers to center the top two lines. One, maybe two veteran defensemen who can settle down an inexperienced blueline and a right winger to play regularly on the top line.

Folks, that's a large shopping list. Don't expect everything single one of those "needs" to be met before training camp opens in September despite the fact that Nicklas Backstrom is expected to fill one of the center positions and Joespeh Boumedienne makes his triumphant return to D.C.

There's all sorts of speculation about who the Caps will target, what they'll do with the #5 pick, and who gets bumped off the roster in favor of the new guys. But let's remember a few things before we jump off the deep end because the Caps got this guy instead of that guy or didn't make any move at all.

#1. It won't do the Caps any good at all to get what amounts to be a short-term solution for their problems at the top line center. Forget about players like Michael Nylander. The Caps would be well advised to get a player who can play with A.O. for at least the next five years or so instead of a guy who may only last two, maybe three. Getting a Nylander will only delay the final solution of the problem that currently exists on the top line.

#2. More along those lines, any move that the Caps make has to not only make sense for the 2007-2008 season, but for the 2008 off season and beyond as well. Kicking around various places is the idea that the Caps can send a Brian Sutherby or Steve Eminger (both RFA's this year) along with the #5 pick to San Jose to get Patrick Marleau so the Sharks can pick up Chris Drury. That certainly makes sense when you think about one year cycles. But forgetting UFA's and RFA's for this offseason, next year the Caps have to have $$$$$ available for RFA's A.O., Alexander Semin, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrrissonnn, and Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green. When Patrick Marleau (who will make $4.5 million this season) comes up as a UFA along with Donald Brashear, Captain Chris Clark, and Olaf Kolzig in 2008; somebody is very likely to be squeezed out because the cap math just won't add up. Who do you let go and who do you replace him with?

#3. After spending two points on the forwards, now how about the blueline? Defensemen are already in high demand and the Kimmo Timonen contract considerably ups the ante. Again, the same problem exists, who do you say goodbye to in order to bring somebody on board on the blueline? The biggest problem that the Caps have on defense is their overall inexperience, the Caps will have to let go of a young player in order to provide veteran leadership to the blueline. That's a dangerous proposition.

However, let's play fantasy world here and say that the Caps go out and magically get everybody and everything they need according to the "general consensus" over the next two and half-three months. Remember the 2001 offseason when all the Caps needed was "one big goal scorer"? Remember how we went out and got the biggest goal scorer in the league at the time? Remember how that all turned out in the end? We didn't even make the playoffs that season.

Unlike some fans I am not demanding the Caps make the playoffs next season and overhaul the roster in the process. There are some very young and talented hockey players on this team right now and I think we would be better served guarding them rather than casting them aside to chase after the current flavor of the month. Last year the Boston Bruins made a ton of off-season moves getting Zdeno Chara as their centerpiece and they improved a grand total two points in the standings with six more wins.

Are there players that the Caps should let go? Certainly and there are some that I consider marginal players who at least I think can be easily interchanged with other players around the league. But I don't see a UFA out there this year or a potential trade pick up that fills a need that would be worth losing Semin, Fehr, or Morrrissonnn next year. Kolzig might help us out by taking a paycut or forgoing a large raise, but you cannot count on that and this year it was glaringly obvious that the team was much more comfortable playing in front of him than they were anybody else and trading the #5 pick and a former first rounder for a player for just one year just does not make any sense at all.

However, George McPhee seems intent on doing something this off season to improve the team. Last year nobody had any idea that we were after Brian Pothier until he signed him from Ottawa. Seeing as how the Caps are intent on making changes to the lineup, I'm not expecting the big splash but something more moderate in size. However, we'll have to wait and see what is done, and how it will turn out.

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