On a day when the NHL set a record in player movement and compensation
The Washington Capitals decided to pass on the action leaving Caps Nation
wondering what the heck is going on.
It's not as if the Caps are so close to a Stanley Cup like Boston that they
could just get by with a couple of tweaks. Many agreed after watching the Caps
pepper the New York Rangers with shots to no effect that they would enter free
agency looking for more grinders that go to the net along with defensmen that
can't be confused with traffic cones that actually like to hit people.
In the spirit of fairness the first day of free agency is traditionally a day
where teams overpay for players so perhaps the Leonsis-McPhee strategy is to
wait a day and let the prices go down. The only negative here is the prized
players and difference makers are off the table. It appears the Caps are going
to concentrate on lower tiered free agents that they believe can help the team at
a much more realistic cost. If that is the plan this the Caps are playing it to perfection.
Most fans not to mention hockey experts thought Mike Ribeiro was a high
priority for the Caps but the small framed, 33 year old play-making center
wanted more money and term than I personally would have been prepared to give
him. He got 4 years and $5.5 million dollars from the Arizona Coyotes so I do
not blame McPhee for allowing Ribs to walk. Yes he is good, yes he is
productive but he is 33, injury prone and can be a locker room issue if things
are not going well so his departure is not the hit some people are making it
out to be.
The Caps allowed a heart and soul guy, Matt Hendricks to leave
for the Nashville Predators when they could not come to an agreement on the numbers.
Hendricks was an absolute fan favorite, hard worker and a shootout specialist.
He was the type of guy that you just like having in a Caps jersey. The Caps
believe that Aaron Volpatti has the chops to replace Hendricks but like many
things Caps related that remains to be seen.
Rumors were circulating since the Caps season ended that
they were very interested in Buffalo Sabres Veteran Goalie, Ryan Miller and
Veteran Winger Thomas Vanek. Both are good players but the question the Caps
should be asking is will they take the team to another level? Vanek's best
season was 2006-2007 where he had 43 goals and 41 assists. He hit 40 goals
again in 2008-2009 but has been in the 25-30 goal range since. The Good news is
he played under Lindy Ruff so he should be familiar with the concept of two-way
hockey but he is a career minus player. Some of the things you hear about Vanek
is that he is a perimeter player who does not go to the tough areas to score
garbage goals. The Caps need an Adam Graves type player who makes his living at
If someone told me Ryan Miller would be available via trade
a couple of years ago I would have ordered them to pee in a cup immediately.
Funny how a couple of injuries and a total nose dive by the entire Buffalo franchise can
alter one's perspective. Ryan Miller will be 33 years old entering the
2013-2014 campaign and his numbers speak volumes. He is an all-star, he is a
leader and he is a guy that can steal a game or a series. There used to be a
time when Miller could do all of that with little to no help. Now he can longer
carry a team on his own for an extended period of time. That being said he does
represent an upgrade over the Caps current goalies in terms of experience,
presence and leadership. Miller is a guy that can make everyone better by just
being in the net. If he gives up a softy you don't have to worry about his
mental state. You know Miller is going to lock it down and keep you close
enough to compete. The sample size for Holtby and Neuvirth do not compare to
Miller so he gets a clear nod in mental toughness, calming presence and veteran
experience. If the Caps can pull off a deal that does not gut the team I would not
want bigger, stronger perimeter player in Vanek but I would definitely take
Miller as long as the term is not crazy just in case he gets hurt or is out of
The Bottom Line -- The Caps are in a much tougher division
now where every team in it is very competitive. "Stay the course" is simply not an
option when you keep getting eliminated early in the playoffs. I do not mind the
Caps choosing to stay out of the day #1 madness of free agency but I do expect
to see some movement to fix the holes and possibly upgrade. Now that the
Southeast division is gone the Caps can no longer cruise to the playoff with
smoke and mirrors. They are going to have to beat good teams consistently in
order to make the playoffs.