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Are the Capitals Taking Player & Affiliation Cues from Toronto?
With the new affiliation agreement between Washington and the Reading Royals, the Capitals are continuing a trend that has so far slipped through the cracks – they’re walking the footsteps of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
No, you shouldn’t expect a trade for Phil Kessel or a sudden abundance of American players, but it’s definitely a topic of interest. So let’s take a closer look at the blue and white pipeline.
First, there are the Royals. Toronto’s ECHL affiliate from 2008-2012, the Royals played host to some of the organization’s top goaltending prospects, including James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, Jussi Rynnas & Mark Owuya.
Then, there are the free agents. Joey Crabb is the most recent, signed to a one-year, one-way contract on UFA Day. Crabb is expected to slot in a third or fourth line with the Capitals, with the potential to add both offence and defense to the Capitals’ lower lines. It’s not damning in and of itself – this could be sheer coincidence, right? But there’s more…
The Ancient Past (Pre-2012):
In 2010, the Leafs released a number of players to the open market, including defensemen Danny Richmond and Phil Oreskovic. The two had spent the majority of their time in the Leafs system with the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate) prior to signing with the Capitals. During their time with the Washington organization, they floated between the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays and the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Neither successfully made the NHL jump to date.
The next summer, the Capitals signed former-Marlies Man of the Year Christian Hanson, giving him a one-year deal and continuing the Toronto connection. Playing for both the Leafs and Marlies, Hanson was known for being a fun-loving player, joking around with his teammates and working hard on the ice. He was just as well-known off the ice, both for his time at fan events and his work with local charities. After joining the Bears, he settled into a position as their second-line-centre. While a wrist injury kept him from the end of the 2011-12 season and playoffs, he managed to get ten goals and twenty-one points in fifty-two games with the Bears.
*Informative Note for Hershey Fans: Earlier this afternoon, Hanson was confirmed as having signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins. He will not be returning to the Bears in fall.
There are thirty teams in the NHL, and fifty roster slots per team – of course there’s going to be some spillover. However, it seems like an awful lot of one-way personnel movement, especially given that the Caps have no trading history with the Leafs in recent years. Clearly, someone in GMGM’s staff has a taste for maple. As Toronto fights to get back into the post-season for the first time since the last Lockout, let’s just hope players are the only thing Washington’s picking up from their Northern neighbours.
Capitals Outsider’s Toronto Correspondant, Megan Bears, contributed to this article.