Starting tomorrow, the Caps play 33 games in 65 days. That is...
The Road Ahead: Stability, Change, & Ink
George McPhee explains GM logic, with a heavy emphasis on hand gestures (Stock Photo)
Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions and first team since the Red Wings to throw off the curse of the President’s Trophy. Now that that whole ordeal of a Stanley Cup Final is over, hockey fans can turn to the coming season in good conscience. So, what to expect?
In a Nutshell
A long hot summer. A couple of draft prospects worth getting excited about, and another half-dozen whose names you’ll never hear outside of D-Camp again unless they’re involved in a trade (even then, half will never make it to Hershey). Somebody’s heart will be broken when their favourite player gets bought out before July 5. For the sake of variety, roughly half of the Caps UFA/RFAs won’t be back in fall (Mike Ribeiro will be one of them). GM George McPhee will definitely sign somebody no one even considered an option for acquisition. Oh, and they’ll be playing hockey again in Baltimore during the pre-season.
Despite all of the upheaval inherent in the above list, there’s plenty of stability to be had for Caps fans – good or bad. Coach Adam Oates will be back in fall, and he’ll have a full season to work his magic instead of the 48 games he had this year. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are unlikely to be going anywhere, franchise faces that they are. Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth will again be sharing the crease, with a starter to be determined in October.
The Caps sit at number 23 in this year’s draft. At points in the spring, they were in contention for a top-5 slot, but squeaking into the playoffs and then pushing things to seven games means that their current best-case scenario is to end up with a draftee on par with Ryan Kesler (23rd overall in 2003) – 2 years of AHL development and eventually a strong top-six forward.
Since it is such a deep draft, there’s the possibility that the Caps will shuffle their cards closer to the deadline to move up a few slots, but GMGM has made it clear that he won’t deal unless he thinks he’s getting the better end of a bargain. While the Avalanche have made noises about trading away their #1, the Caps aren’t even in the running for it (not a bad thing, since much as I love Nathan MacKinnon, I’m not sure he’d be a good fit for the Caps his first year out. The other option, Seth Jones, is unlikely to be making an NHL impact in fall, and GMGM is running out of time).
Something for Everyone
The end result is that while news will be slow, there’s bound to be something to satisfy most fans as the summer progresses. Excited about prospects? Check. Love tracking the trades? Something’s bound to happen. Camping out in front of your TV/computer on UFA Day? You’ll probably end up with a piece of breaking news to show for it (although we can’t promise how substantial). And if you’re a cap geek, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to dissect the impact of the new CBA and glory in the contortions across the league as teams struggle to adapt to the new salary cap.
So enjoy the summer, but poke your head back into the hockey world once in a while. It’s bound to be worth it.