How the Caps Can Learn From the Nats

Posted August 26, 2013

Free agents are hardly free, right, Mike Ribeiro? (Caps Outsider)

The Caps were pronounced the “losers” of free agency by many NHL analysts for the off-season. During the free agent frenzy, they did not add anybody and basically sat back and watched teams spend big bucks. This was despite the fact that the CBA made the cap $64,300,000, down from $70,200,000.

After one year with the Caps, Mike Ribeiro left for Phoenix. The Coyotes signed him to a cap hit of $5.5 million for the next four years, something the Caps couldn’t or wouldn’t compete with. Also, Matt Hendricks went to Nashville. The Caps didn’t sign anyone until Mikhail Grabovski.

So, what does this mean? Not everyone who opens their wallets during free agency does well. Last year, the Minnesota Wild were declared the winners of free agency and ended up losing in the first round to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.  Let’s also look at the Washington Nationals.

Last winter, the Nationals had a lot of holes to fill. Adam Laroche was a free agent. There was a need for a starter, and they wanted an on-base outfielder. They signed Laroche to a two-year deal and ended up trading fan favorite Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners (the team that drafted him). The Nats also traded for Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. Lastly, Dan Haren signed a one-year deal.

Baseball writers said the Nationals were the team to beat. The Nats were basically crowned the World Series champs; it was World Series or bust for the Nats. So far, the Nats are 12 games behind the NL East division leading Atlanta Braves. In the Wild Card, 8 1/2 games behind the three way tie Pittsburgh Pirates, St, Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds. Although the Nationals have played well recently, they are 11-4 over there past 15 games. The Nats would need a 2007 Colorado Rockies type of run to make it into the playoffs, when the Rockies won 21 of their final 22 games.

The NHL is not the same as MLB, but the Caps can learn a few things from the Nats. The Caps were the favorite to win the Southeast division the last five years. So, in the end, maybe changing to the Metropolitan division and being a bit of an underdog will help them out. History shows, the winners in Free Agency don’t equal championships.