Eric Fehr playing during the Montreal Canadiens – Washington Capitals playoff series. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft tomorrow and the free agency period approaching on July 1st, the madness of trading and rumors about what players are staying and what players are leaving each team in the NHL has begun. The Washington Capitals have their own crop of UFAs (unrestricted free agents) and RFAs (restricted free agents), as well as a player or two who could be trade bait. Let’s take a look.
The Capitals have a few UFAs, most of who were acquired in trades during the last season. Here’s a list with current contract talk statuses as reported by Tarik El-Bashir (Capitals Insider)...
|Eric Belanger||C||Discussions for contract extension|
|Brendan Morrison||C||Will not be back|
|Scott Walker||RW||Will not be back|
|Joe Corvo||D||Will not be back|
|Shaone Morrisonn||D||No discussions for contract extension yet|
|Jose Theodore||G||No discussions for contract extension yet|
The Capitals also have a good deal of RFAs, many who are or may become very important to the team. Here’s a list with current contract talk statuses as reported by Tarik El-Bashir (Capitals Insider)...
|Eric Fehr||RW||Talks of multi-year contract|
|Tomas Fleischmann||C||Talks, but “not close”|
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Looking at the tables above, it seems that the Caps that could be returning next season are Laing, Belanger, Jurcina, Fehr, maybe Fleischmann, Gordon, and Schultz.
Quintin Laing & Boyd Gordon: I’ve grouped these two together because they have a similar place on the team. Both players are fourth-line wingers, and that’s about all they’ll ever be on the team. Yes, I’m sure it wouldn’t break the Capitals bank to bring them back, but couldn’t call-ups from Hershey such as Chris Bourque and Andrew Gordon be just as effective, if not better? Gordon did well in the AHL last season, as did Bourque; Bourque even won the AHL’s playoff MVP award. These players are both probably ready to be in the NHL, and the only way to do that is to drop some current players; ones such as Laing and Gordon.
Tomas Fleischmann: Tomas Fleischmann is a pretty much offense-only player, usually playing wing on the 3rd line; center is an option, but his faceoff percentage is somewhere around 40% – not quite good enough. Fleischmann can score, as evidenced by his 23 goals this past season. However, 12 of those were scored prior to Dec. 19th. Fleischmann also was nearly invisible in the playoffs. Fleischmann is a quality winger, and could be a good fit with a team in need of wingers, such as Pittsburgh; but, on a team with Ovechkin, Semin, Knuble, Laich, and others, he is just a little redundant. Also, his agent has compared Fleischmann to Tomas Plekanec – the Tomas Plekanec who just signed a 5 year, $30 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens. Fleischmann is worth nowhere near that for the Caps, and it’s probably better just to trade his rights (being a RFA) to a team in need of wingers for something such as a draft pick.
Eric Fehr: Eric Fehr is just good at scoring goals, evidenced by his 21 goals while only averaging about 9 minutes of playing time each game. He is a power forward, and could very well replace Mike Knuble on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom in a year of two (Knuble isn’t getting any younger). Fehr had a breakout season last year, with 21 goals and 18 assists, while only playing 69 games and playing on the third line for most of the year. Fehr, with more playing time and better line mates, could really blossom into terrific scorer. While he isn’t quite there yet, a multi-year contract with a decent salary cap hit would be perfect.
Jeff Schultz: #1 +/- rating in the NHL last season (+55). Need I say more? He played in the top d-pairing last season with Mike Green, and was the defensive-defenseman compliment to Mike Green’s offensive-defenseman. While he might not be on the top pairing next season (if the Caps sign a top defenseman), he is still a very good defenseman with a good future.
Milan Jurcina: Jurcina was traded by the Caps to Columbus last season along with Chris Clark (for Jason Chimera), and then was traded back at the deadline for a draft pick. Jurcina was injured, and did not make it back to play in the playoffs; he was brought in at the deadline to be a depth defenseman that would play in the later playoff rounds. Jurcina should be inexpensive, and will probably be a better option as backup than Tyler Sloan.
Verdict: KEEP (but it must be cheap)
Eric Belanger: Eric Belanger was brought in at the trade deadline to serve as the third line center. He was great at the position, and probably will continue to be good at that position. Belanger is cheap, and can be easily kept by the Caps as long as the contract price remains about the same. If Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson make the team, he can also serve as a backup. However, he is no second line center.
Verdict: KEEP (but it must be cheap)
Coming soon: a look at the available UFAs on the market... and Alexander Semin’s future.