After an extremely disappointing effort from a team two-years removed from Stanley Cup glory, the Washington Capitals are back home golfing after a short visit to the NHL bubble. After coming into the bubble hot after a great regular season, things just didn’t seem to click the way they were before. After managing to scrape the third seed thanks to an even poorer round-robin performance from the Boston Bruins, they were met with a feisty New York Islanders team that never once lifted their foot from Washington’s neck. This would conclude Todd Rierden’s short-lived stint with Washington as he was unable to be a suitable successor to legendary Washington coach Barry Trotz, and it seems as though that now is the time for big change in the Capitals locker room. With big names liked Brenden Dillon and Braden Holtby becoming free agents this year, the Capitals are still only going to be able to work with about $9 million in cap space. With what they can manage, here are some names I think would fit the system well.
*DISCLAIMER* I had this piece written on September 14th, a day before the Capitals announced they had signed coach Peter Laviolette to a three-year contract. I’m not saying I called it, but I did. So I will leave my original write-up on Laviolette as a fourth bonus pitch, and still give three other names worth signing for Washington.
Zach Bogosian (TBL)
With the Capitals more likely than not losing one of their defensive anchors in Brenden Dillon and Radko Gudas this offseason, the Caps need a guy who is affordable and can compensate for the loss they are about to endure. Standing at 6’3”, Bogosian is an absolute menace on the blue line who won’t be requiring a substantial percentage of a team’s salary cap. His current contract with Tampa that expires after this postseason run has him earning $1.3 million. With Tampa being more cap-tight than almost any other team if Washington pushes the bullet on Bogosian, it’s going to be very hard for Tampa to fight to keep him, and with a new high-caliber coach coming in, Washington seems like a desirable landing spot for Bogosian.
Alex Galchenyuk (MIN)
After a disappointing end to his lucrative three-year contract he originally signed with Montreal, C Alex Galchenyuk should be a name looking to make himself relevant again in the NHL. He made $4.9 million/year on his most recent contract, but he knows very well that the money won’t look the same this time around. A nice incentive-based deal for Galchenyuk while giving him the chance to work with a strong coaching staff and forward-core should be enough reason to get back on the ice and test his talent again. If Washington manages to make the room for Galchenyuk, they would easily have the best four center group in the league, which is a dynamic that teams would have a very hard time preparing for.
Michael Frolik (BUF)
Now although I know this is a name many Capitals fans will roll their eyes over, I think Michael Frolik could really do great things in Washington. Coming off of a lackluster year on a lackluster Buffalo team, Frolik is likely itching for real playoff experience. Although he did win with Chicago back in 2013, he knows the clock is ticking. Getting the chance to play with another star-filled team in Washington will give him a chance to redeem himself and see another shot at Lord Stanley. If he’s willing to take a team-friendly deal (which he should), this would be a low-risk, high reward deal for both ends.
BONUS: Peter Laviolette
I’m going to be touching the vacant coaching position, as most would argue it is one of the most important factors that indicate a team’s success. There are plenty of other ample candidates like Mike Babcock (not sarcastic) and Gerard Gallant, but I don’t think those two coaches have the same capabilities as Peter does. Laviolette has led three different teams to the Stanley Cup Finals and won it with Carolina in 2006. Mike Babcock has had the luxury of coaching some of the best teams in hockey, in Detroit and Team Canada, and it’s clear he needs an over-obsessive amount of talent to produce real results. I also just don’t think the Capitals are a team that is looking to take a risk on a guy like Gallant. With only one more year left on Ovechkin’s deal, Washington needs a guy that can get them a cup and get them there fast, and Peter Laviolette is definitely their guy.