Monday, January 7, 2013

NHL Lockout is Over, In Case You Forgot What the Caps Did...

Alex Ovechkin will be in his 4th season as captain
of the Capitals. (Backhand Shelf/The Score)
Early yesterday morning, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a framework for their a new CBA after nearly 4 months of a lockout.  It's been about six months since hockey's offseason, and the sports world has kept on turning.  That's six months of little to no hockey news outside of the CBA negotiations.

In case you forgot what the Caps did, here's a refresher...

New Man at the Helm

Despite a two round-deep playoff run, Dale Hunter will not be back to coach the Capitals.  The organization is now in the hands of another Caps alum: Adam Oates.  Oates came as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils.  This will be his first season as a head coach.

The players who have spoken with him (including Alex Ovechkin) have said that he has a more offensive mentality, something the Caps have missed since Bruce Boudreau was fired.  No one knows quite what to expect, but Oates has been preparing for his debut by serving as co-head coach of the AHL's Hershey Bears (the Caps affiliate).

Oates will be taking the reins looking to earn the team's 5th division title in 6 years and to make a deep playoff run.

No More Semin

The Capitals decided to not re-sign silky smooth right-winger Alexander Semin for the 2012-2013 (now I guess just 2013) season.  The organization let the 28 year-old hit unrestricted free agency after six seasons of often inconsistent and injury-riddled play with the team.  Semin has never played a full 82 game season, playing a career-high 77 in both 2006-2007 and 2011-2012.

Semin's offensive production peaked in the 2009-2010 season when he scored 40 goals and 84 points.  Last season was his lowest goal-production ever, lighting the lamp just 21 times and accumulating 54 points under the defense-first system of head coach Dale Hunter.

He signed a 1-year, $7 million deal with the division-rival Carolina Hurricanes last July.

Search for 2nd Line Center Over?

At the end of June, the Capitals made a major push to fill a hole in their lineup, sending blue-chip prospect Cody Eakin and a 2nd round draft pick in 2012 to Dallas in exchange for veteran center Mike Ribeiro.  Ribeiro had 18 goals and 63 points for the Stars last season.

The Caps have been looking for a solid 2nd line center since Sergei Fedorov left the team in 2009.  The position has been a revolving door ever since, with Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Belanger among those with a shot at the role.  No one has produced enough to nail it down permanently.

Ribeiro is a 12-year veteran who can productively play 20 mins a night.  His experience will be valuable, and the Caps hope that he can find the 2nd line chemistry they've been looking for for so long.

Ribeiro has one year left on his contract.  He will earn $5 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Building the Wings

The Capitals were relatively quiet in free agency, but they did make a late pickup in winger Wojtek Wolski.  The 26 year-old had 4 goals and 12 points in 31 games last season, but has scored 20 goals twice in his career.  He could fit on the second line, though he wouldn't exactly serve as a replacement for Semin.

Not quite as fine-tuned as Semin, Wolski fell out of favor with coach John Tortorella last season, leading him to often be a healthy scratch.  However, he was productive the previous two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche.  He'll be looking to bring back his 23 goal, 63 point production from the 2009-2010 season.

Wolski was signed to a one-year, $600,000 contract.

Adding Grit

In a move that surprised some, the Capitals signed Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb on July 1 to a one-year deal.  The 29 year-old role player was brought in to likely be a 4th-line energy guy.  We'll see whether or not he actually makes a difference, but it can't hurt to have more depth.

Crabb will make $950,000 this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Training camps are set to open this Saturday. It's been a long time coming, but we will finally be able to see if these offseason moves will push the Caps over the Stanley Cup edge.

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