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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who is on the way out of WSH?

Last season George McPhee left several roster spots vacant for rookies like Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Michal Neuvirth. This off-season has been about adding veterans, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Tomas Vokoun. The Brouwer acquisition was even at the expense of a first rounder, another indication McPhee is ready to sacrifice "youth" to acquire the necessary pieces to build a championship roster. 

McPhee told the AP on July1
“I wanted to have that feeling this summer where everything’s done,” McPhee said. “We can go with this team right now. We don’t have to touch a thing all season. We could go the whole season with this group.”

Yet one day later, he added what is arguably his biggest piece, Vokoun. McPhee shored up a position that was somewhat questionable especially after he dealt his often injured but arguably his most talented goalie, Semyon Varlamov.  

As a result, below is what the roster looks like today. Poti will likely be on LTIR to begin the season. Eric Fehr is apparently going to be ready for training cap after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. And Denis Wideman is looking much better according to McPhee. 

Washington Capitals
Left WingCenterRight Wing
Alex Ovechkin ($9.538)Nick Backstrom ($6.700)Mike Knuble ($2.000) 
Alex Semin ($6.700)Brooks Laich ($4.500)Eric Fehr ($2.200) 
Troy Brouwer ($2.125*)Marc Johansson ($0.900)Joel Ward ($3.000) 
Jason Chimera ($1.875)Jeff Halpern ($0.825)Matt Hendricks ($0.825) 
D.J. King ($0.637) 
Left DefenseRight DefenseGoalies
Jeff Schultz ($2.750)Mike Green ($5.250) Tomas Vokoun ($1.500)
Roman Hamrlik ($3.500)Dennis Wideman ($3.937) Michal Neuvirth ($1.150) 
Karl Alzner ($1.750*)John Carlson ($0.845) 
John Erskine ($1.500) 
BUYOUTS:Tyler Sloan ($0.233)
LTIR:Tom Poti ($2.875)
CAP PAYROLL:$64,242,628
SALARY CAP:$64,300,000
CAP SPACE (22 players):$57,372
Courtesy | * estimates

I have Laich at second line center in the roster above because the early indications are that that is where he will be tried. For example, Katie Carrera on June 30:
A second-line center has been one of Washington’s top needs in recent years. While it’s possible the Capitals could look to fill that void from the outside via free agency or trade, McPhee said this week he would like to see Brooks Laich play at center more.

McPhee said about Laich and the center position (by Mike Vogel on June 28)

That position is a little thin around the league right now; it may be why there was more emphasis on drafting centers this year and certainly more of an emphasis on trying to find centers when you’re making trades or in free agency. They’re a big part of the spinal column of your team." 
"He's on our top penalty killing unit, he can take face-offs, he can play either wing, he can play center, he’s even played shifts on defense, he brings speed to the game, and that really helps your transition game and helps you defensively."

How long will Laich last as a second line center is up for debate. He's been tried at center before but his offense is best generated from the wings versus distributing the puck to his wingers as a pivot. The alternative will be Johansson, the average-sized by incredibly fast sophomore. Considering McPhee's moves this off-season, I get the sense he's not taking any chances this year. This is THE year.

Thus, I don't believe McPhee is finished with the remake. My sense is that he could have acquired Paul Stastny from Colorado in some variation of the Varlamov deal. However, Stastny's cap hit would have severely restricted McPhee from making the moves he had already made. Instead, McPhee acquired fungible assets in exchange for Varlamov -- in the form of a first round draft pick (likely a high one) plus a second rounder.

Another trading chip is the speedy youngster Marcus Johansson. He, as part of a package, would certainly help McPhee convince his trading partner to part with a valuable asset. Lets consider then what that package could look like:

Johansson + COL 1st rounder + WSH 1st rounder 

I would think that should be enough to dislodge a ~$4M 2C especially on a non-playoff team at the next trade deadline (2012) when WSH will have banked enough cap space (especially if they move an overpriced 4th liner like Jason Chimera during the off-season).

Pssst...I just revealed my educated guess to answer the question that is the title of this post. Chimera is an active roster player -- however, it could also be the almost forgotten Tom Poti.

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