Another Free Agent Post Part 1

You knew something like this was coming sooner or later because whether it’s a few days from now when free agency begins or at another time, the Caps have holes on the roster they need to fill. However, the more I look at things the more I think that the wise thing to do would be to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents that are currently on the team (i.e. Jason Arnott and Brooks Laich) because the free agents who are available in a few days do not exactly represent upgrades when it comes to filling the void at second line center for this team. However, there are some decent options out there for the Caps if they want to improve their fourth line which, as it stands right now, is going to look pretty weak if Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley leave. After the acquisition of Brouwer and the likely re-signing of him and Karl Alzner (who was given a qualifying offer today), the Caps projected roster for the 2011-12 season looks something like this:

Ovechkin ($9,538,462) – Backstrom ($6,700,000) – Knuble ($2,000,000
Brouwer (RFA) – ??? – Semin ($6,700,000)
Chimera ($1,875,000) – Johansson ($900,000) – Fehr ($2,200,000)
King ($637,500) – Beagle ($512,500) – Hendricks ($825,000)

Green ($5,250,000) – Wideman ($3,937,500)
Alzner (RFA) – Carlson ($845,833)
Poti ($2,875,000) – Schultz ($2,750,000)
Erskine ($1,500,000)
Sloan ($700,000)

Neuvirth ($1,250,000)
Varlamov (RFA)?

Caps have a little over $13 million to work with right now and some of that will go away once Brouwer and Alzner are re-signed so I’m going to assume that leaves us with about $8 million to play with. Here are the biggest team needs in terms of priorities:

1. 2nd line center
2. Depth/penalty killing forwards
3. Defensive defenseman
4. Back-up goaltender if Varlamov leaves.

Winger for the second line was another one but Brouwer should fill that void well. Let’s go through the team needs and see which free agents we could possibly target, but before I say that I have one thing to say. This free agent class stinks. Brad Richards is pretty much the only top-tier player available and when Christian Ehrhoff and Brooks Laich are the two most coveted free agents on the market, you have to set your expectations low when it comes to getting players on July 1st.

1. 2nd Line Center:

Expectations: Marcus Johansson may look good when you watch him play but he had one of the worst corsi rates on the team and only 27 points, which tells me that he isn’t ready to center the second line every night, at least not yet. The best option here might be to re-sign Jason Arnott but injuries a disappointing playoff showing and the fact that he’s going to be 38 next season steer me away from that. However, if we’re only looking for someone to fill a gap and produce until Johansson is ready then a one-year deal for him may not be a bad idea. If we are going to let him walk, here are some UFAs with similar stats who we could target:

Tim Connolly

GP G A Pts +/- PIM
68 13 29 42 -10 20

Why would the Caps want him?
He had very similar stats to Jason Arnott last season and played in similar situations as him. Connolly was actually a very productive player for the Buffalo Sabres last year. Very solid corsi rating, made the most of his ice time and could be depended on in his own zone when it came to preventing chances (+3.9 shot differential). Connolly also spent time on the powerplay and penalty kill for the Sabres and was a little better than average on the powerplay (6 goals, 20 points, 46.9 SF/60). He also made the same amount of money as Arnott did last year and is 7 years younger which makes him look like a solid replacement but there this…

Why Wouldn’t The Caps Want Him?

Arnott and Connolly both had a cap hit of $4.5 mil last season and they are going need to both take paycuts if the Caps are going to sign them. I like Connolly, but Washington can’t spend that much of their remaining cap space on him, especially considering his injury history. Connolly has never played in a full NHL season in seven years and he always seems to be more prone to be rattled by a big hit than other players. He also did not produce in the playoffs in either of the last two seasons with a combined 3 points in 13 games. His penalty killing numbers are also below average (albeit only slightly) when looking at SA/60.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 if the Caps Signed Him? 7

Michal Handzus

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 LA 82 12 18 30 -5 20

Why Would Washington Want Him?
Handzus is a good two-way player who plays a lot of tough minutes and takes many defensive zone draws. He played both on the powerplay and penalty kill with the LA Kings and could be depended on a lot in a defensive role since he is better than average at face-offs with a 51% success rate. He also gives the team some veteran presence which seems to go a long way according to most people.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

Handzus is coming off a very down year as you can see above and he isn’t getting any younger. Plus, he isn’t exactly a second-line center and wasn’t on the Kings. He could be on another team but only one who is weak down the middle like Washington is. His defensive awareness may not be as good as I thought they were because he was destroyed in terms of shots surrendered last season, especially on the PK. Like Connolly, he will need to take a significant paycut from the $4 mil he got from the Kings in order for the Caps to sign him because he has never lived up to his contract’s value in Los Angeles.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 if the Caps Signed Him? 5

Marty Reasoner

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 FLA 82 14 18 32 2 22

Why Would Washington Want Him?

He’s an excellent face-off guy, plays solid D and has shown that he can be depended on fro secondary scoring. Reaosner seems like someone we can use to take the load off of Nicklas Backstrom when it comes to taking tough draws because Reasoner was able to finish 48% of his draws in the offensive zone despite starting only 42.7% of them there. I’ve used this example countless times, but the Canucks did a similar method with Manny Malhotra and Ryan Kesler and it worked out pretty well for them. I think Reasoner could be the Caps Manny Malhotra if we choose to sign him.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

He plays a lot on the penalty kill but his shots allowed is even worse than Handzus’ (58 SA/60) and he isn’t a second line center. Not a lot of offensive upside or playmaking skills from him but I would look into him to center the fourth line or possibly the third line if the team elects to go with Johansson or someone else next season. Also, those 32 points his scored last season were his career high.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 If Washington Signed Him? 8

Depth/Penalty Killing Forwards:

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 PHO 71 6 16 22 3 46

Why Would Washington Want Him?

Fiddler’s a great skater and face-off guy who could potentially replace Boyd Gordon on the fourth line. He has provided the Coyotes with a considerable amount of offense from their bottom-six the last two seasons scoring 52 points in 2 seasons. Pretty darn good for a defensive forward. Was also given a truckload of defensive zone starts for the ‘Yotes last season and actually did a great job of producing offense with them. Also was one of the Coyotes top penalty killing forwards.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

Fiddler’s poor corsi rate is probably due to the numerous d-zone starts but one thing’s for sure is that the Coyotes had one of the worst PK’s in the league last year and Fiddler got a lot of shifts on the PK for them which doesn’t give me a lot of confidence. Neither does the fact that the Coyotes surrendered a lot of shots at even strength and Fiddler was on ice for a lot of them. Maybe playing on a more defensive oriented team would change that? He also made $1.1 mil last season. It’s not a destructive cap hit but I absolutely hate paying more than $1 mil a year for fourth liners although Fiddler seemed to be more than that in Phoenix.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 if Washington Signed Him? 6-7

Jeff Halpern

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 MON 72 11 15 26 6 29

Why Would Washington Want Him?

Excellent face-off guy and defensive forward and I think many teams would want him as part of their bottom-six. Not much else to say except that he had quite a good offensive year with the Habs last season and was a big part of their first PK unit.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

The only thing I can think of here is that his good offensive showing last year may have been a fluke but that shoudln’t bee too much of  a problem. He also might be looking for a raise on the $600k he made last season but again, giving him a raise on that should not be too much of a problem.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 if Washington Signs Him? 9

Ryan Shannon

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 OTT 79 11 16 27 3 24

Why Would Washington Want Him?

Gives them an upgrade at winger on the fourth line since Shannon possesses a solid two-way game and a surprisingly good offensive package with his great shot. Can play on the powerplay and penalty kill and would provide scoring depth to a team who is potentially losing two 15+ goal scorers.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

Shannon isn’t your ideal fourth liner. He kills penalties but isn’t physical, doesn’t get matched against weak competition and got mostly soft minutes with the Senators last season. He seems more like a less gritty version of Jason Chimera and that’s not exactly what this team needs at the moment.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 If Washington Signs Him? 4

Marcel Goc

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 NSH 51 9 15 24 10 6

Why Would Washington Want Him?

Good tw0-way center who takes a lot of tough draws. Provides scoring depth, is a good player along the boards, etc. etc.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

Not exactly a primer penalty killer, which I think is something you want yoru fourth liners to be and he seems to be more of an offensive-first kind of guy. Not the most physical player either.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 If Washington Signs Him? 6

Drew Miller

 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
 2010-11 DET 67 10 8 18 -2 13

Why Would Washington Want Him?

Upgrade at fourth line winger over DJ King and he is a great defensive player who can score and produce on offense if needed. Very physical player and isn’t afraid to block shots. Can be signed for a very low cost.

Why Wouldn’t Washington Want Him?

Limited skill-set and I can’t really think of anything else. Seems like an idea fourth liner although he wasn’t that good of a player before joining the Wings.

How Much Would I Like It On A Scale of 1-10 if Washington Signs Him? 9


Part 2 coming tomorrow.


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