First, a look at the 2005-06 Caps (and prospects) and their contracts (click on image to enlarge):
[Note: the above chart has been updated as the team has made roster moves]. I'm sure I've missed some players and am wrong about some others, so feel free to correct me (finding details on NHL player contracts is apparently harder than finding confidential financial information about suspected terrorists without a warrant). As you can see, I've offered my thoughts on those players above who are already signed (in black) and those who are unsigned (comments in red indicate my desire to never see the player don a Caps' sweater again, comments in green mean that I'd like to see the team re-sign the player and comments in brown indicate that the player should be re-signed for Hershey and perhaps part-time duty in Washington).
A word or two on who's no longer a Cap in GMJP's world:
Mathieu Biron: Had his moments, but didn't strike me as particularly "hockey-smart," "hard-working" or "talented."
Ivan Majesky: The "New NHL" isn't particularly kind to Ivan the Terrible. Come to think of it, neither was the "Old NHL."
- J-F Fortin: Word is that he's ready to sign with a European team. Too bad his stomach is so much bigger than his heart.
- Matt Bradley: I have nothing but good things to say about Bradley, a good team guy with a mean streak. There just isn't enough room up front for someone with his limited arsenal.
Brian Willsie: Another great teammate and a hard-worker, but a minus-19 rating, even on this team, is inexcusable. He'll be cheap to qualify, so don't be surprised if he starts the season with the team but hits the waiver-wire when he can't regularly crack the lineup.
Fleischmann - Laich - Free agent
Pettinger - Sutherby - Clymer
Scratches/taxi squad: Fehr, Gordon
Eminger - Heward
Morrisonn - Muir
Green - Pothier (signed 7/1)
Scratches/Taxi squad: Nycholat
Now the fun part - shopping time! With the increase in the salary floor, the Caps may have to throw a few rubles around just to clear the minimum, but we'll try to keep it within reason.
First, the forwards. The Caps need a couple of relatively inexpensive veteran rightwings who can score a bit, play a little defense, aren't afraid to hit or be hit and most of all play hard. We're letting Willsie and Bradley go, so the new guys will have to be an upgrade over that pair. Who fits the bill? Realistically, how about taking a look at Mark Parrish or Jamie Langenbrunner? Then again, there's always Jeff Friesen (just kidding, relax). Oh, and forget about that other #12 coming back. Not gonna happen.
Now to the rearguards. There aren't as many openings on the blueline (not to be mistaken for "there aren't many holes on the blueline"), but the team certainly could use another top-4 or certainly top-6 defenseman, preferably one with some offensive ability. Hmmm... Three guys that would certainly be upgrades are Filip Kuba, Willie Mitchell (though he has no offensive skill of which to speak) and, depending on the asking price, Brian Pothier.
Finally, who will back up Olie Kolzig? Despite his Calder Cup playoff run, Freddy Cassivi is not up to the task. Personally, I'd welcome Brent Johnson back in a second. But if that doesn't happen... eh, throw any crappy retread back there. It doesn't matter. Ideally, the Caps would have Olie's heir apparent playing 30 games this season, but since that's not in the cards, it doesn't really matter as long as there's a legitimate NHL keeper behind Olie. Mike Dunham? Sure. Brian Boucher? Whatever.
And there you have it. If the Caps sign all of the guys I suggest, are they a playoff team? Probably not. But stranger things have happened. They'd certainly be better than they were last year, and the team will have done nothing to hinder the progress of the younger players, hurt the financial bottom line or turn off the fan base. As I see it, throw the big bucks around next summer, with 2007/08 as the target for the next playoff appearance and 2008/09 as the target date for serious contention in the Eastern Conference.
I love it when a plan comes together.
(Originally posted 6/26)
UPDATE (6/27, 5:15 p.m.): The chart has been updated to reflect the Group II (restricted) free agents to whom the Caps did and did not tender offers by yesterday's deadline.
UPDATE (6/28, 7:35 a.m.): The Caps are in negotiations with Jeff Halpern and Johnson to bring the two back, according to the WaPo, and according to the WTimes, the team is close to a deal with the latter.
UPDATE (7/4, 8:20 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed Brent Johnson, signed UFA defenseman Brian Pothier, bought out blueliner Nolan Yonkman's contract, are about to lose Jeff Halpern to the Stars and saw Brian Willsie sign with the Kings.
UPDATE (7/5, 9:00 p.m.): It's official - Halps has signed with the Stars. In addition, six players have filed for salary arbitration (just about everyone who was eligible to take the team to arbitration did).
UPDATE (7/6, 5:30 p.m.): The Caps have signed defenseman Sasha Pokulok, the team's first pick, 14th overall, in the 2005 Entry Draft.
UPDATE (7/10, 5:20 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who had been a restricted free agent. Also, it appears that first-round pick (fourth overall) Nicklas Backstrom will be staying in Sweden for the 2006-07 season.
UPDATE (7/12, 6:45 p.m.): The Caps have re-aquired rightwing Richard Zednik from the Montreal Canadiens in return for a third-round pick in 2007.
UPDATE (7/13, 9:30 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed center Brooks Laich and Hershey-bound goaltender Frederic Cassivi.
UPDATE (7/14, 2:30 p.m.): The Caps have signed Donald Brashear. Caps fans rejoice. Also, the Caps (or Hershey - I'm not sure it really matters) signed forwards Alexandre Giroux and Chad Wiseman.
UPDATE (7/15, 6:20 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed defenseman Steve Eminger and forwards Boyd Gordon and Kris Beech.
UPDATE (7/17, 7:45 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed centers Brian Sutherby and Rico Fata.
UPDATE (7/18, 9:10 p.m.): The Caps have signed left wing Quintin Laing.
UPDATE (7/21, 5:00 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed left wing Ben Clymer to a three-year deal. The team also signed minor league tough Pete Vandermeer.
UPDATE (7/26, 9:00 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed right wing Matt Bradley to a two-year deal. The team also re-signed minor league defenseman Dean Arsene.
UPDATE (7/31, 7:15 p.m.): The Caps have re-signed left wing Matt Pettinger to a three-year deal.
UPDATE (9/8, 10:20 p.m.): The Caps have announced their roster for training camp.