The 2009-10 Washington Capitals are a very, very good hockey team by just about any metric. That said, it'd be silly to assume they couldn't be even better, and given the salary cap space that opened up with Michael Nylander's loan to Grand Rapids under way and one trade already in the books, the fact that the NHL's holiday season roster freeze ended yesterday, and that it's never too early to start planning (or more realistically, given how much impact our musings are likely to have on the team's personnel moves, hoping), it makes sense to start thinking about who's available and how they might help the Caps this season. Luckily, Spector has provided a nifty guide to which Western Conference players might be available for acquisition, thereby providing us with inspiration.
Who might be available, and whether they're a good fit for the Caps, after the jump
|2009 - Saku Koivu||33||6||13||19||-1||22||2||0||2||0||56||10.7|
Why we like him: Koivu is an almost prototypical third line center for the style the Capitals play. He's defensively responsible, wins faceoffs, kills penalties, and can chip in on offense. He has noted leadership ability and 48 playoff points in 54 career playoff games. Plus, you could do a lot worse if you needed someone to fill in on the second line in a pinch.
Why we don't: The Caps are aren't all that big down the middle, and Koivu doesn't add much size. Though still productive, Koivu's production has fallen over the last few years and, given his age, you have to wonder how much he'll have left in the tank in May...and hopefully, June, especially given that his games player have from 81 to 77 to 65 over the last three years.
|2009 - Cory Sarich||17||0||2||2||4||16||0||0||0||0||14||0.0|
Why we like him: Being able to play to stop NHL forwards on a consistent basis is a vastly underrated skill, and one the Capitals could stand to upgrade, and Sarich would provide that. He also brings an element of physicality to the blue line and moves the puck out of the zone fairly well.
Why we don't: $3.6 million is not an insignificant cap hit, especially when you consider Sarich's contract runs through the 2011-12 season. The 2009-10 Capitals already have more defensemen than they know what to do with, and John Carlson should be in the NHL for good before too long.
|2009 - Brent Sopel||37||1||4||5||1||20||0||0||0||0||23||4.3|
Why we like him: The same reason we like Sarich - solid NHL caliber defensemen aren't all that easy to come by, but you need them if you're going to win.
Why we don't: Sopel doesn't offer much, if any, upgrade over Shaone Morrisonn, who makes less money. The fact that Sopel's due another $2,333,333 next year doesn't help, given that Mike Green, Karl Alzner, Tom Poti, and Jeff Schultz should be back.
|2009 - John-Michael Liles||28||3||11||14||-3||10||2||0||0||0||45||6.7|
Why we like him: In the post lockout NHL there's arguably no skill more important that skating for defensemen, and Liles excels in that area. He also moves the puck well out of his own end well, something that's important in the Capitals' current system. His decidedly non-physical brand of hockey will keeping smoking rates in the D.C. area low, making it more likely D.C. will retain it's "healthiest city in the county" distinction.
Why we don't: He's essentially a rich man's Brian Pothier, and doesn't bring the current blueline a huge upgrade in any one area. The contract is too much, both in terms of dollars and years, for the Capitals to take on right now.
|2009 - Jason Chimera||39||8||9||17||-7||47||1||0||1||0||92||8.7|
Why we like him: He's a Cap.
Why we don't: Give it a week, we'll find something to nitpick.
|2009 - Steve Ott||32||5||5||10||-11||48||2||0||1||0||72||6.9|
Why we like him: Ott's the complete package in terms of what the Capitals need in their forward ranks right now. He's physical. He fights. He can play all three forward positions. He can chip in on offense. He wins faceoffs. To top it all off, his contract hit is low and he's a free agent after this season.
Why we don't: He's crazy. That physicality can come with a price, and it's possible Ott winds up hurting his team with a bad penalty, or even a suspension. Ott also only has five points in 34 NHL playoff games.
|2009 - Jason Williams||15||2||5||7||-5||4||2||0||1||0||36||5.6|
Why we like him: Williams provides a lot of offense (.65 points per game since 2006) for his cap hit ($1.5 million), and he's done it while playing for four different teams, suggesting he has the ability to find chemistry and produce with just about anyone.
Why we don't: He's not a clear upgrade of guys like Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, and Eric Fehr. It's not that Williams would be a bad pickup for the Caps, it's just that they have more pressing needs. Plus, he's injury prone.
|2009 - Andrew Cogliano||39||4||6||10||3||11||0||0||0||0||63||6.3|
Why we like him: Cogliano's a talented offensive player who can line up at wing or center. His most impressive attribute is his speed (he won Fastest Skater at last year's all-star game), a skill that has helped him to a 13:1 penalties drawn/taken ratio and means he should fit in well with the high-tempo Caps.
Why we don't: The Oilers aren't stupid. Even if they feel the need to shake up their team by moving Cogliano, he's going to come at a pretty high price.
|2009 - Alexander Frolov||38||9||15||24||-12||20||2||0||0||0||90||10.0|
Why we like him: Frolov has a ton of offensive talent, and his addition would only make the Capitals even scarier to play against - a team featuring Ovechkin, Frolov, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom is one that will inevitably have two elite scoring lines.
Why we don't: He's a poor man's Alexander Semin, and the inevitable deluge of discussion would likely crash the Capitals' blogosphere. The Capitals should be looking at their depth forwards and defense unless they can make a huge splash - and as good as Frolov is, he's not that splash.
|2009 - Kim Johnsson||32||4||5||9||4||16||2||0||0||0||56||7.1|
Why we like him: He's a solid defenseman who minimizes mistakes, doesn't take too many penalties, skates well, and gets the puck out of his own end to his forward efficiently. Given that the Capitals probably only need a temporary upgrade at the back end, his expiring contract is a plus.
Why we don't: Johnsson's production hasn't matched his offensive skill set since the lockout, although some of that has to do with the fact he's been in Minnesota for all but one of the post-lockout years. The $4.85 million cap hit is high, even if it does come off the books this season.
|2009 - Dan Hamhuis||35||4||8||12||4||28||0||0||0||0||53||7.5|
Why we like him: He's young, he's good, he's cheap, and he plays a position the Capitals need an upgrade.
Why we don't: We'll let you know when we think of it.
|2009 - Peter Mueller||32||1||8||9||-3||6||0||0||1||0||52||1.9|
Why we like him: The combination of age and natural talent Mueller posses is something you don't get too many shots at as an NHL general manager, and a player with Mueller's combination of size and skill would be a good fit for the Capitals, who have a number of smaller, skill players and bigger, depth players, but who lack a physical force who can play in the top two lines other than Alex Ovechkin.
Why we don't: The talent's there, and Mueller could be a good fit for the Capitals given the team's style of play, but his production has fallen way off this year. The Capitals are trying to win a Stanley Cup, and Stanley Cup contenders don't pick up reclamation projects late in the season.
|2009 - Jason Demers||32||2||12||14||5||12||1||0||1||0||33||6.1|
Why we like him: He's already capable of playing defense at the NHL level, he has a very low cap hit this season and next, and he's cost controlled for several seasons after that.
Why we don't: If the Sharks are going to deal away a 21-year-old defenseman, they're going to want someone who can help them at the NHL level, and the Capitals giving up an NHL caliber player to acquire another young defenseman just doesn't make sense.
|2009 - Paul Kariya||38||8||11||19||-5||16||2||0||1||0||101||7.9|
Why we like him: The Capitals offense is already scary good, and adding more depth to it would only make it better. There are potential leadership benefits too: don't forget Kariya's captained a team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Why we don't: The Caps have more pressing needs, and at $6 million, acquiring Kariya would mean they probably wouldn't be able to address them. Also, his SBN headshot scares me.
|2009 - Mathieu Schneider||17||2||3||5||0||12||1||0||0||0||14||14.3|
Why we like him: There's the grizzled vet angle, but beyond that, not a ton. In terms of on-ice contributions, he'd probably be a good guy to step in and take over when Washington's powerplay turned ineffective due to overpassing, but beyond that it's hard to see him being an ideal fit for this team.
Why we don't: If the Capitals add another defenseman, it needs to be someone who's a clear upgrade on the blue line. Schneider doesn't fit that profile at this point in his career.
Of these players - or any others who might be available - who should the Capitals be looking at? And, just as importantly, what should they be willing to give up to get the right piece?