The cousins - Fearless and Cheerless - and I are just sittin' here at the bar looking back on 2013 for the Washington Capitals. If memory serves, we started with the labor stuff in January and worked our way up to June and the league awards.
That brings us to the off season and...
Peerless: No, the draft. The season starting and ending when it did, the draft was held late - June 30th in New Jersey. For the Caps it was a busy day. With the 23rd overall pick they selected Andre Burakowsky of the Malmö Redhawks in HockeyAllsvenskan, the second tier league in Sweden. In the second round they used the 53rd overall pick to draft defenseman Madison Bowey from the Kelowna Rockets. Then the Caps worked the phones. Washington sent their third round pick, their fourth round pick, and Calgary's fifth round pick (one they got when they traded Dennis Wideman in June 2012) to Winnipeg for Chicago's second round pick.
Fearless: Tell the folks how Winnipeg got that pick.
Cheerless: Won a!
Peerless: Yes, but who also happened to be a former seventh round draft pick of the Capitals. Small world.
Cheerless: ...but I wouldn't want to paint it.
Fearless: Steven Wright, you're not.
Peerless: Guys? Anyway, the Caps then used that second round pick to draft Zach Sanford.
Cheerless: Wait... the Caps traded three draft picks to move up 23 spots to draft a winger out of a Tier III Junior A hockey league?
Peerless: That would be the math, yes. It left the Caps without a third or fourth round pick, but they did have picks in each of the last three rounds, with which they selected defenseman Blake Henrich, center Brian Pinho, and defenseman Tyler Lewington. And that brought us to the next milestone on the off-season calendar...
Peerless: July, and free agent season. This year, open season on unrestricted free agents started on July 5th. The Caps took a pass on Day One. Then they took a pass on Day Two. Day Three...ditto.
Fearless: Aren't you forgetting someone?
Peerless: By George, you're right. The Caps did sign David Kolomatis, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings organization, on July 5th. Then they took a pass on Day Two and Day Three. On Day Four - July 8th - the Caps signed defenseman Tyson Strachan away from Florida. They followed that one up by signing goaltender David Leggio from Buffalo and winger Matt Watkins from the Islanders the next day.
Cheerless: You're making these names up, aren't ya?
Peerless: It might seem that way, since the four of them had a combined 121 games of NHL experience before this season, 120 of them for Strachan, one for Watkins. Meanwhile, the Caps were parting ways with several of their own free agents. Joey Crabb, the former linemate of Alex Ovechkin, headed off to Florida. Mike Ribeiro, the latest answer to the second line center problem, went to Phoenix. Matt Hendricks signed with Nashville.
Cheerless: I miss that guy.
Peerless: We all do. Jeff Schultz went to Los Angeles.
Cheerless: I don't miss that guy.
Peerless: No one does, cuz. And Patrick McNeill signed with Columbus.
Peerless: Patrick McNeill, the defenseman who never got a call-up from Hershey in six years.
Cheerless: Yeah, he did
Peerless: Didn't get a game, though.
Fearless: He does have two championships with the Bears, though, which is more than the Caps have had.
Peerless: Meanwhile, there was the annual rite of passage for the young guys - Development Camp. Six days of tests, drills, class, scrimmages.
Cheerless: Golf lessons?
Peerless: Funny... That pretty much wrapped things up for July.
Fearless: There was still that little problem that creeps up every year.
Peerless: Ah, yes. With Mike Ribeiro gone for Phoenix, the Caps once more had that hole in the middle on their second line to fill. And what better time would there be than July to fill it, eh?
Peerless: Well, yeah, I guess, since the Caps didn't do anything about it in July. August is the deadest month of the hockey year. Everyone goes on vacation or, if you are one particular hockey player, comes back from a honeymoon. That player would be Mikhail Grabovski, who happened to become an unrestricted free agent when he was placed on unconditional waivers on the day before his wedding, then bought out of the last four years of a five-year contract by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The player was not pleased.
But hey, there was a wedding, and the Caps were sort of interested in a marriage of their own and apparently willing to wait for the newlyweds to wrap up their honeymoon. That was what pretty much ate up July. So now we're in August, and the Caps still don't have a number two center. Grabovski, who by most accounts seemed born to the position, was not yet signed by anyone. One could not help but think, "two weddings in one summer" for the guy.
Sure enough, on August 23rd (after some behind the scenes work by Adam Oates) the Caps signed Grabovski to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
And so, the Caps had their team with which they would do battle in the 2013-2014 season. Everyone could enjoy the rest of the month and the Labor Day holiday before things started up in earnest in September getting tuned up for a new season.
Which means it's time for a new round.
(next: training camp, a slow start, and getting used to saying "Metropolitan Division")