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Japers' Rink Mailbag

Pencilling in a third line and Hal Gill vs. John Erskine highlight our second installment of "you ask, we answer"

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's debut of Japers' Rink Mailbag went well enough that we've decided to do another one. (We told you not to worry about Karl Alzner re-signing, and he even came in a few bucks cheaper than we'd thought... though we had the zip code right.)

Our first question this time around comes in response to our post earlier in the week regarding forward pairings in which I essentially penciled in a third line of Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward:

No. No I wouldn't.

Per BtN, Eric Fehr scored goals at twice the rate Chimera did last year at five-on-five and the Caps' outscored opponents by a goal-and-a-half per sixty minutes when Fehr was on the ice, while they were outscored by nearly half a goal with Chimera out there. Fehr also had a vastly superior Corsi rating, and drew more than twice as many penalties as he took, while Chimera took nearly twice as many as he drew. It is worth noting that Fehr was the beneficiary of both high on-ice shooting and save percentages (combining for a ridiculously high PDO of 1054), but he was - and presumably is - a much better player than Chimera right now.

Moreover, Perreault (almost certainly that line's center) saw his Corsi-For and Goals-For percentages rise when he skated with Fehr, and fall when he was out with Chimera.

So no, I wouldn't play Chimera over Fehr.

But is that the choice? We know that Adam Oates strongly prefers left-handed left wings (like Chimera) and right-handed right wings (like Fehr and Ward). To that end, the most common combination of these four skaters last year was Chimera-Perreault-Fehr, followed by Chimera-Perreault-Ward and finally Fehr-Perreault-Ward, skating less than 2% of total even-strength shifts (the other two came in at 5.6% and 3.1%, respectively).

Ultimately, it would appear, Oates's choice isn't between Chimera and Fehr, but between Fehr and Ward (which is a much more difficult choice, notwithstanding how hard it is to stomach a fourth-liner with a $3-million cap hit), and if the last-ten games of the regular season and the playoffs are any indication, Fehr has the inside track on that spot.

But if it was me... I'd lose the left-right obsession and roll with a strong third line of Fehr-Perreault-Ward (which did have some success in those limited minutes).

The Predators bought-out the final year of Hal Gill's contract last week, making the 6-7, 244-pound house-on-blades an unrestricted free agent, so he'd likely be available for even less than the $2-million he was due in 2013-14, and the Caps definitely need blueline help. Gill is a lefty and a good penalty-killer, and his 2013 season wasn't all that bad... but his days of being a viable top-four defenseman are well behind him and the Caps need to get more mobile, not less so on the back-end (hence the departure of guys like Jeff Schultz and Roman Hamrlik over the past few months). Is Gill mobile? We'll let him answer that one.

As to the question of whether or not he's better than Erskine at this point, if he is, it's not to the extent that it would be worth it to the Caps to wiggle around the salary cap and other issues to try to make it work. Gill can still help someone, but it's hard to see that someone being the Caps.

Besides, I'm still dealing with PTSD from the 31 shots he blocked against the Caps in the 2010 playoffs... do I really need to be reminded of it on a nightly basis?


Agree? Disagree?

If you've got something on your mind, go ahead and ask it here on the site, on Twitter (use #JapersMailbag), via email or on Facebook, and we'll try to get to them. It's a long summer and there are a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.

(And if you have non-hockey questions, we'll answer some of those as well.)