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Japers' Rink Mailbag: Crowded Blueline Gets More Crowded

When defensive depth becomes problematic (in a good way), lineup and stats questions, crushes and more in this week's edition of "you ask, we answer."

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Jared Wickerham

Big 'bag this week, so let's hit it rapid-fire style:

Cameron Schilling signing doesn't mean much for Orlov (or his feathers), but it certainly could impact John Erskine and/or Jack Hillen. When the Caps signed undrafted free agent Schilling in May of 2012, he had been courted by other teams as well. Since then, he was named Hershey's rookie of the year in 2012-13 and "[h]is AHL play merited more than the one NHL game he played last season." And here's the kicker - Schilling is not waiver-exempt, meaning that if the Caps wanted to send him to Hershey, he'd have to pass through waivers... and he almost certainly wouldn't.

The question, then, is whom would the Caps move to get down to seven or eight defensemen on the NHL roster (assuming everyone's healthy), and that's where Erskine and Hillen come in. Given Schilling's upside and development, I know which of those three I'd be the least likely to place on waivers or try like heck to trade. So don't be surprised if and when Cameron Schilling makes the Caps roster out of camp.

Jay Beagle will be 29 next month. He may be stronger and looking to score more this season, and is certainly the hard-working type that coaches like to have around, but more likely than not he is what he is as a hockey player at this point. I wouldn't expect much more than what he's done in the past going forward.

As for Eric Fehr, you may not find a bigger advocate for him (and that includes family members and his agent) than me, but I'd expect him to have to earn those top minutes just like anyone else. He's shown that he's versatile, suddenly relatively durable and certainly capable, so I'm expecting good things from Fehr (my choice for top line left wing, assuming that slot's open) this year.

We've written a lot about Marcus Johansson over the past year or so, and he's certainly one of the hardest pieces to place in the lineup going forward. On the one hand, he has the skill to play on the top line and has done so in the past. On the other hand, I'm ready to see some other options there (see last question) and also to see what Johansson - a restricted free agent next summer - can do away from the top line. Playing in between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward might seem like a good place to start to figure that out, but I'd worry about that line's possession numbers and its ability to take tough defensive assignments (deployments and competition), as that's something I'd want out of my third line. He may be a better fit as a top-six wing right now, though there are certainly drawbacks to that as well. Marcus Johansson is a bit of a square peg with lots of round holes at present.

How about Here's last year's Caps (click on the Game Table tab), and here's Alex Ovechkin (click on Table By Game). You can figure out the rest.

Putin orders mandatory conscription of all 29-year-old Russian citizens with no exceptions.

Short of that and perhaps some media-driven distractions, I wouldn't expect any impact at all.

No, not really, in large part because I don't have a tremendous amount of insight into what they are or aren't doing, and job titles don't do that much for me. More importantly, in a lot of ways, this is the calm before the storm in advanced stats. I'd hope that the Caps aren't and won't be sitting on the sidelines, and don't think they are or will be. Ask yourself this - does Ted Leonsis seem more likely to be at the front of the pack when it comes to technology and forward-thinking or the back of it?

That said, every little advantage a team can get is an important one. And while the League may cap how much teams can spend on players, there's no limit to what they can spend on smart people supporting them, and investments made there will pay for themselves in no time. I wouldn't be shy about opening up the checkbook on the right scouts and hockey ops folks, but it's not my money.

I watched and later interviewed Stefan Della Rovere at Development Camp back in 2008 (!) and liked his game, his personality and so on. I was definitely rooting for the scrappy seventh-rounder, despite the odds against him ever becoming a regular NHLer. Here we are six-plus years later and "Delly" is an unsigned free agent (insofar as I can tell) who played 23 game in the ECHL last year and has seven NHL games on his resume (all with St. Louis back in 2010-11). But he'll always have those seven games, so good on him.


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. As always, there are always a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.