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Japers' Rink Mailbag: Gruback-Up, Green's Rights and Ideal Right Wings

The Caps' back-up goalie, Draft day trades, bottom-six forwards, top-six wings and more in the latest edition of "you ask, we answer."

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Some good ones in this week's 'Bag, so let's dive right in:

When the Caps re-signed Philipp Grubauer to a two-year, one-way deal, it was a pretty clear indication that they see him as ready to take on the role of Braden Holtby's understudy (assuming, of course, that a Holtby deal gets done). For starters, while the Caps still have Justin Peters under contract, it's clear that they've lost faith in him (if they ever had any in the first place) and see Grubauer as a better option to back-up Holtby. But another factor here is that Grubauer would need to clear waivers to be sent to Hershey and he wouldn't clear, so the Caps' choice would essentially be keep Grubauer in the NHL or lose him. Not much of a choice, is it?

For his part, Grubauer had a sizable workload in Hershey last year and handled it well, going 27-17-5/2.30/.921 with four shutouts, and now has appeared in 105 AHL games. As a point of reference, Holtby played 132 games for the Bears, so it's a comparable amount of seasoning and while he'll see less playing time as Holtby's back-up than as Hershey's starter (the obvious drawback to the presumed set-up), he's at a point in his development where he's ready to be working with Mitch Korn and being a full-time NHLer. Ultimately, a 20-25 game workload with the Caps is probably best for both the Caps and Grubauer.

And heck, after his win over the Isles in April, Grubauer's already tied for 13th on the Caps' all-time playoff win list.

With Mike Green all but gone come July 1, I'd make sure I got something for his rights prior to that date (as Brian MacLellan did with Jaroslav Halak a year ago). Halak fetched the Caps a fourth-round pick, Christian Ehrhoff's rights were worth a fourth-rounder a few years back, Dan Boyle garnered a fifth last year, and so on. Our pals at Stanley Cup of Chowder compiled a list of pending free agents whose rights were traded for a pick, and it's probably reasonable to expect something in the neighborhood of a fourth-rounder for Green, which may not sound like much, but it's certainly better than the nothing they'd get otherwise.

And who knows? The Caps have turned fourth-round picks into Holtby and Grubauer in the recent past, so maybe that "cheap, young goalie of the future" comes with the pick the Caps got when they traded the rights to Mike Green.

Half of the Caps' bottom-six forwards are set to be free agents in a week - Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle and Joel Ward. As you note, it does sound as if the first two may be close to signing to stick around, while Ward is almost certainly done. So what does that mean for Michael Latta?

Latta didn't have a great 2014-15 season, but he was better than his box car numbers indicate (how could he not be?). Assuming that Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich hold down the bottom-two left wing slots (not necessarily in that order), Fehr and Beagle are the third- and fourth-line centers (necessarily in that order) and Tom Wilson takes Joel Ward's third-line right wing slot, Latta would seem to be a favorite to snag that last bottom-six slot (perhaps in the middle, pushing Beagle to right wing).

But what if the Caps land that elusive top-six right wing and it bumps everyone down a line? Or a guy like Stanislav Galiev of Chris Brown impress at camp? Or the team adds a penalty-kill specialist? Or Liam O'Brien wags his tongue at someone again? Latta is a fringe fourth-liner who doesn't play special teams and isn't a lock to make the team's top-12 forwards... or make the team, for that matter. He's got his work cut out for him to earn and keep a spot on the roster.

To me, the big difference between what you're looking for in first- and second-line right wings for this team is in what's needed to complement the other two guys on the line. On the top line, you've got two elite players up there already, so you're not going to need a guy who can be a star in his own right (though I wouldn't object), but ideally a guy who can carry the puck, isn't afraid to shoot and can finish. The Caps have some guys who fit two of those three (and Mike Knuble only fit two of the three in his best years), but a guy like Alexander Semin fit all three and maybe Andre Burakovsky can do all three if he starts shooting more.

On the second line, the Caps need a guy who can do a bit more in terms of driving possession, especially with Evgeny Kuznetsov (not necessarily a strong possession player) in the middle. The second-line right wing probably needs to be at least the second-best player on the line, or the line's not going to be all that effective - does Marcus Johansson-Kuznetsov-Troy Brouwer scare anyone? Probably not (though they weren't terrible last year). But Marian Hossa ain't walking through that door, so the Caps will have to do the best they can with what they can get. At this point, that might mean upgrading the second line is more important than bettering the first.

Three-on-three overtime is a done deal, and our buds over at Broadstreet Hockey have detailed exactly how it'll work. To answer your question:

If a penalty is taken in overtime, the teams play 4-on-3. (Essentially, the team on the power play just adds another player.) If a second penalty is taken, the teams will play 5-on-3. If a penalty carries over from regulation, the teams will play at 4-on-3.

When the 4-on-3 penalty expires, teams play 4-on-4 until the next whistle. So, no, you won't see 3-on-2 hockey until the NHL needs another gimmick to avoid the gimmick that is the shootout.

Jay Beagle.


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.