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Japers' Rink Mailbag: Losses on the PK, Career Years and Holtby's $8 Million

Special teams personnel tweaks, Holtby asked for WHAT?!, Laich's role and more in this week's edition of "you ask, we answer."

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Another big 'Bag. Let's do this:

I'm not as sure as you are that the power-play will be better next year than it was last year - the Caps have lost their numbers two and three power-play goal getters in Troy Brouwer (8) and Joel Ward (6), and their top defenseman (in points and ability) in Mike Green. That's 15 goals and 42 points out the door, with two 13-point forwards coming in and John Carlson continuing to run the point on the top unit. Guess we'll see if this power play really is so good that you can plug anyone into that trigger-man role in the 1-3-1 and a lesser passer up top and get the same production.

But on to the question you actually asked, the penalty kill will have to make up for the loss of their second- and fourth-biggest minute-munching forwards (Brouwer and Ward, respecitvely), and, in Brouwer's case, their number-two shorthanded face-off man by draws taken and number one by win percentage. Oh, and don't forget the (presumed) loss of Eric Fehr - he was sixth among forwards in shorthanded ice time, but the top forward on the team in shot-suppression at four-on-five (Ward was second, Brouwer sixth of seven).

So who's going to play those minutes? Maybe the team leans on Brooks Laich and Jay Beagle a bit more (the penalty kill is definitely the area in which they can contribute the most to the team's success), and perhaps Nicklas Backstrom gets more minutes on the kill (though the thought of him blocking shots makes me queasy, despite the fact that he's good at it). Ditto Oshie, who has killed penalties in the past (Williams, not so much). And then there's the mystery third-line center the team's still looking for, who hopefully can kill some penalties.

But yeah, this is an area to keep an eye on. The good news is that penalty killers can usually be found on the market if the Caps need to go out and get one. One more thing to keep in mind - while last year's penalty kill was better than the Oates Era (how could it not be?), it still gave up a ton of shot attempts and a bunch of shots on goal, and relied heavily on a big save percentage from Braden Holtby to get to respectable. If the unit's success rate backslides, you might hear that it's because of the personnel losses, but the reality is that it may well simply be regression.

Well, Alex Ovechkin isn't topping 65 goals or 112 points and Backstrom will have an awfully hard time besting 33 goals or 102 points, so that leaves Oshie, whose career highs are 21 goals and 60 points. If he stays healthy and if he stays on the top line and if he gets Brouwer's power-play time, 22 goals and/or 61 points sounds doable (certainly moreso than either of the other options).

With Ovechkin, Andre Burakovsky, Marcus Johansson and perhaps Jason Chimera ahead of him on the left wing depth chart, it's hard to see Laich snagging a top-nine role on the left side if everyone's healthy. Could he slot in as the third center behind Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov if the Caps don't address the position by bringing in an external option? Conceivably (or it could be Beagle or one of Burakovsky or Kuznetsov). But the bottom line here is that while Laich will certainly gets some shifts in the top nine at some point in 2015-16, don't expect it to be a regular occurrence without injuries and/or a huge (and, frankly, surprising) bounceback year.

Brian MacLellan hasn't been shy about identifying and addressing team needs, and much of what he's done seems to have been with an eye on a closing Ovechkin Era window, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him move futures for assets that can help the team now, if the right opportunity were to present itself.

No... but only because I'd have already bought out Laich last year (if my predecessor hadn't already).

My interpretation is that while the sides agree on term (i.e. the new contract would cover the remaining two RFA years and three UFA years, say) and the salary during the UFA years (say, $21m over the three years), the sides don't agree on the salary during the two RFA years (maybe the Caps are offering $9m and Holtby wants $14m). The result is a difference in average annual value of $6m for the Caps' offer and $7m for the Holtby counteroffer. Those numbers are oversimplified (and there might be other structural differences on when Holtby gets what), but you get the point.

A lot of Holtby questions this week, obviously. Becca addressed most of these points the other day, but yeah... it's still a shocking number.

I touched on it above, but if everyone's healthy, I probably like Burakovsky at second-line left wing and Johansson at third-line left wing to start the season.

I'd like a little more "new" in my new alternates (and I still like the old school whites over the old school reds).

I really enjoyed Tal Pinchevsky's "Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL - The Untold Story of Hockey's Great Escapes," but I read so much hockey-related stuff as it is that when I think summer reads, it's almost anything but hockey.

Easy - Johansson has pretty much failed at center but has done well on the left side, and Holtby pretty much controls whether or not this team's window is open for now, so he's on the other side. That leaves Fehr in the middle, where he's been solid.


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.