Even in August, the 'Bag gets filled. Let's do this:
Love reading Japers each morning. Huge fan of the site.
I have an ongoing debate with a buddy of mine about Mike Richards. I think the Caps should take a flyer (pun intended) on him and sign him to a two-way contract, league minimum deal. He could be a great 3C for our team and PK'er. My buddy says he is too much risk for a slowing and diminishing skill set.
Richards has won at every level (junior, minors, Olympics, NHL), was always a hell of a penalty killer, and has worn a C and an A on his jersey before. I know he has had his problems this off-season and his career has been on a downward trajectory, but a lot of that is through the lense of his huge multi-year contract. At a league minimum two-way deal, I think he would be a valuable contributor. Plus, I really believe the Caps have a strong locker room that wouldn't be damaged if he truly is a trouble-maker now.
You guys are a whole lot smarter than me - what do you think? Is there a case or is my buddy, right?
[First off, thanks for the kind words and the recognition that we're a lot smarter than you (kidding... mostly). But speaking of smart and condescending, we'll let Rob answer this question.] First off, we need to make some assumptions to even entertain this scenario, but we'll play along. Ignoring his current legal and contract status, and granting that he'd even accept such a deal, Mike Richards could potentially be an improvement at 3C, but I don't think "great 3C" is a likely result.
Between his career trajectory and the surely-related physical fitness commitment concerns that have been voiced by Dean Lombardi over the last few years, there's no reason to think the Caps would be getting anything close to the Mike Richards that built his reputation and earned his long term contract. These two charts tell you most of what you need to know about the direction his career is headed:
Es no bueno.
It's very difficult to cut him some slack on his "downward trajectory" (itself a generous euphemism) by evaluating it in the context of his huge contract without also noting that his reputation as a "winner" should be analyzed within the context of the teams he's been on.
He's got a Canadian passport, and in the past has been good enough to make it on to those powerhouse teams. But he's obviously not that player anymore (he hasn't played for Team Canada since 2010), and even when he was winning in the NHL it was as a depth player. You could make the case that he was a quality depth player, if you ignore the contract, but the fact remains that he was a depth player on the Los Angeles Kings and wasn't even a point-per-game player when he was demoted to Manchester in the AHL.
I'm not worried about the locker room impact (though this front office might be); I just don't see the on-ice value in adding a player with this kind of baggage and questionable recent performance. The Caps could probably do worse than Mike Richards on a league-minimum deal, but they could also do better, likely without even having to go outside the organization. Consider that Jay Beagle scored at roughly the same pace as Mike Richards and it's not even clear that Richards is an upgrade on Beagle. Now consider that the Caps still believe that Andre Burakovsky has the skill set to be a center. I support the idea of adding another center through free agency, but if the Caps aren't able to find a player that fits the budget, I think either of those internal options would be preferable to Mike Richards. Hard pass.
@JapersRink Mailbag question. What free agent centers would be the best fit $ and skill for the 3rd line?— Brian Hammond (@bhammondbikes) August 6, 2015
Sticking with that third-line center theme, Santorelli would be a better option than Richards, but nothing about his game really impresses me - since his 20-goal season in Florida in 2010-11, he's scored 33 goals and added 43 assists in 222 games for five different teams while posting uninspiring underlying stats and not penalty killing (something I'd think any center the team brings in would need to do). Of course, I don't blame you for thinking he's more than that - he's scored five goals against the Caps in his career, as many as he has against any other club.
As for other free agents... the pool is shallow, but since you're not limiting the discussion to unrestricted free agents, I'd see if there's any way to pry Marcus Kruger out of Chicago. (A boy can dream, can't he?)
@JapersRink WSH isn't going to sign a 3C, so the 3C is either on the roster, or WSH trades for one. Who are the trade targets to watch?— Tyler Green (@TylerGreenDC) August 11, 2015
I'm starting to get the sense that people are anxious about the Caps' third-line center situation.
Trade candidates are usually hard to identify this time of year because most teams feel that they've addressed their needs and want to see what they've got, and (most) everyone thinks they're going to the playoffs in August. For their part, the Caps are probably wondering if they can create a third scoring line with Burakovsky as the third-line center or if Brooks Laich can have a huge bounce-back campaign and anchor (in a good way) a checking third line. I wouldn't bet on either, so I think the Caps will eventually have to go shopping and pony up some assets to address what appears to be an area of need. But they've got some time before they have to do that, and by then other teams will be more ready to deal.
Mike Green for two reasons - he's the best of the lot and is in a great situation in which to excel in Detroit.
Is it me, or do the Caps feel like an improved team, but not a contending team? #JapersMailbag— Kevin K (@thiscouldbkevin) August 11, 2015
I'm not sure how you'd define "contending," but they're better than the were last year when they were one shot (or save, perhaps) away from the Eastern Conference Finals, and the East looks to be fairly wide open at the top again this year once you get past Tampa. So yeah... maybe it's just you.
Back to the third line, eh? Barry Trotz likes to have a shutdown line, so if that's nominally your third line, that would probably leave a fourth line of Laich, Beagle and Michael Latta or Chris Brown or Stanislav Galiev... and push Jason Chimera to the second line? Not sure that's going to maximize the lineup. More likely, one of Marcus Johansson or Burakovsky will round out the top-six, with a third line that offers a little less offensive punch.
Who is the first player you would swap out of the lineup because a player in the minors is better/or they aren't good enough? #JapersMailbag— Kevin K (@thiscouldbkevin) August 11, 2015
There would seem to be a pretty large gap between the Caps' projected forwards and defensemen and those in Hershey, generally, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jakub Vrana impresses enough to get a look in D.C. and Chimera deserves to sit for a bit.
I'm having a hard time getting past how dirty your keyboard is, but I'll try. I've seen the version of the Caps' wordmark on that hat before, along with some other logo-related oddities, like this one, but not sure where it's gone. Moreover, it doesn't appear to be a registered mark... which brings us to a most D.C. of hobbies - searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to see who's registered what and when. You'll find the logo linked to above (but not the one on your hat), as well as this logo that ended up on this leaked-then-abandoned Tommy Hilfiger-designed sweater (via Tumblr):
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.