Preseason notes: Capitals announce rookie camp schedule

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

With rookie camp around the corner, training camp not far behind, the regular season lurking within a month and me still on a non-hockey assignment this week, here are some notes on various Washington Capitals happenings, in the interest of consolidation.

>> Speaking of rookie camp, the six-day session will commence on Thursday, Sept. 11 with a 3 p.m. practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, continue through four more practices and conclude with an exhibition against rookies from the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. at Philadelphia’s practice facility, Flyers Skate Zone.

According to a team release, Coach Barry Trotz and select players will be made available after each practice, so plenty of opportunities to get the first-year bench boss’s thoughts on the upcoming season before training camp actually begins on Sept. 19.

The release named forward Andre Burakovsky, a candidate to make the Capitals this season should he impress over the next several weeks, and 2014 first-round draft pick Jakub Vrana as two attendees at rookie camp. Forward Chandler Stephenson and goaltender Pheonix Copley were also named, but the full roster will be released later.

The full practice schedule is below. All are open to the public:

Thursday, Sept. 11: Practice (3-4 p.m.) and on-ice testing (4:15-5:15 p.m.)

Friday, Sept. 12: Practice (10-11 a.m.) and conditioning test (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Saturday, Sept. 13: Practice (9:30-10:15 a.m. and 10:15-11 a.m.)

Sunday, Sept. 14: Practice (9:30-10:15 a.m. and 10:15-11 a.m.)

Monday, Sept. 15: Practice (9:30-10:15 a.m. and 10:15-11 a.m.)

Tuesday, Sept. 16: Capitals at Flyers (3 p.m.)

>> The Capitals and CSN Mid-Atlantic announced a 75-game television schedule for the upcoming season, including five preseason games, the most ever broadcast by the network. NBC and NBC Sports Network will carry 12 Capitals games this season, including the 2015 Winter Classic vs. Chicago in D.C. on Jan. 1.

The full schedule, beginning with the preseason opener versus Buffalo on Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. at Verizon Center, is linked here.

>> The rumors of mutual interest between the Washington Capitals and fourth-line forward Paul Bissonnette have endured for weeks but faded somewhat recently as true vacation season arrived for the hockey world and most front-office action shut down.

Several weeks ago, Bissonnette’s agent said he was still in discussions with “a few teams” and a recent brief email exchange indicated that hadn’t changed. Several reports also pegged the Capitals as the favorite, and Bissonnette told B-Mac and Taylor on Team1040 that he was nearing a deal but awaiting a corresponding trade from that desired team.

“As of right now I kind of have something in the works with another team,” Bissonnette said on the Canadian radio station. “So I’m just hoping for a trade to go through and hopefully sign. As of right now, something needs to happen in order for me to sign and there’s no guarantees until you sign on the dotted line. I’m optimistic, but nonetheless, yeah, we’re getting pretty close here and I’m starting to get a little nervous.”

The Capitals would appear to fit into this window of a team needing to free up cap space to sign Bissonnette, given that the 29-year-old’s cap hit was $737,500 last season, close to Washington’s current window of roughly $1.1 million.

Among the possible options the Capitals have explored, several individuals with knowledge of the situation confirmed, is flipping the expiring contract of defenseman John Erskine to open cap space for signing Bissonnette. One source said teams have inquired about Erskine’s availability, but didn’t expect anything to happen – if at all – until the preseason began and general managers returned to their posts.

This aligns with an earlier report that the Capitals had called NHL teams to gauge interest in acquiring Erskine, who is entering the second and final year of a two-year deal annually worth $1.9625 million per season, according to CapGeek. He appeared in 37 games last season but was a healthy scratch for 16 of the final 18 and missed a month earlier into the season while still recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Entering the second and final year of a two-year deal annually worth $1.9625 million per season, according to CapGeek, the 34-year-old Erskine could serve as a quick rental for another team looking to hire a tough blue-liner with a favorable contract. Erskine appeared in 37 games last season but was a healthy scratch for 16 of the final 18. He also missed a month early into the season while still recovering from offseason knee surgery.

>> That said, a recent interview Trotz conducted with did not include Dmitry Orlov among “the locks to be in the top-six” defensively yet did include Erskine among those competing for a top-six spot. From that piece:

Trotz, though, included Orlov in the conversation with John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Steve Olesky, Nate Schmidt and Cameron Schilling.

“I’m probably thinking of a [Matt] Niskanen-[Karl] Alzner pair and either [John] Carlson or [Mike] Green with [Brooks] Orpik, or a combination of those five rotating a bit,” Trotz said. “In the six-seven hole, we’ve got Erskine and [Jack] Hillen, who are more veteran, and some young guys coming up like Orlov and [Steven] Olesky, [Cam] Schilling and [Nate] Schmidt. They all will vie for it. I really think there is going to be a lot of competition for the six through eight spots.”

So if Erskine impresses, particularly while Orlov recovers from a broken wrist, Capitals brass might be hesitant to deal him. Then again, if the return price is right, signing Bissonnette remains on the list of desires — which it evidently has this summer — and mutual interest ignites this preseason, things could change.

>> During that interview, Trotz also nipped in the bud any faint idea that Niskanen and Orpik, teammates with the Penguins last season, would be paired together. This makes sense, given that neither were in each other’s top 10 in on-ice pairings last season.

>> Schilling, it should be noted, hasn’t been announced as signing a new contract as a restricted free agent, but Trotz mentioning the 25-year-old bears significance.

>> Speaking of Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey announced Wednesday the one-year signing of forward Joe Diamond, who played 37 games (12 points) with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. He previously played four seasons at the University of Maine before signing a one-year deal with the Islanders organization.

>> Goaltending coach Mitch Korn has pieced together one of his famous training props. Stay tuned this preseason for a feature from Korn’s goalie camp earlier this summer.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at
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