Our season review continues with a look at the forwards who finished the season on the third or fourth line, and the questions they face heading into next season.
2013-14 salary cap hit: $1.75 million | Age: 34
No player was more snakebit throughout the shortened regular season than Chimera. He recorded only three goals, none until March 17, and 11 assists – far from his career-best performance (20 goals and 39 points) a year earlier. The veteran winger became something of a case study in Oates’s philosophy of emphasizing the positive, though. He stayed in the lineup, was relied upon to fuel the forecheck, and in the postseason Chimera was a key part of Washington’s most consistent line against the Rangers.
Chimera is the only forward on the roster who played more than 20 games this season to not average at least 30 seconds of ice time on either the power play or penalty kill during the regular season. He’s purely a 5-on-5 player. Can Chimera earn that additional responsibility in the final year of his current contract? If not, does he have to find a way to contribute more to the scoresheet to make an impact?
2013-14 salary cap hit: $1.05 million | Age: 25
Perreault came a long way from the start of the season when, after only two games, he voiced his displeasure about a lack of ice time to two French Canadian reporters. While he bounced in and out of the lineup in the first half of the year, he gradually earned steady minutes as a third-line center and part of the second power-play unit. In the playoffs, he was one of three players tied with a team-high four points.
Oates emphasized a well-rounded game and attention to detail with each individual player. For Perreault to earn that consistent place in the lineup, something he’s struggled to achieve in the past, he had to place as much emphasis on his defensive role as a center as he did on his ability to create offensive opportunities.
“He was a center so he’s always a little hard on the centers and he told us that. A lot of little details of the game as a center and it helped me out a lot I think on the defensive side of the game,” Perreault said. “It’s one of the things I’ve really worked on and in the past I didn’t get the chance to play much in the games when we up by a couple goals and this year I had that chance I think it was great for me.”
Can Perreault continue developing his defensive game and take on a more prominent two-way role? The Capitals might need him to if they don’t bring back Mike Ribeiro.
2013-14 salary cap hit: $3 million | Age: 32
Ward benefited from the similarity in Oates’s system to the one he played for three years in Nashville and was one of only a few players who managed to avoid a slow start. He posted more goals (8) and points (20) in just 39 games in his second year with Washington than he did in 73 games a year before, and he found a place on the penalty kill and the power play.
Forced out of the lineup down the stretch after he blocked a shot and suffered a contusion on his left knee, Ward returned for the playoffs and recorded four points against New York.
While his game has always lent itself to the physical, grinding style of the postseason and was the main reason he earned a four-year, $12 million deal in the summer of 2011, Ward has never produced offensively at the same rate during the regular season and is in essence a reliable, defensive-minded role player. Is that enough to expect from the forward with the sixth-highest salary cap hit on the roster?
2013-14 salary cap hit: UFA | Age: 31 (Turns 32 on June 17)
Hendricks saw time throughout the forward lineup from his usual energy-role on the fourth line to occasional stints with the top six as Oates searched for options at left wing.
While he led the team in penalty minutes (73) Hendricks’s importance to the Capitals this season was more about his ability to contribute at even strength or shorthanded than how often he dropped the gloves. He averaged 1:44 of time per game on the penalty kill this year, a full 30 seconds more than he did in the previous two seasons.
The way he’s evolved from an enforcer when he first came to Washington to an essential part of the team’s shorthanded efforts and a driver of solid even-strength play has made him a valuable asset. One that could be highly sought after should he reach the open market this season and it will likely be easier said than done to replace Hendricks should he depart. (More on that here.)
2013-14 salary cap hit: $900,000 | Age: 27
Beagle appeared in every regular season and playoff game and was a fixture on the bottom two lines and on the penalty kill. He averaged the most short-handed ice time per game (2:07) of any forward who played more than 10 games this season and boasted the best faceoff win percentage (56.1 percent of 444 draws) on the team. But for a player who is expected to help maintain momentum and spark energy, being on the ice for six of the Rangers’ 16 goals against in the first round isn’t the way to do it.
There’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get quality about Beagle’s play. The tireless worker is well equipped to excel on the penalty kill and has worked to steadily improve his faceoff ability. It’s safe to expect him in a similar role next year.
2013-14 salary cap hit: $1,294,167 | Age: 19
The No. 2 prospect in the organization got his first taste of the NHL with appearances in three Stanley Cup playoff games. While there’s no doubt that the 6-4, 210 pound Wilson is physically equipped to hold his own in the NHL, there’s still some uncertainty as to whether he’s ready to make the jump full time.
Given his age, he’s ineligible to play for the AHL’s Hershey Bears next season. So the Capitals will have to decide whether they want him to have one more year of development in junior or if they think he will benefit more from a limited role in the NHL.
2013-14 salary cap hit: $575,000 | Age: 27 (Turns 28 on May 30)
Volpatti appeared in only 17 games after the Capitals plucked him off of waivers from the Vancouver Canucks. The hard-hitter found a consistent spot on the fourth line when Ward was sidelined by a knee injury but when the more versatile winger returned, Volpatti was relegated to the scratches list for the postseason.
Washington signed Volpatti to a two-year, $1.15 million contract in late April and if Hendricks doesn’t return the team may turn to the British Columbia native to take on more of a well rounded role that includes time on the penalty kill.
2013-14 salary cap hit: UFA | Age: 30
Crabb earned the first one-way contract of his career from the Capitals last summer but was deemed expendable when the team needed to activate Mike Green from injured reserve in mid-March. He was assigned to Hershey just as the team began its climb up the standings and wouldn’t appear in another NHL game.
Crabb finished with two goals in 26 NHL games this season. If he were to return to the organization, it would likely be on a two-way contract.