Hot Topic NHL draft

Capitals have six picks in Friday's NHL Entry Draft

The Capitals finished 16th in goals allowed this past season, perhaps prompting Washington GM George McPhee to seek a defenseman.
The Capitals finished 16th in goals allowed this past season, perhaps prompting Washington GM George McPhee to seek a defenseman. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010

LOS ANGELES --When General Manager George McPhee and his staff gather at Staples Center on Friday for the NHL Entry Draft, their focus will be to maximize their six selections and draft the next crop of Washington Capitals.

But McPhee also figures to be quite busy fielding phone calls and evaluating trade offers from his counterparts, many of whom, based on pre-draft buzz, are eager to make trades.

McPhee's priorities this offseason are to acquire a second-line center to serve as a setup man for winger Alexander Semin and possibly a rugged defenseman to supply some snarl to a defense that yielded an average of 2.77 goals (16th out of 30 teams) and 30.9 shots per game (18th). And with all 30 general managers in close proximity for the next 48 hours, this weekend figures to be McPhee's best chance to make those upgrades.

"Teams realize there are certain periods where there's a lot of activity and then things seem to slow down," McPhee said. "This is one of those periods where there could be a lot of activity."

McPhee said he has talked to other teams this week but is not engaged in serious trade discussions at the moment.

Regardless of whether McPhee completes any deals this weekend, change is coming to a lineup that captured the Presidents' Trophy (best regular season record) but collapsed against Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

The team has informed pending unrestricted free agents José Theodore, Joe Corvo, Scott Walker and Brendan Morrison that they will not be re-signed, while the representatives for Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina expect their clients to hit the open market July 1. The representative for restricted free agent Tomas Fleischmann, meantime, said the sides remain far apart on a contract extension.

McPhee's preference is always to fill voids through a trade rather than to sign free agents -- even with the additional salary cap space teams will have next season. The NHL Players Association voted this week to extend the collective bargaining agreement through 2011-12 season and trigger a 5 percent increase in the salary cap, raising the ceiling to $59.4 million from $56.8 million.

If McPhee is not active, he said he's confident the team's scouting staff will make the most of its six picks, which represent Washington's fewest selections since 2003.

After the 26th overall pick, the Capitals will make selections in the third round (86), fourth (116), fifth (142 and 146) and sixth (176). The team traded its second- and seventh-round picks at the trade deadline in March for Eric Belanger (Minnesota) and Walker (Carolina) but retained the conditional sixth-round pick included in the Jurcina trade. Jurcina was injured and did not play for the Capitals down the stretch or in the playoffs.

"We've done a very good job of picking players when you look at what we've done late in the first round the last four or five years; we've done exceptionally well," McPhee said. "We head into every draft now confident we can find good players, and we've done that."

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