Now that the 2012 NHL draft has concluded and the cupboard of prospects hs been restocked, the Capitals’ focus shifts back to the present. There are plenty of decisions left to be made and room for changes, so let’s take a look at what’s next.
Name a new coach
The single biggest item on GM George McPhee’s to-do list this offseason has yet to be checked off, though it appears the Capitals may have a new bench boss before the start of free agency on July 1. During the draft weekend, McPhee said he had finished interviewing candidates and that the process “might” wrap up this week.
The Capitals have interviewed at least seven candidates and Mike Haviland, a former Chicago assistant coach, and Adam Oates, a New Jersey assistant coach, are believed to be among the finalists for the position. AHL coach Jon Cooper also may be in contention as well.
Add scoring depth on the wing
Acquiring Mike Ribeiro filled the Capitals’ long-time need for a top six center on the depth chart behind Nicklas Backstrom. Now the question is: Who will he be setting up?
Alexander Semin appears bound for the free agent market and all indications point to the talented Russian not returning to Washington. While it comes as no real surprise given comments made by Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, just days after the 2011-12 season ended, it will leave the Capitals without the player who has been their second-leading goal scorer each of the past six years.
While players like Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich are important parts of the framework, and likely may see time among the top six next year, the Capitals will need more of a true scorer in the mix to help replace the offensive production lost.
Whether that addition would come via a trade or free agency remains to be seen. On Saturday, McPhee was tight-lipped as usual when asked if there might be more roster changes prior to July 1.
“I don’t mind where we are,” McPhee said. “We’ll explore some things in free agency, but I don’t think we’re desperate to do anything.”
Organize the defense
Restricted free agents Mike Green and John Carlson have received qualifying offers, which they have until July 15 to accept. (In Green’s case, should he wish to seek arbitration, that decision must be made by July 5.)
If the Capitals re-sign both Green and Carlson, they will have seven NHL defensemen under contract for 2012-13, not counting injured Tom Poti. It’s possible the Capitals could stick with the group they have, but an adjustment in roles will likely be required because impending unrestricted free agent Dennis Wideman is expected to depart.
Wideman played consistently among Washington’s top-four last season and led the team in ice time (23:54). Those minutes aren’t always easy to replace, simply because some players take better to workloads upwards of 22-23 minutes per game than others. Can Dmitry Orlov step into a 20-minute role immediately in his sophomore season? Can Mike Green stay healthy this year and anchor a pairing? Will 38-year-old Roman Hamrlik’s ice time continue to decline as it has each of the previous two seasons?
Depending on the answers to those questions, among others, you can make a convincing case to bring in another steady presence on the back end.