As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $3.5 million in 2010-11, $2.875 million in 2011-12.
The year that was: While many Capitals would have liked to produce more offense or have a more consistent year, Tom Poti dealt with frustration of a different sort. Hampered by a nagging groin strain for nearly the duration of the season, the veteran blueliner was limited to just 21 games, some of which he played fewer than 12 minutes in. Poti also missed time around and during the Winter Classic with a concussion, but it was the groin problem that held him out of the lineup most of the season.
Poti played two games before his groin began to bother him this year and he appeared in only five of the first 22 contests. From late November to late December, he played in 13 of 15 games and at times it was extremely noticeable that he was not at full strength. There was a hesitation in his stride, and there were points when he couldn’t make a full, hard stop – one of the most difficult tasks on skates when dealing with a groin problem.
After missing three games with a concussion, Poti tried to return again in early January only to have his groin strain flare up. The last time Poti took the ice for the Capitals this season was Jan. 12 in Tampa Bay, when he played just 5 minutes and 38 seconds.
Poti was subsequently sent to two specialists and both he and General Manager George McPhee said separately that surgery wasn’t an option recommended by any of the doctors the defenseman saw.
“You always want to go the conservative route. You don’t want to be invasive. You don’t want to open somebody up,” McPhee said. “They thought that it might turn just through rehab and everything else, and it didn’t. And I think his career’s on the line, and it’s too bad. It’s a real concern. He could get to 80 or 90 percent but couldn’t get past a certain threshold.
“It’s hard, certainly, on him and it was hard on the club because we kept thinking, ‘Well, another week, another two weeks, we might have him back,’” McPhee continued. “It’s often easier if a guy gets that injury and you know he’s out for the rest of the year; then you can plan, but we couldn’t plan in this case.”
Looking ahead: Poti signed a two-year contract extension in September 2010 worth $5.75 million. If there is no immediate timetable for Poti’s return, the Capitals could place him on long-term injured reserve to free up the $2.875 million salary cap hit that he will command next year.
When healthy, Poti is a puck-moving defenseman with a veteran’s decision-making skills. He can help the Capitals move the play up ice and be relied upon to log significant minutes. If he is facing another year of limited ability to play, the Capitals must decide whether that requires them bringing in another defenseman into the fold.