With Strachan, a veteran depth option, now out of the mix the scenarios for the defense get a little more intriguing. Four right-handed shots remain in Mike Green, John Carlson, Steve Oleksy and Connor Carrick and five left-handers in Karl Alzner, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Dmitry Orlov and Michal Cajkovsky.
Is there a chance that Hillen or Oleksy, who finished last season as the third pairing, could be unseated? Perhaps. There’s also the question of who would serve as the seventh defensemen.
The Capitals have been thoroughly impressed by Carrick, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 who signed his entry-level deal earlier this week. While he could still be returned to the OHL or head to Hershey by the time camp comes to a close, he can’t be completely discounted as a possibility for the NHL roster. (Carrick is waiver-exempt should the Capitals send him to the AHL.)
“He’s had an outstanding camp. He’s been really, really good. Very smart, very intelligent player,” General Manager George McPhee said earlier this week. “Poised, zips the puck around, finds people, plays hard. He’s a really good player.”
Then there’s Orlov, in the final year of his deal and looking to reassert himself in the NHL after missing most of last year because of two concussions. He hasn’t played as well as Washington hoped he might so far in the preseason — he’s been a little to easily outmaneuvered in his own zone — and doesn’t need to clear waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL. But his upside has always been promising, if Orlov can get back to the assertive game he played during the 2011-12 season he should have an opportunity to play in Washington this year.
Michal Cajkovsky, 21, has a significant size advantage on the other two at 6 feet 4 and 234 pounds but he appears likely bound for a league where he can continue to develop. McPhee came across the undrafted Cajkovsky last year while on a scouting trip to watch Sean Monahan, who went sixth overall in the 2013 draft to Calgary.
“He was big and athletic and he could skate and so we invited him to come down to Hershey and he did okay. Invited him to summer camp, invited him here and he’s been fine,” McPhee explained recently to The Post. “We put him on an American League deal to let our coaches work with him and see if they can come up with something.”