Obviously, Michael Nylander provides the Capitals with the first line center that was a requirement for this off season, but there is another benefit as well as it pertains to the strategy this club appears to be pursuing.
Look at the top two lines' experience...
Alexander Ovechkin -- 163 games
Michael Nylander -- 808 games
Viktor Kozlov -- 749 games
Alexander Semin -- 129 games
There is sufficient experience here so that the Capitals can work a youngster (Backstrom) or two (Fehr or Fleischmann) into the lineup to get experience in responsible situations, at least on an experimental basis. The team does not have to bury kids on a fourth line for maybe eight minutes a night, unless their play dictates they're not ready for more.
That is the kind of mix a club wants to employ if it is going to be "draft-centric" in building its core, which in this case is Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and perhaps whoever mans that other right wing.
If Nylander (or a player of similar skill) is not obtained, the carefully-crafted mixing of veterans and youngsters -- to give the kids the best opportunity to succeed without undue pressure -- can't be performed.
And that is why the timing of free agency is important. Until now, the Caps weren't "ripe" enough among their kids to merit investments in higher-dollar free agents. Well, Ovechkin and Semin are well past 100 games of NHL experience (not to mention their international experience); they have kids ready to make the leap to the big club. Now -- not last year, not the year before -- is the time to begin making those investments.
As disappointing as the start to the free agency period looked after Day 1, it looks a lot better now.