Friday, July 15, 2011

Sittin' at the end of the bar...Camp Iwannabeacapital Edition

Day 5 at Camp Iwannabeacapital, and the biggest news wasn’t on the ice. Caps Nation can breathe a sigh of relief, for Karl Alzner has been re-signed to a two-year, $2.57 million contract.

That’s $2.57 million over two years, not for each of two years.

The Alzner signing caps (no pun intended) three months of obtaining signatures on contracts, and among the things that are noteworthy about them, it is that as a group, the signees are a bargain. Here is how the signings break down with their new salary cap hits compared to their previous cap hits:

Individually, perhaps, the bargains are not universal – the contracts of Brooks Laich and Joel Ward might be considered a bit high for the roles they would be expected to play – but here we have eight free agents (six unrestricted free agents – or about to achieve that status -- two restricted free agents) who collectively were signed for a cap hit that was a little over $1.9 million less than the aggregate value of their previous cap hits.

Cutting the issue from a different direction, the Caps managed to resign three of their own free agents (or free agents to be) to a combined $1.24 million higher price tag, which would appear to be manageable given that the total salary cap is increasing by $4.9 million in 2011-2012.

But the key has been in what is on the “replacement” side of the equation. This isn’t entirely a “free agent” effect, but it plays a front and center role. There are reasonably clear swaps that were undertaken in this off-season. For example, Boyd Gordon out, Jeff Halpern in. Matt Bradley out, Jay Beagle in. Eric Fehr out, Troy Brower in, and so on. In all, seven players departed that had a combined cap hit of $17.3 million last season. Six of them have contracts for next season (Scott Hannan is, as of this date, unsigned) with a combined cap hit of $12.4 million. The six players replacing them on the Caps’ roster have a combined cap hit of only $11.7 million.

While the Caps stand at the top of the salary cap pile at the moment and are about $890,000 over the caps at the moment, they have positioned themselves rather well given the talent that was obtained to replace those players who departed. And looking at what those players secured in terms of their own deals, resigning them in Washington might have put the Caps in a tighter bind than that in which they find themselves at the moment. It was a pretty good job overall in managing the cap number overall, and Alzner’s signing is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Meanwhile, over at Camp Iwannabeacapital, Day 5 was interesting to watch, given that on Thursday the prospects had the motivation of a scrimmage. Friday was back to drills and “systems.” After four days and the fact that the objects of the exercise are largely teenagers, attention might wander. And it helps to have another voice in the room, so to speak, such as the guest coach for the week – Steve Spott of the Kitchener Rangers. His leading some of the drills gives the guys a different look and a different voice that might provide the right kind of a change of pace to keep them engaged.

The fact that they are deep into the week looked to have taken its toll by the end of the morning session, though, when Bruce Boudreau was putting the players through their last drills. There were frequent whistles, lots of pointing and prodding by Boudreau. It just didn’t seem as if the focus was there, but they were kept out on the ice until they got things closer to right.

Tomorrow will be the last chance for the young guys to make an impression, and they are likely to do it before a big crowd. It should be a fitting end to the week.

Notes from Camp Iwannabeacapital...Day Four

Day four of the on-ice portion of Caps Development Camp 2011, and the cousins were in tow today. Guys, what did you think?

“What’s with the sign, cuz? ‘Home of the Washington Capitals?’ Did folks think they were in the food court?”

Be nice, Cheerless. Fearless, what did you think of today’s scrimmage?

“Ah, hockey in July. Makes one pine for the new season, the chill in the air, the pucks ringing off the glass, the skates digging into the freshly laid ice, and…"

O-o-o-o-o-kay. Well, fans were treated to an early edition of hockey at Camp Iwannabeacapital. Team Red and Team White went at it in a spirited fashion, and apparently the early hour of today’s scrimmage found a few campsters in ill mood. Like Danick Paquette for Team White. Having later called himself “a pretty dirty player…like Matt Cooke,” he had what amounted to a “Matt Cooke Hat Trick”… a goal, a fight, and he put another player out of the game with an iffy hit. And that didn’t even include his taking a run at a guy when he started charging from the blue line to try and line him up behind the net (he missed). If Cooke and Darcy Verot had a love child, he might be it.

Then there was Garrett Mitchell, who had…well, a “Garrett Mitchell Hat Trick.” A goal, a fight, and the game winner in the Gimmick. That said, he was probably the best player this morning for Team White.

“Don’t forget Scott Wietecha, cuz…”

I was getting to that, Cheerless. Wietecha was the Team Red opponent in each fight involving Paquette and Mitchell.  Some hockey players do more before 10 o'clock than you or I do all day.

“Well, he IS a Bulldog, after all, isn’t he cousin?”

Why yes, Fearless, a Ferris State alum.

“And a jackal, too…”

Yes, Cheerless, he had a few games with Elmira in the ECHL, too. Now, if we can get back to the hockey… speaking of which, it was Team White coming out on top this morning, 4-3 in a Gimmick, Garrett Mitchell getting the only score in the trick shot competition. Team White might consider itself fortunate, having given up a 3-1 lead in the third period on a pair of goals by Travis Boyd, who had an excellent game overall and would have won the scrimmage’s first star, had there been such a thing.

But before Boyd’s theatrics, David Civitarese chipped in a goal to go along with Mitchell’s and Paquette’s for Team White, while Reid Edmonson got one for Team Red. And in that respect, it was a bit of an odd contest. There were other prospects that one might have thought would stand out a bit more, players such as…

Stan Galiev… who is certainly a smooth skater. He had his chances this morning for Team Red, but wasn’t able to solve either Steffen Soberg or Philipp Grubauer in goal for Team White. What others have said about him looked true. He has the skill set to move up the developmental chain, but he’s going to have to become a sturdier player.

Mattias Sjogren…who was largely silent at the offensive end, but he played well in his own end. One might have thought that he would struggle against quicker players, but his experience (he is the oldest player here) served him well. He seemed particularly effective when he was sent out most often against…

Cody Eakin… who didn’t have a memorable morning. Maybe it is that he has played a lot of hockey this year (56 regular season games, 19 playoff games), maybe it was the early start, or maybe he’s pointing more toward training camp in September, but he didn’t look especially effective in this scrimmage. But even with that and watching him skate, one had the feeling that there is another gear or two there.

Dmitry Orlov… Often it is the case that if you can’t find anything to say about a defenseman, the better it is. Well, there wasn’t a lot to talk about in Orlov’s morning for Team Red, except for a deft pass he threw into space to spring Brock Montpetit on a breakaway.  Other than that, a pretty good morning.

Patrick Koudys was another defenseman who had a somewhat quiet game… in a good way as well. Solid in both the offensive and defensive zones, he chipped in a couple of assists and relied more on position and smarts in his own end to keep Team Red attackers to the outside.

So guys, what did you think of your first visit to Kettler?

“It certainly is a nice place to watch practice. And I was noticing something…”

What’s that, Fearless?

“Down there at the far end of the ice…those four posters of players with retired numbers…"


“Well, there’s all that space over there on the left…looks like they have room for a new poster.”

You might have a point there, cousin. Any idea who it might be?


“Dainius Zubrus!”

You just like saying “Dainius Zubrus.”

“Yup…dainiuszubrus dainiuszubrus dainiuszubrus dainiuszubrus…”

OK, Cheerless, seriously…what did you think of your first trip to Kettler?

“Well…it’s sorta like…


Still thinking about that sign, eh cuz?