Friday, July 16, 2010

Signings, Development Camp, and Other News

Lots of activity on the Washington/Hershey front this past week....

  • Caps/Bears signed former Cap and Bear Brian Willsie, a right wing, to a one year two way contract. He is expected to play most of the season in Hershey but would likely be given a chance at a call up. Willsie played in Hershey for all or parts of 1998-2003 when the Colorado affiliation was in place. He then spent considerable time in the NHL playing for Colorado, Washington, and Los Angeles. Last season he spent almost the entire year with Lake Erie where he scored 26 goals and added 31 assists.
  • Yesterday the Capitals announced that Andrew Gordon, Zach Miscovic, Patrick McNeill and Andrew Joudrey signed their qualifying offers and are back in the organization for another year. In addition Jay Beagle signed his qualifying offer which ties him up for 2 more years.
  • Unfortunately Chris Bourque has made it official, he is off to Russia to play in the KHL. He declined to sign the Caps qualifying offer and apparently did not get any/much interest from other teams. He will make much more money playing there and then who knows...we might see him back in the States in a few years.
  • Development camp is being held this week in Washington. Tomorrow morning is the end of week scrimmage so if you want to go down that is the time to do it...I think the scrimmage is at 10am. Marcus Johansson is apparently showing off some serious skill and it will definitely warrant a good look at training camp. He and Mathieu Perreault are the leading candidates for the #2 center position with the Caps.
I will have more on the roster moves next week and updates on anything else as well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Caps (Bears) sign 2, Bears add 1

The Washington Capitals and more likely the Hershey Bears signed 2 players this past week. One will likely fill Alexandre Giroux's spot at left wing on the top line and the other will likely fill one of the many defensive openings. And then the Bears signed another defensemen to an AHL only deal as well.

Kyle Greentree will be the left wing. Last season he played for Rockford in the AHL, totaling 25 goals and 20 assists in 64 games. That was his third season in the AHL and his least productive season. In 07-08 he played with the Philadelphia Phantoms where he had 24 goals and 24 assists in 72 games. In 08-09 he was with the Quad City Flames where he registered 39 goals and 37 assists in 76 games. He has also played in 4 NHL games although he does not have any points.

Greentree is not Giroux and he is not going to replace Giroux's 139 goals over the past 2 seasons. BUT players routinely have career years playing in Hershey and playing with Keith Aucoin. Before coming to Hershey in 06-07 Giroux had a career high of 36 goals in one season. Before playing with Aucoin, Graham Mink's career high in goals was 31 (he hit 32 with Coiner). Before playing with Aucoin this past season, Andrew Gordon's career high in goals was 21 (he scored 37 this year).

Greentree will likely at least come close to his career high of 39 goals and 37 assists. And if he does that he will be one of Hershey's top performers. I can actually see him scoring even more than that if he and Aucoin stay healthy.

The other addition from the Caps side was defenseman Brian Fahey. Fahey is an AHL veteran having played in the league since 03-04. He played 12 games for the Bears that year and has played for 5 other franchises. Most recently he played for the Lake Erie Monsters where he registered 11 goals, 14 assists and 97 penalty minutes in 71 games.

With the Bears losing Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Greg Amadio they are going to need defensemen to step in. Fahey has shown some offensive abilities throughout his career so he should help out in that regard as well.

Hershey also signed former Bear captain Lawrence Nycholat to a one year AHL only deal this week. He spent last season with the Manitoba Moose after spending 08-09 bouncing between the NHL and AHL.

He was a critical member of the 05-06 Calder Cup Championship team and was an important piece the following season before being traded. Like Fahey he will bring a solid offensive component to the table to help replace Carlson. He also brings a certain leadership quality that always helps in the locker room.

Surely the Bears are not done in free agency. For one thing there are still restricted free agents out there including Gordon and Beagle. Surely there will be plenty of news coming over the next couple of weeks.

The Capitals resigned a couple of their restricted free agents this week which closes the door to potential roster spots for Bears. Eric Fehr, Jeff Schultz and Boyd Gordon all signed contracts this past week and will be in Washington next season.

That means there are now 10 forwards and 7 defensemen on the Caps roster next season. Fleischmann is the last RFA that spent considerable time in Washington last season and I would expect to see him get a contract soon.

Obviously there is lots of time left before the opening of training camp and the season but the rosters are starting to take shape. I will have much more next week about the roster. Also the development camp rosters were announced so I will have something on that this weekend or early next week.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bears being disassembled

Well the Hershey Bears won two Calder Cups with a lineup that most people would have agreed was deeper than any other teams. Consider that Jay Beagle was at times on the 4th line for the Bears and you can see how deep they were.

That is changing...drastically.

Honestly I thought this was going to happen last year but somehow the Bears managed to keep almost all the major players together. So far this week Hershey has lost Jason Bacashihua, Kyle Wilson, Alexandre Giroux, and Greg Amadio.

Obviously everyone sees that list and first notices Giroux's name as the biggest loss. When you score 139 goals in 181 games spread over 2 seasons you will be sorely missed.

But I think the player we will miss most on that list is Kyle Wilson. He wasn't the offensive stud that Giroux was obviously, with 'only' 122 goals over his 4 seasons in Hershey. But did you know that he played in almost every game Hershey played over the past 3 seasons? He missed 3 games this past season due to recall to Washington (where he played 2) over the last 3+ seasons.

He joined Hershey early in 06-07 and played in every game after that. Impressive considering the physical nature of the sport. Some guys (including the goalies now in Washington) struggle to get through 10 games at a time while Wilson played through everything.

He was a constant in Hershey. You knew he was going to be there and you knew he was going to play. Unfortunately he got caught in a numbers game with Washington. As a center he finds himself behind Aucoin, Perreault, Johansson, and maybe even guys like Eakin and Gustaffson on the Caps organizational depth chart.

How, I will never know but he has. Now he gets his chance in Columbus and I for one will be rooting hard to see him get his shot at a full time NHL job.

But back to why this hurts Hershey more than Giroux.

With the Caps not signing a 2nd line center (as of yet) it looks like Perreault could get his shot in the NHL next season. And with other players not resigned or getting picked up Washington could have a spot or two on its fourth line or for players to step in...which could mean Beagle would get an NHL spot too.

That would leave the Bears thin at center with Keith Aucoin and ........ who knows. Trevor Bruess is a center, but he couldn't crack the lineup in the playoffs. Jake Hauswirth is listed as a center but is he ready after one season in the ECHL? Anton Gustaffson will likely get a shot but again he couldn't crack the lineup.

Who is left? Obviously Hershey will be adding some players through free agency but can they compare to what they are going to be losing.

Oh and for those of you waiting for me to list Cody Eakin...he can't play in Hershey next year until his junior season ends. He is only 19 and in order to be eligible for the AHL he must be 20. So...not until 2011-12!

Now don't get me wrong...left wing is an issue too. With Giroux gone and Bourque not likely returning Hershey is very weak on the left side. But they could resign Michael Dubuc and give him a shot on the left side. He is a top talent goal scorer but his defensive end play is weak. But if he plays on the top line with Gordon and Aucoin he could score 30 goals and not have to play too much in his own end.

Any way you look at it Hershey's roster is going to be drastically different this season. So far 4 players have signed elsewhere and there are plenty of free agents left.

Do you all remember the 07-08 season? We all mentioned how 'young' it was all year with players like Wilson, Gordon and Joudrey playing lots of minutes.

The 10-11 Bears will look very similar to them. Guys like Hauswirth, Bruess and Gustaffson will get every chance to play. Add to that Dmitri Kugryshev and Stefan Della Rovere. And pay close attention to the developmental camp being held from July 12-17 in Washington. It would not be surprising to see a few of those players get signed to deals and play some in Hershey this season.

It is going to be a 'rebuilding' year in Hershey. They aren't going to be as deep as last year but you know what might make all the difference...

While the 07-08 veteran/star was Joe Motzko the 10-11 player that will fill that role...Keith Aucoin.

Not a bad presence to have on the top line.

***And good luck to Alexandre Giroux as well. He has played so well in Hershey leading the Bears to two straight Calder Cups it sucks to see him leave.

G, we are all pulling for you to make the Edmonton Oilers roster and get the chance to show the NHL what you can do!***

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cash won't be in Hershey next year

First lets cover this...Jason Bacashihua will not return to Hershey next season. He signed a contract with Colorado and will likely return to Lake Erie where he played in 08-09.

I thought he might come back since Neuvy is headed to Washington and Cash would likely form a 1a/1b tandem with Braden Holtby. But I guess he figured that with all the young talent in Washington's organization that it was a better move for him to go.

He had a good season this year but he didn't play once in the playoffs. I don't blame him for going.

Good Luck Cash!

In his place it is reported that Dany Sabourin has signed with Washington and will play in Hershey alongside Holtby. Sabourin spent some time in Wilkes Barre a few years ago and has a decent amount of NHL experience.

Last season he played 56 games for the Providence Bruins. He finished with a 28-27 record with a 2.67 gaa and a .915 save percentage. Not bad.

Holtby is likely to be the #1 goalie for Hershey but Sabourin will get plenty of opportunities with the AHLs many 3 in 3 weekends.

Now onto what the Caps did yesterday....nothing. And while that, in my opinion and this guys too, is fine for them it is bad for the Bears.

Why? Because with every roster spot that remains open through the summer it becomes increasingly likely that players from Hershey will fill them.

Obviously there is still time for the Caps to do something but let's assume for a second that the decide to stand pat and bring in no additional players via free agency. Then they would be looking to their prospects to fill out their 23 man roster.

That would likely mean players like Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon, Chris Bourque, and Jay Beagle would get long looks in the fall. And it would be likely that at least 1 of them remains there for the season.

There is still lots of time left this summer for both Hershey and Washington to make moves but by standing pat the Caps signaled that they are fine with raiding Hershey for their players next season.