Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Washington Capitals Offseason

After their game seven loss to the New York Rangers on May 12 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, it is time for the Washington Capitals to hang up their hockey jerseys, store their goalie gloves and face what promises to be a tumultuous off-season.

Numerous players, including Alex Semin, Dennis Wideman, Mike Knuble, Tomas Vokoun, Jeff Halpern, and Keith Aucoin are unrestricted free agents.

Rumor has it that Semin is going to move on, as he should.

Wideman will likely be too expensive considering the Caps will likely have eight defenseman (including Tom Poti) on the roster heading into next season. (I fully expect the Caps to tender offers and likely keep their restricted free agents which include John Carlson and Mike Green.)

Vokoun has already said his stay in Washington was only supposed to be for a year and with the emergence of Braden Holtby there likely wasn’t room even if he wanted to come back.

Halpern’s role was taken by Jay Beagle late in the season and during the playoffs. Assuming the Caps resign the restricted free agent Beagle, I would imagine that the role will be his next season as well.

That leaves Knuble and Aucoin as the only two legitimate options for the Caps to resign. And I could see both happening…assuming the players understand their roles. Knuble would be converted into a 4th line grinder with limited ice time and Aucoin would likely report back to Hershey and be an emergency call up option again.

Who knows what happens but I don’t see too many teams looking at Coiner and giving him a one-way NHL deal so the question for him is would I rather play in Hershey or another AHL city. I suspect he will be back.

The coaching element of this is also intriguing. As in…there is no coach. Coach Dale Hunter has already announced that will be returning to his role as owner and coach of the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. And GM George McPhee has already said that the team will take it’s time in finding a coach.

This influences multiple things for both the Caps and the Bears. In Washington it obviously means that you don’t know what system will be in place, therefore, you might not know exactly which free agents to target. Do you want to bring in an offensive force that costs a lot of money just to end up in a system like Hunter’s again with limited offensive output? It’s a question the Caps need to figure out.

It also affects Hershey though. Will the Capitals be looking for a similar coach to mold their prospects better for the big club? If I was running the team I would definitely want a coach with a similar strategy coaching my prospects and preparing them for the NHL. That way when they make the jump to the NHL they are at least prepared to play with their teammates even if they aren’t quite physically ready to handle the pounding.

Coach Mark French’s contract also expired this season I believe so now is the time to make a change if you want to.

My guess…expect a new coach in Hershey for the 2012-13 season.

There are plenty of questions to be answered heading into the offseason, probably more than usual. But with the Caps relative success this spring, expectations next year are sure to be high again.

As for expectations in Hershey…well, one only has to look to the Giant Center rafters to understand.

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