Good morning and welcome to the Dart4Pack of Fan Questions, where we provide answers to your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals. Every week through the remainder of the regular season we’ll select four questions and do our best to “keep it real” with our answers.
Let’s get started:
When will the rebuild start? Who is ‘safe’ between now and the trading deadline? -- Troy Marvin
Unless you call trading Mike Ribeiro a rebuild – and there’s no guarantee George McPhee ships Ribeiro out of here before the April 3 trade deadline -- the Caps will not be blowing anything up anytime soon, no matter what the standings look like. Aside from Ribeiro, who is in the final year of his contract, most of the core players of the Capitals are under long-term contracts and are likely going nowhere. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, Mike Green, John Carlson, John Erskine and Braden Holtby are all signed for at least two more seasons and all appear to be staying put. In my opinion the Caps will only be sellers if they are seven or more points out of the playoffs in the days leading up to April 3. If that’s the case Ribeiro could land them a first or second-round draft pick in a very deep draft. Outside of Ribeiro, the only Caps that may draw interest at the deadline are Michal Neuvirth and Matt Hendricks, but I don’t see either leaving.
Any chance we see Filip Forsberg or [Tom] Wilson this year? - @TheRealJMizzle
Quite possibly. Rookies can play only nine NHL games before they burn up a full contract year. Forsberg and Wilson signed identical three-year entry level contracts with the Caps last summer and because the NHL regular season extends until the end of April we could see both players suit up for the Caps. Forsberg, a right-handed-shooting right wing, has 15 goals and 18 assists in 38 games for Leksand in the Swedish League, along with another nine goals and nine assists in 20 international games. Leksand’s regular season ends on April 5. Wilson, also a right-handed shooting right wing, finished his regular season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League on Sunday. The Whalers will begin their OHL playoff schedule tonight against Sarnia. In 48 games this season Wilson recorded a career-high 23 goals and 35 assists along with 104 penalty minutes. He was also a plus-36. Once the Whalers complete their playoff run Wilson will be eligible to join the Caps and see some regular season action.
Will the Caps make the playoffs now that Brooks Laich and Mike Green are healthy?
Now that’s a tough one. Laich returned to the lineup Tuesday night in Pittsburgh after missing the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury and Green joined him Thursday night in Winnipeg after missing 10 straight with a similar injury. Both played well in their returns and the Caps deserve credit for not rushing them back into the lineup. That said, it is still a very tall order for the Cap to get into the playoffs for the sixth straight season. They improved to 8-3-0 against the Southeast Division with their 4-0 win over the Jets Thursday night, moving them into a three-way tie with the Lightning and Flyers for 12th in the East, five points behind the Hurricanes and Rangers for the final playoff spot. The Caps likely will need to win 12 of their final 18 games to get in. As a side note, to make room for Green and Laich the Caps have placed forward Joey Crabb on NHL waivers. If Crabb clears waivers – and it’s likely he will with a $950,000 cap hit – he will be sent to the AHL Hershey Bears.
What are your thoughts on Steve Oleksy? Is this kid for real?
First of all, he’s not a kid. But the Caps thought he was real enough to give him a three-year, two-way contract. Oleksy turned 27 last month and was called up by the Capitals because they were razor thin on the blue line with injuries to Green, Erskine and Jack Hillen, and because he has a right-handed shot, which is a big deal with Adam Oates, who wants righties on the right side of the ice and lefties on the left. I like everything about Oleksy. He hits hard, fights hard and never takes a shift off. As long as Erskine is out of the lineup that’s a physical presence the Capitals need on the blue line. As for those four points in his first four games, don’t expect much more of that. Oleksy is a classic stay-at-home defenseman and has recorded more than two goals just once in his career. But even with a healthy Jeff Schultz, Oleksy was in the lineup Thursday night, proof that hard work has its rewards. I’m not sure what happens when Erskine and Tom Poti return to health, but I actually hope this guy sticks.