As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 24: John Erskine, Defenseman
2014-15 NHL Salary: $2 million [$1.9625 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 37 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, minus-5, 56 penalty minutes, 15:35 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 22 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, minus-5, 37 penalty minutes
Analysis: Last season was a difficult one for Erskine, who acknowledged he was asked to return from offseason knee surgery before he was completely ready, which eventually led to the team shutting him down for 21 games in November and December. Erskine worked his knee back into playing shape and played in 28 of 31 games from mid-December through early March, but was concussed in a fight with Philadelphia’s Vinny Lecavalier on March 5 and dressed for just two of the Caps’ final 18 games. Erskine dropped the gloves just twice all season and if you combine his advanced age with the arrival of stay-at-home defenseman Brooks Orpik, his value to the Caps in 2014-15 has been greatly diminished. With the current roster, Erskine probably ranks ninth on the club’s defensive depth chart, behind John Carlson, Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov, Jack Hillen and Connor Carrick. If Erskine comes into camp completely healthy, he gives the Caps a physical presence against some of the NHL’s tougher teams [Orpik is physical, but according to hockeyfights.com has not fought since the 2008-09 regular season]. Erskine is also entering the final year of his two-year contract and if he’s not traded, it’s hard to envision the hard-nosed 12-year veteran having much more than a limited impact this season.