George McPhee on losing Ribeiro and Hendricks
Capitals general manager George McPhee says the Caps were not in the market to fill the second-line center void left by Mike Ribeiro because they already have one in 30-year-old veteran Brooks Laich.
“He’s a natural center, he loves playing center and we think it’s time to play him there,” McPhee said. “He gives you the size and speed you’re looking for, the two-way play you’re looking for. He wins faceoffs.”
Here is more from Monday’s interview with McPhee and his thoughts on why the Caps are the only team in the Eastern Conference that has not signed a player to a one-way NHL contract since the July 5 start of free agency.
On being quiet in the free agent market:
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago we didn’t think it was a great class of players, it wasn’t a great pool of players to invest in, so we didn’t. There were a couple players we had interest in but when the numbers go to where they were going, either in terms of salary or term, you stay away. We didn’t really make any offers. We just knew where they were going. Usually, the issue is the term. The salary you can compete with, but when people get into term that can ultimately hurt your competitiveness down the road, you try to avoid it. That’s the big concern always with free agency. People get locked into things that certainly in the future you won’t be able to get out of. Under the current CBA you can’t hide people in the minors and that sort of thing. Sometimes if you’re looking for a guy on a one-year deal, you have to give him two, and if you’re looking for a guy on a two-year deal, you have to give him three or four.
On if that was the case with Mike Ribeiro:
We made our best offers at the trade deadline with both of our players [Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks]. We like both of those guys a lot as people and players, but we make our decisions around the trading deadline, far in advance of July 1 or July 5. You can’t wake up on those days and say, ‘What are we going to do?’
On if the Caps need to fill any holes:
We signed seven players in February and March and April and added another player in [Marty] Erat. We talked with Mike before the season started and we talked with Matt before the season started and we went at them hard and we knew then based on what they were asking it was probably not going to happen.
On the difficulty of finding a permanent second-line center:
If you look around the league it’s a hard position to fill. How many teams in this league have a couple of elite centers? Five or six maybe? Generally, you need a good two-way player to play there, which is why we’re looking at Brooks Laich to play there now. We had him there in the playoffs a couple years ago and liked it a lot. … We want to play a better paced game and we want more speed and we think he’s capable of it. We don’t see any real difference in terms of ability to play between Brooks and if you look around the league, a Mike Fisher in Nashville, or a Mike Richards in L.A. or a David Backes in St. Louis. Same kind of player in terms of ability to play. We tried something with [Alex Ovechkin] last summer, switching positions, and it worked out pretty well. We’ll do this with Brooks.
On Laich adapting to Adam Oates’ system:
It’s a north-south system, a little more chip and chase. There are a couple players we didn’t see a lot of, Brooks and Erat. That’s what we’re looking for this year, those guys playing a lot more for us and some of the kids that may emerge from camp. We’ve got some room for them.
On if there are any other signings in the works:
Our roster’s pretty much full. We got out ahead of this a couple months ago and we’ve added to Hershey, so we don’t anticipate doing much more, if anything.
On replacing Ribeiro on the power play:
That’s where Mike was really good. You have to win in different ways. Last year our power play was really good, number one in the league. Can we be Top 10 this year? We think so, with the personnel we have, but maybe we’re better 5-on-5 in terms of speed and size and two-way play. We’ll need more from other players on the power play, whether it’s Erat or [Matheiu] Perreault or [Marcus] Johansson. We still have Nicky [Backstrom] here. The shooters are all the same. You have to find different ways to do it.
On fans waiting for that big free-agent signing that never came:
Well, you don’t win the Cup in the summer. We’ve always analyzed it that we try to do what’s best for the Washington Capitals. If a contract doesn’t work for the Washington Capitals, then why do it? If you’re consistently going to the free agent market every summer to build your team, then there’s something wrong with your organization because that’ not the way to develop a team. Every once in a while, if the core of players is right and there’s something that makes sense, then go ahead. But we didn’t see that this summer. I look at Chicago and Boston last summer. They didn’t do anything like that and they were in the Finals this year. So I don’t know what to say other than we analyzed every player and we said, ‘Does this player fit in with us?’ We kept coming back to saying he’s not better than what we already have. Or, he might be a touch better than what we have but the guy we have is a good player at the right price. We like our team. We’re a solid NHL team and … 50 percent of the compliance buyouts are July 1 signings. Now we’re trying to figure out who’s going to get bought out twice?
On when he expects to complete contracts with defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Marcus Johansson:
When a deal is ready to be done we’ll do them.
McPhee also said he would speak with first-round draft pick Andre Burakovsky next week about where the 18-year-old forward should play next season. Taken 23rd overall by the Caps in last week’s draft, Burakovsky was selected fifth overall by the Erie Otters of the OHL in the import draft. His agent said Burakovsky intends to play in Sweden next season, but Burakovsy said a decision has not yet been made.