Holtby and Backstrom have high hopes this season
The Capitals conducted their media day on Tuesday at Kettler, which means there was more said by more people than we could possibly fit onto your computer screen.
So, we’ll give you the abridged version, most of which we’ll expound upon in the days leading up to the Caps’ Oct. 1 opener in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
Is Ovi going to Greece?: As of Tuesday, it was still undetermined whether Alex Ovechkin would go to Greece for the Olympic torch passing ceremony. Caps general manager George McPhee said he didn’t know if arrangements had been made to get Ovechkin to Greece on Friday night and back in Washington Sunday night, in time to practice Monday and fly to Chicago for the season opener. Ovechkin has said he wants to represent Russia at the torch run but the cost to charter a round-trip flight from D.C. to Greece is close to $500,000, according to one source. That could be too pricey for the Russian Olympic Committee.
Making room for Wilson: Caps GM George McPhee said he believes Tom Wilson’s cap hit would be $837,000 if he makes the club’s opening night roster, with some of his bonuses eligible for deferment. The Caps have $665,705 in cap space and McPhee acknowledged that a player would have to be moved to make room for Wilson. The most likely candidates are center Mathieu Perreault [one year, $1.05 million cap hit] and left wing Aaron Volpatti [2 years, $575,000 cap hit].
What about Carrick: In what was a bit of a revelation, both McPhee and coach Adam Oates said it’s possible defenseman Connor Carrick could begin the season with the Caps. Carrick, 19, signed a three-year deal with the Caps on Monday that carries a favorable cap hit of $636,667. Unlike Wilson, Carrick’s contract does not carry performance bonuses. One way for the Caps to make room for Carrick is to assign Orlov and Tomas Kundratek to the AHL Hershey Bears, although Kundratek would need to pass through waivers.
Erat at center: Oates tried Marty Erat at center on Tuesday, an experiment that will continue through the final three preseason games. Oates likes the way Erat distributes the puck and is viewing him as a potential third-line pivot behind Nicklas Backstrom and Mikhail Grabovski. Moving Erat to the middle frees up Eric Fehr to play on the left side and Joel Ward on the right. It also spells trouble for Mathieu Perreault, who appears to be the odd-man out in most of Oates’ line combinations.
Trade talk: McPhee said he has spoken with a handful of teams regarding extra players on his roster but is not sure if any of those conversations will lead to a trade. Perreault appears to be the most tradable player, although there could be interest in Jason Chimera. Both players are in the final year of their contracts with the Caps. Perreault’s cap hit his $1.05 million and Chimera’s is $1.75 million.
Injury update: Center Brooks Laich said his left hip flexor “tightened up a bit” on Tuesday but is not overly concerned about his long-term health or his ability to play in the Caps’ Oct. 1 opener. “I still have Oct. 1st circled on my calendar,” he said. Right wing Joel Ward sat out of Tuesday’s practice with what Oates described as “soreness.” Ward may sit out Wednesday night’s home game against Nashville.
Recker recall: Joel Rechlicz had an egg-sized welt above his left eye on Tuesday, the battle scar of a rockem, sockem fight with the Bruins’ Milan Lucic Monday night in Boston. Rechlicz said he was defending teammate Dane Byers, who had taken a hit from Lucic earlier in the same shift. “It was a long one,” Rechlicz said of the fight. “I really had to catch my breath after that one. It was crazy.” Rechlicz said he needs to be “a little smarter” and not take instigator penalties that leave his team shorthanded. “I’m not here to create a circus,” he said. “I’m here to play hockey hand defend my teammates when necessary.”