Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started.
@hipheeb What do you think about trading [Mikhail] Grabovski? My fear is that he won't resign & Caps will be left with nothing like [Mike] Ribeiro
@CapsYapp Q: Grabo has been a great pickup, now talking new contract w club. What yrs/$$ will keep him in DC? my thought is about a 4yr/$20M but wanted to see if maybe a discount bc Grabo got paid in TOR
I figured we might as well combine these two questions. Gary Greenstin, the Russian-born agent for Mikhail Grabovski, spent at least four days in D.C. early this week and confirmed he’s begun contract talks with the Caps. Grabovski, 29, is on a one-year, $3 million contract with the Caps and is making another $14.3 million on an eight-year buyout from the Maple Leafs [roughly $1.8 million per year]. I think your four-year, $20 million estimate is pretty close to the ceiling of what the Capitals would pay Grabovski. But when you consider Phoenix is paying Mike Ribeiro $25 million over five years and the salary cap is going up, it’s safe to assume Grabovski can get more on the open market. Grabovski [12 goals, 21 assists] and Ribeiro [11 goals, 21 assists] are having similar seasons and Grabovski is four years younger. As for trading Grabovski, I think the Caps need to set a deadline on re-signing him, much like they did last season with Ribeiro. If the two sides can’t agree by the Olympic break – and the guess here is that they can probably make that decision now – yes, I would trade Grabovski. An underlying factor in all of this is Evgeny Kuznetsov, a left-handed shooting forward who is expected to join the Caps late this season or for the start of next season. Is Kuznetsov a center? If he is, the Caps can justify letting Grabovski go, especially if they intend on keeping Brooks Laich. Is Kuznetsov a left wing? If so, Grabovski is worth keeping as the team’s No. 2 center because he plays the north-south game Oates loves to play.
@TheRealJMizzle does [Adam] Oates pick goaltenders out of a hat each game or the Magic 8 ball????
@naginther Why isn't [Braden] Holtby playing? His style of play was working last year. He likes to come out and cut down angles.
When I asked Oates about his plan for the goalies before Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh, he jokingly replied, “I don’t have a plan.” In many respects, I think that’s true. There is not a No. 1 goalie in Washington right now. Do I think it would be best to eliminate one of the three goalies from the mix? Yes. Do I think the Caps are showcasing Michal Neuvirth so that another team trades for him? Yes. Am I convinced Holtby will regain the starting job and Philipp Grubauer will settle in as his backup? I’m not ready to go there. Since Grubauer’s 4-1 win in New York on Dec. 8, Holtby has been given four starts and has allowed 18 goals on 94 shots. A lot has been made of Olie Kolzig asking his goalies to play deeper in their nets to make themselves available for rebound attempts, but Grubauer seems to have adjusted better to the changes than Holtby. Clearly, Holtby’s body of work is more extensive than Grubauer’s, but with the playoff race so tight, I think Oates will continue starting the goalie he thinks has the best chance to win that night. Right now, that’s Grubauer.
@plkappkaz What's the magic missing element? Shutdown D, top 6 F, better 3/4 liners?
Let’s go process of elimination. With Joel Ward [13 goals], Jason Chimera [9 goals] and Marcus Johansson [25 assists] the Caps have one of the best third lines in the NHL. Their fourth line needs to produce some offense, but they’ve been pretty effective with their zone play recently, so I’d leave them alone. Top six, I think the Caps could use a sniper on the left side, but I wouldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul for one, especially of that’s the plan for Kuznetsov [see above]. That leaves a shutdown D. If there is a solid, reliable two-way defenseman who could complement Dmitry Orlov on that second pairing, someone along the lines of Braydon Coburn in Philly, I’d consider trading Mike Green to get him.
AloeCap10 [Marty] Erat's been scratched for a few games in a row now. You think a trade's in the works? Any speculation as to who it’s for?
No disrespect to Marty Erat, but it’s very clear that if any NHL team is interested, they’re not offering much more than a late-round draft pick. Does Erat bring more to the table than Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle? Yes. But he has not played since saying a lack of playing time with the Capitals cost him a spot on the Czech Olympic team. At first, I understood the Caps’ rationale of keeping Erat in the event Brooks Laich could not play a top-six role. Now, I wonder if Erat would even get that opportunity. Eventually, an NHL team will need the experience and depth that Erat can offer, but at a price tag of $3.75 million this season and $2.25 million next, there may not be a taker until the trade deadline.
@DavidLackeydp is the [Connor] Carrick experiment going to be over now? Hopefully.
I’m not ready to bury the kid after one tough night in Pittsburgh. I like the way Carrick skates and sees the ice and I’d like to see him continue to progress at the NHL level. The Caps have been rotating guys on and off that third pairing all season trying to find the right match for John Erskine. Carrick is undersized for the NHL and needs a guy like Erskine to provide a physical presence. I’d like to see Carrick for a longer stretch with the Caps before they send him back to the Bears, but I’m not convinced he’s ready for a full-time job in the NHL -- at least not yet.
@Robostop10 Rumors have swirled that Gretzky potentially could be GM or Pres of Hockey Ops for several teams, including WSH. Since, GMGM reportedly hasn't been extended, are we looking at a lame duck GM?
At the invitation of Caps owner Ted Leonsis, Wayne Gretzky attended a Caps game back in November and told TSN’s Gord Miller that he was in D.C. because of corporate sponsorships and was attending the game as a fan. Like all NHL teams, the Caps do not release the contract terms of their general managers, and while I’ve heard that this is the final year on McPhee’s contract with the Caps, I have been given no confirmation that is the case. I do believe Leonsis is watching this season very closely and will make any off-season decisions based on his team’s ability to get into the playoffs and get beyond the first two rounds. Like everyone else in Washington, Leonsis recognizes that Alex Ovechkin is in the prime of his career and that anything short of being a serious challenger for the Stanley Cup this season would be considered a step backward.