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. 18: Eric Fehr, Right Wing
2014-15 NHL Salary: $1.6 million [$1.5 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 73 games, 13 goals, 18 assists, 31 points, even, 32 penalty minutes, 14:44 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 75 games, 14 goals, 22 assists, 36 points, plus-6, 28 penalty minutes, 14:20 average ice time
Analysis: Eric Fehr’s impact on the 2014-15 Capitals will be directly linked to how Barry Trotz uses him. Two summers ago Fehr came to the Caps as a broken player, prone to injuries and short on confidence. Signed to a one-year, $600,000 contract, he resurrected his career by playing in 41 of 48 games under Adam Oates in 2012-13, earning himself a two-year, $3 million contract extension. Despite sitting out much of November as a healthy scratch, Fehr found his niche midway through last season as a third-line center between Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. That trio combined to become the Caps’ most consistent and reliable line in the second half of the season, with Fehr netting 11 points and a plus-5 rating in his final 22 games. Having been a right wing his entire career, Fehr struggled on draws, winning just 46 percent of the 426 he took. If Trotz keeps the third line of Fehr, Ward and Chimera intact, Fehr should put up similar numbers to last season. But if Fehr is replaced by Brooks Laich on the third line, he could be pushed to fourth-line right wing, behind right wings Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer and Tom Wilson, who undoubtedly will see his minutes increase from the 7:56 he saw last season. If Fehr sees most of his ice time on the fourth line his impact will be minimal and could make it difficult for him to re-sign with the Caps behind next season. Another interesting side note to watch next season will be how Fehr will be used on the power play. Last season he was part of the second power-play unit but rarely saw time there because Alex Ovechkin stayed on the ice for most of the Caps’ man-advantages. The result was Ovechkin averaging 5:02 of power-play ice time per game [tops in the NHL by 23 seconds] and Fehr averaging just 36 seconds.