CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2013-14 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in alphabetical order. Today: Brooks Laich
Position: Center/Left Wing
Age: 30 [turns 31 June 23]
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 210
Penalty minutes: 16
Average Ice Time: 17:15
Contract Status: 3 years remaining on 6-year, $27 million contract [$4.5 million cap hit, $4.5 million salary in 2014-15]
No Trade Clause: Can provide five teams to which he will not accept a trade through 2014-15 season.
Strengths: When he is completely healthy and not simply trying to make it through hockey games Laich is a versatile and valuable player, capable of playing center or left wing and logging time on the power play and penalty kill. In the five seasons before suffering a groin in during the 2012 NHL lockout, Laich averaged 20 goals, 48 points and a plus-6 rating while missing just four games.
[MORE: Report card for Braden Holtby]
Weaknesses: In his two seasons since injuring his groin, Laich has recorded nine goals, 19 points and a minus-5 rating while missing 70 of the Caps’ 130 regular season games and all 21 playoff games. Laich has also undergone two groin surgeries during that time, leading to concerns he may have a chronic groin problem that shortens his career.
Memorable Moment: In his first game back from the Olympic break, Laich provided a ray of hope that he was completely healthy when he scored one goal and assisted on goals by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in a 5-4 road win over the Florida Panthers. Laich played on the top line because Marcus Johansson was late arriving from Sweden due to visa issues. He played the next six games but recurring groin pain kept him out of the Caps’ final 16 games and the playoffs.
Quotable: “I feel like I had chains around my body and now somebody just came and cut them off. Now I’m free to move about in any direction at any time I want. It’s completely liberating. That’s honestly how I feel -- mentally and physically liberated and free to get on with my hockey career and excel in the sport – not just participate.” - Laich on March 27 following a second groin procedure
2014-15 Expectations: The Capitals’ new general manager is going to need to decide whether to keep Laich or use the club’s final compliance buyout on him. Under the terms of the buyout, Laich would receive $8.33 million over the next six years instead of the $12.5 million the Caps would pay him if he remains on their roster. He currently carries a $4.5 million cap hit and his salary drops from $4.5 million next season to $4 million in each of the final two years of his contract. Before the Caps can buy out Laich he would need to pass a physical within 48 hours of the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If he fails a physical, the Caps can seek a second and third opinion, with the third opinion being a binding one. If Laich is deemed physically unable to play he cannot be bought out. If he passes the physical he can be retained or bought out. If a new GM is convinced Laich’s groin issues are behind him and he’s capable of being a 50-point scorer, he’ll consider Laich worth the investment. If not, Laich’s reign as Washington’s longest-tenured professional athlete will end.