CBA Uncertainty Hasn't Stopped NHL Signings
By Stephen London
Although the coming NHL season has some doubt surrounding it and the potential new collective bargaining agreement, teams are still trying to sign their missing puzzle pieces to build a Stanley Cup champion squad.
The Washington Capitals signed a few new players and said some farewells. They acquired former Dallas Star center Mike Ribeiro during the NHL Draft. They also added Wojtek Wolski, a seven-year veteran, and gave him a veteran minimum contract ($600,000 for one year), as well as defenseman Jack Hillen to add some veteran depth to the blue-liners.
Washington did not re-sign Alex Semin or Mike Knuble. The Capitals told Knuble, a veteran forward, early on during free agency that they would not be re-signing him. Semin's free agency started with him hinting at the fact that he would not be returning to the nation's capital.
Are an injury-prone Wolski; an undersized, yet talented Ribeiro; and an undersized defenseman in Hillen the missing puzzle pieces to the first Stanley Cup in Washington?
The short answer is probably not.
The Caps seem to have no interest in adding some size at forward. Washington will not do well against teams that rely on their physicality, such as the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers. That's not to say the Capitals can't win with a roster full of undersized players, but it makes a win harder to achieve.
Most of the prominent free agents have found a home, but there are still players out there that would help make an impact on the 2012-13 season. Right winger Shane Doan was a big reason the Phoenix Coyotes made it to the Western Conference Finals (five goals, four assists during the 2012 playoffs). Brian Rolston, a veteran left winger, helped the Boston Bruins get a Stanley Cup in 2011. Some other free agents that are available are Daymond Langkow, Andrei Kostitsyn, Carlo Colaiacovo and Gilbert Brule.
Most of those forwards mentioned above have size, besides Brule, who is 5-foot-11. Adding a player like Doan might ruin the salary cap for the future, considering how young and talented the Caps defense is with players such as John Carlson and Karl Alzner. But acquiring a player like Rolston, Langkow or Colaiacovo would bring size to the top two Capitals lines.
Another key component to the Washington team is its new head coach, Adam Oates. Oates was a fantastic player, and was an assistant coach for the Stanley Cup runner-up New Jersey Devils last season, helping them overcome the offensive woes they endured during previous seasons.
"When you look at the finals this year, you saw two teams that were basically in-your-face teams, all over the ice," Oates told Corey Masisak of NHL.com. "I really feel the game today is territory. You have to establish territory and protect it. I look at the Caps lineup and the talent level and I don't see any reason why we can't push the pace and be an aggressive team, but at the same time not sacrificing defense. It requires commitment all over the ice."
Posted Aug. 9, 2012