ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets have avoided arbitration with second baseman Daniel Murphy. No word yet on the financial terms. Murphy was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this winter. He requested $3.4 million and was offered $2.55 million by the Mets front office when figures were formally exchanged…
With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis.
No. 10 Mike Richards
Age: 31 (turns 32 on Feb. 11, 2017)
Penalty minutes: 8
Time on ice: 12:10
Playoff stats: 12 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, even, 4 PIM, 11:15
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent (2015-16 salary: $1 million)
When Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan and his coaching staff began exploring the possibility of signing center Mike Richards back in November, they kept telling themselves that if he could keep up to the pace of the NHL he’d be the perfect third- or fourth-line center for a team on a mission to win the Stanley Cup.
Defensively, Richards was exactly what the Caps had hoped. He was an integral piece of a penalty kill that ranked second in the regular season (85.2 percent) and second in the playoffs (90.7 percent).
From a leadership standpoint, Richards also received high marks from his teammates, coaches and management.
But offensively, he was a disappointment, managing just two goals on 46 shots in the regular season and no goals on nine shots in 12 playoff games.
“I’m happy with what Mike did,” MacLellan said. “I think he added a lot to our locker room. He’s a great penalty killer, competitive guy. We really valued his experience. I would have liked to see more offense. He had some good chances, created some good chances for himself and just didn’t finish.
“I think he was a little frustrated. The offensive confidence that we thought might get there probably never got there. But everything else about his game I thought was excellent. He’s just a smart hockey player.”
Signed by the Caps as a free agent on Jan. 6, Richards played his first game for the Caps 10 days later and settled into a defensive role with the Caps, taking defensive zone faceoffs late in games and taking pressure-packed shifts with the Caps holding leads late in periods.
Despite his effectiveness in the defensive zone Richards looked a step slow and did not score his first goal until Feb. 22 in his 15th game, receiving a standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd. His speed appeared to increase late in the season and he played well in the first round of the playoffs against the Flyers, but he looked slow against the Penguins in Round 2 and was dropped from the third line to the fourth.
“I enjoyed my time here, it was awesome,” Richards said on breakup day, sounding like a player who would not return. “Everyone right from Day One has been just welcoming. It was a different feeling, but everyone here was awesome. I got here and I enjoyed my time here and who knows what's going to happen? But I definitely have no regrets about coming to Washington. Obviously, I wish the result was better, but at the same time, this was pretty awesome here.”
MacLellan said he would speak with Richards’ agent about a return to Washington, but having stated a need for more speed on the Capitals’ bottom two forward lines, it seems unlikely Richards will re-sign with the Caps.
“No expectations,” Richards said. “I'm not even sure what's going to happen, so we'll kind of hang out for a bit and see what's going on and go from there.”
Assuming the Capitals do not re-sign Richards it remains to be seen whether he did enough in his return to the NHL to warrant a free agent contract from another team. He changed his off-ice training last summer with the hopes of improving his skating.
“I've always known that I could play,” he said. “It's just, I guess, if the will's there maybe to continue. I had a fun time here in Washington, I enjoyed hockey again and I’ll kind of decompress and see what's next.
“I mean, I'm 31 years old, so I'm not old by any means. But we'll see. I honestly don't even know. I had so much fun this year with this team. Extremely, extremely disappointed of just not being able to play hockey anymore with the group of guys here. Frustrated, but at the same time I enjoyed my time here.”
Like many of his teammates, Richards said the bond in the Capitals’ locker room this season was something special.
“This team is unbelievable, to be honest,” he said. “The group is so unique, I can't even put it into words how unique this group is, it's pretty special.It's just a fun group to come to the rink and be around every day.”
As for why the Penguins are still playing and the Capitals are not, Richards said that may take some time in his hometown of Kenora to figure out.
“I'm going to sit in my boat and fish a little and probably think about it then,” he said, “but it's too early to put your finger on anything to be honest.”
The Wizards start off with a solid and potentially formidable interior tandem with Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. For now when it comes to big men, that's it, that's the list.
As Washington looks to fill out the rest of its roster, two, three or four players with the ability to play the four or five will come on board. It's who's becomes that third big, or rather the first one off the bench, that's most interesting.
The pairing of Gortat and Nene helped lead the Wizards to consecutive playoff berths. However, that power-packed combo became too old school late in the second of those seasons and were eventually split up. Kris Humphries began 2015-16 as the starting power forward, but that proved too much of a stretch. Jared Dudley took over and provided a modern look with his 3-point touch, but Washington often lost the battle of the boards with that undersized look.
The acquisition of Morris before the NBA trade deadline finally gave the Wizards an athletic presence at power forward who can battle inside. Though hardly a quinessential stretch-4, the 6-foot-10 forward is capable enough from beyond the arc to make defenses keep tabs, That also means he can play without crowding the paint for Gortat while giving the Wizards a rebounding presence.
This third big man, should have similar qualities. Not in that he must mirror Morris' game, but rather have the abilty to play different roles. Most of all, have the ability to play with Gortat and Morris.
Toronto center Bismack Biyombo became a playoff sensation during the Eastern Conference finals for his energetic rebounding and dogged rim protection. His free agent price tag went the roof.
Whether the Wizards can afford the cost or not, he's not the answer. Biyombo can play. He can't just play away from the basket, whch means he can't play with Gortat. All that means spending big bucks on two centers whose individual minutes won't be maxed and whose talents are undercut if paired with other isn't the ideal plan.
That's not the case with say Ersan Ilyasova, who is expected to become a free agent when Orlando declines its team option for the purposes of maximizing cap space. The 6-foot-10 forward would provide John Wall with a floor spacer (career 37% 3-pointers) and Gortat with a viable tag-team option. Ilyasova can score and rebound. He's not a shot blocking threat, but he's tough. So is Morris, who can slide to a stretch-5 role with Ilyasova on the court. Free agent Mirza Teletovic is another free agent candidate to consider.
The Wizards still need a true center behind Gortat. Maybe that's Nene, though getting a younger option behind the veteran Gortat works best. Maybe that's a raw big man still learning the ropes. Perhaps someone from the incoming draft class.
Washington will add a few giants capable of playing the four or five or both. Finding a talented option capable of playing with Morris and Gortat is key, especially if big bucks are involved.
The New York Mets have acquired some help at first base by bringing in 10-year MLB veteran James Loney in a trade with the San Diego Padres. The return has not been reported yet.
Loney, 32, played the previous three seasons for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has yet to appear in the big leagues this season after signing a free agent deal with San Diego in April.
The former first round pick is a solid hitter with a .285 lifetime average and has always been known for his defense. Last season he hit .280 with four homers and 32 RBI in 104 games for the Rays.
Duda is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. He could be out for a long time, so Loney at least gives the Mets some insurance behind Eric Campbell, who is filling in at first but is hitting just .182 this season.