The Phillies have reportedly agreed to terms with Mike Adams and John Lannan over the past 24 hours, but general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. isn’t done with his offseason shopping list. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Phillies are “intensifying” their pursuit of free agent outfielder Cody Ross. They have some competition, though, as…
The Caps have stayed pretty consistent with their offensive lines this postseason, but if Friday's practice is any indication, that's about to change. Head coach Barry Trotz changed his offensive look as his team prepares for a critical Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here's a look at the top three lines from practice on Friday:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Justin Williams
Evgeny Kuznetsov took line rushes on the top line at practice with Nicklas Backstrom moving down to the second. Trotz has matched his top line against the top lines of both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this postseason with success...at least defensively. Sidney Crosby has only one point this series, but the trade-off has been less offensive production from the Caps' top weapons. T.J. Oshie managed a hat trick in Game 1, but since then Oveckin, Backstrom and Oshie have combined for only three points.
With both the power play and the secondary scoring dried up as well, the Caps need to find some way to spark their offense. Switching up the lines appears to be Trotz's solution.
"We've got last change so they give me a little different matchups," Trotz said. "We don't have anything to lose right now."
As the Caps return home for Game 5, they will get the last line change, allowing Trotz to get the matchups he wants more easily. If he does find success, it will be difficult to replicate that in Game 6 as Pittsburgh will get the last change, but right now the Caps are just focusing on getting to Game 6.
The move allows Trotz to continue matching Backstrom against Crosby while freeing up Ovechkin and Oshie. It also could spark more offense from Kuznetsov.
A year after a breakout postseason performance, Kuznetsov has been largely absent throught the playoffs with only two points, none of which came at even strength.
When asked about the move, Kuznetsov said he was comfortable playing with Ovechkin and it would be an easy adjustment for him.
"We know each other and we know what we need to do on ice and all," Kuznetsov said. "Maybe some small areas we will correct a little bit, but it's still same hockey. We just have to play our game."
Williams also moves down to the third line after a surprisingly rough postseason performance.
"I know I'm counted on to support this team offensively and defensively among other things so I certainly put onus on myself to be better," Williams said.
Williams has contributed four points in the playoffs, but he's also a career low minus-5 and has 12 penalty minutes in just 10 games.
The third line may change a bit for Game 5 as Mike Richards was not at practice. According to the team he was under the weather, but Trotz said he should be OK for Saturday. Whether he would take Jay Beagle's spot at third line center or move down to the fourth line remains to be seen. Richards has also underachieved this postseason with zero points.
"Using the other side of your brain once in a while when you get someone different in the lineup," Trotz said. "That's really what we're trying to do tomorrow."
MORE CAPITALS: Trotz named Jack Adams finalist
Rookie minicamp for the Pittsburgh Steelers opened on Friday, which meant the first look at second-round pick and former Maryland Terrapin Sean Davis in black and yellow.
As shared by the team's official Twitter account, below is Davis tracking a ball during a drill. And it looks like he'll be wearing No. 28, which is a departure from the No. 21 he wore at Maryland
Pittsburgh made the secondary a priority in the 2016 draft, taking defensive back Artie Burns of Miami in the first round and Davis in the second. And it's not out of the question that one or both could start when the season begins.
That will be determined in time. And there's a lot of it between now and the opener.
Even after the Redskins signed Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to substantial contracts, the team still has more than adequate salary cap space to sign its other pending free agent, including quarterback Kirk Cousins.
According to www.Overthecap.com after Norman’s extension hit the books and after accounting for Chris Culliver’s release the Redskins had $117.2 million in salary cap dollars committed for 2017.
That does not count them signing their seven draft picks, which will add around $5 million to their 2017 committed money. But there also are some players counting against the cap who are unlikely to be there. It’s probably a pretty safe bet that you can subtract the salaries of Andre Roberts ($4 million), Shawn Lauvao ($4 million), and Kory Lichtensteiger ($3.5 million).
Adding in for the draft picks and subtracting for the veterans, that nets out to the Redskins having $110.7 million in salary cap commitments.
We don’t yet have the details of Reed’s contract so we don’t know how much he will cost against the 2017 cap. It’s a five-year, $50 million extension that actually starts in 2017. Usually the first year of such a deal has a lower cap number and then it grows as the years go on and the cap grows. For example, Norman’s deal averages $15 million per year and the first-year cap hit was only $8 million.
But let’s round up and figure that the 2017 cap hit will be what the average annual value of the contract is, $10 million. It might be a little higher but you’ll see in a moment that a few million dollars is not all that significant. That pushes the 2017 commitment up to $120.7 million.
The NFL salary cap this year is $155.27 million. It’s a very safe bet that the cap will increase in 2017. The increase from 2014 to 2015 was 8.3 percent. If it goes up by the same year-to-year percentage the 2017 cap will be $168 million. It may be a few million more or less but that’s in the ballpark.
Subtracting the $120.7 million that the Redskins are likely to have committed from the $168 million cap, that leaves the Redskins with about $47.3 million in sap space for 2017.
That will be more than adequate space to pay Cousins and others who might be in line for new contracts. The key will be having a salary cap structure similar to those of other successful teams. Besides Norman, if the three veterans mentioned above are released the two highest-priced contracts signed by free agents will be Stephen Paea ($5.8 million cap number) and Ricky Jean Francois ($4 million). And Paea won’t be around for that number if his play doesn’t rise to that level.
As long as Scot McCloughan continues to have productive drafts the Redskins can limit free agent signings to a supplemental way of acquiring talent, not the primary method. The organization will be able to pick and choose the players they want to keep and have a structure with some home-grown talent with large second contracts and perhaps a Norman-like free agent at the top, some moderate deals like the ones that Morgan Moses and Bashaud Breeland are likely to get forming an upper middle class, other role players who are on second contracts and then the more recent draft picks working on their inexpensive rookie deals.