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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Jill Sorenson, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly.

Will Devante Smith-Pelly manage to ressurect his career this season?

After getting bought out by the Devils on June 30, Smith-Pelly signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Caps a few days later. The deal will pay him $650,000 in Washington and $300,000 in Hershey.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR THE BLUE JACKETS

It's a significant paycut from the $1.25 million that Smith-Pelly, 25, earned last season, and the contract offers less job security. But he's got another chance, much like the one the Caps gave to Brett Connolly a year ago, to seize a spot in the bottom six and reestablish himself in the league. Connolly, after being cut loose by the Bruins last summer, took full advantage of his opporrunity here, scoring a career-high 15 goals in 66 games and earning a two-year, $3 million extension from GM Brian MacLellan.    

When training camp opens in mid-September, the Caps are going to need a pair of wingers to play with center Jay Beagle on the fourth line. There will be no shortage of competition for those positions, with Smith-Pelly expected to battle Anthony Peluso and forward prospects Nathan Walker, Chandler Stephenson, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien and perhaps others.

Smith-Pelly would seem to have the inside track based on experience alone. He’s played in 266 NHL regular season games and 24 playoff contests. (Peluso, 28, has played in 142 games, while no one else I mentioned has appeared in more than 14.)

Smith-Pelly, a 6-foot, 214-pound righty, has also had some eyebrow raising stretches in his career. In the 2014 playoffs as a member of the Ducks, he amassed five goals in 12 games while averaging 4.4 hits per. In 2016, he was dealt from Montreal to the Devils late in the season and ended up racking up eight goals and five assists in only 18 games.

So, Smith-Pelly has been productive. He just hasn’t been consistent.

Will that change in Washington? That’s yet to be determined. But we can already surmise this much: he's got a pretty good opportunity in front of him and he's probably running out of chances.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley

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Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams?

This week, CSN is taking a look at each team’s offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

RELATED: CAPITALS' 2017-18 SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Team: New York Rangers

2016-17 Results: 48-28-6 (102 points, fourth in the division). Defeated Montreal in the first round before losing to Ottawa in the second.

Notable acquisitions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Ondrej Pavelec, C David Desharnais, D Anthony DeAngelo and assistant coach Lindy Ruff.

Notable departures: F Derek Stepan, G Antti Raanta, F Oscar Lindberg, D Dan Girardi, D Kevin Klein and F Tanner Glass.

When they will play the Caps: At Washington Dec. 8, at New York Dec. 27, at New York March 26 and at Washington March 28.

MORE CAPITALS: RANKING THE CAPITALS MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

2017-18 Rangers Analysis:

Following their second-round loss to the Senators, this much had become clear about the Rangers: in order to return to contender status they needed an offseason refresh on the backend.

So GM Jeff Gorton got to work.

He signed hometown standout Kevin Shattenkirk, the top prize on the free agent market, to a team-friendly deal. He re-upped late-season addition Brendan Smith. He also bought out longtime Ranger Dan Girardi, while 32-year-old Kevin Klein retired from the NHL.

As a result, the Rangers will enter camp next month with a revamped—and improved—blue line that’ll boast Ryan McDonagh, Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Smith in the top 4.

The third pair? There’s options, including 10-year vet Marc Staal, Nick Holden and 2014 first rounder Anthony DeAngelo, acquired in the June trade that sent top line center Derek Stepan to Arizona. (The Stepan deal, which also sent valuable backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for DeAngelo and a first round pick, cleared much needed cap space, some of which was used to sign Shattenkirk.)

Up front, the Rangers’ offense (fourth best last season at 3.09 goals per game) figures to miss Stepan and his 55 points, but the group still looks awfully potent with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad shouldering the scoring load.

In all, New York returns nine of its top 10 point-getters from a year ago, while adding power play wiz Shattenkirk.

Over the past six seasons, the Rangers have advanced to the conference final three times and the Stanley Cup final once. With the renovation on defense, might this be the year Henrik Lundqvist and Co. finish the job?

2017-18 Rangers Season prediction: 

Speaking of Lundqvist, I suspect he holds the key to unlocking New York’s full potential.

He’s been the Rangers’ rock for past decade, but you can’t gloss over the fact that he’s 35 years-old, has logged some hard miles and is coming off the worst season regular season of his career, during which he posted a .910 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average. He’s also returning from a sprained knee that he suffered while backstopping Sweden to the gold medal at the World Championships in May.

In a recent interview with NHL.com, Lundqvist said he doesn’t expect the knee to give him any trouble. But he also acknowledged the need to be more consistent, saying of last season, “The highs were as high as any other year. The lows were a little too low.”

Was it a blip? Or is King Henrik slowing down? The answer, right now, is not clear.

If Lundqvist bounces back, though, I like the retooled Rangers’ chances challenging for the division title…and, perhaps, a much bigger prize, as well.

More Metro Division previews:

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Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams? 

This week, CSN is taking a look at each club's offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

RELATED: CSN'S 2017-18 CAPITALS PREVIEW

Team: Philadelphia Flyers

2016-17 Results: 39-33-10 (88 points). Sixth in division, 11th in conference. Missed playoffs for second time in three years.

Notable acquisitions: C Nolan Patrick, G Brian Elliott and C Jori Lehtera.

Notable departures: G Steve Mason, F Brayden Schenn, D Michael Del Zotto, F Nick Cousins, F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, D Nick Schultz and F Chris VandeVelde.

When they will play the Caps: At Philadelphia Oct. 14, at Washington Jan. 21 and Jan 23, and at Philadelphia March 18.  

MORE CAPITALS: GRUBAUER EAGER TO INCREASE LONG-TERM VALUE

2017-18 Flyers Analysis: 

The Flyers will sport a different, younger look this fall, with a new goaltender, a new second line center and a handful of prospects vying for significant roles.

What’s less clear is whether they’re any better than the 2016-17 edition, which enjoyed a ten-game winning streak but still finished seven points out of the playoffs.   

The answer to that question likely will be determined by their ability (or inability) to improve in two critical areas: stopping pucks and 5-on-5 scoring.

In an effort to improve the former, GM Ron Hextall signed goalie Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million contract on July 1. Although Elliott figures to split time with Michal Neuvirth, the hope is that the well-traveled 32-year-old will be better than Steve Mason and can help Philadelphia improve upon its 26th ranked team save percentage from a year ago (.901).

Elliott had some solid seasons in St. Louis, but he struggled with consistency last season in Calgary, finishing with a .909 save percentage (25th among goalies who appeared in at least 40 games). Neuvirth, meanwhile, posted a .891 save percentage—the worst mark for a goalie who appeared in at least 15 games.

The Flyers are in need of a big boost at the other end of the ice, as well.

They were tied for 20th in goals per game (2.59) and tied for 26th in goals scored 5-on-5.

Although there were many culprits for Philly’s offensive woes, Claude Giroux’s subpar season underscored the problem. The 29-year-old captain, who is also the team’s highest paid player with a cap hit of $8.275 million per, finished with 14 goals and 58 points in 82 games, marking a third straight year of declines for the first line center. In 2013-14, Giroux was the NHL’s third leading scorer with 86 points.

If Giroux rebounds, second overall pick Nolan Patrick produces as a rookie, wingers Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds do their thing and Shayne Gostisbehere also bounces back, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Flyers to pack a more formidable offensive punch.

That, of course, is a lot of ‘ifs’.  

2017-18 Flyers Season prediction: 

You’ve got imagine the goaltending will be better than it was last year, particularly if they get the Brian Elliott who posted a .936 save percentage in March for the Flames, not the one who scuffled so mightily early in the year. And there’s no way Neuvirth is that bad again, right?

Assuming they get what they need in net, and a few of the youngsters manage to outperform expectations the way Ivan Provorov did as a rookie last year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Dave Hakstol and a youthful Flyers’ lineup loitering on the edge of the playoff race late in the season.

If they get in, it’ll accelerate the organization’s youth movement and keep Hakstol off the hot seat. If they don’t, Flyers fans will at least be able to take solace in the fact that the infusion of youth means brighter days are ahead.  

More Metro Division previews:

• Pittsburgh Penguins