Zim back in lineup as Nats face Hamels

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Zim back in lineup as Nats face Hamels

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels faces the Nationals tonight. The last time Cole Hamels faced the Nationals ... well, you know what happened. Will there be any carryover tonight? The hunch here is that there won't be. Hamels clearly realizes he woke up a sleeping giant with his intentional plunking of Bryce Harper. And the Nats seem to realize they're much better off exacting their revenge on the scoreboard.

So they'll be going for their 10th win in their last 11 games against the Phillies, their seventh straight at Citizens Bank Park and their first three-game sweep of the season. They've actually had eight previous opportunities this season to finish off a sweep of a two-, three- or four-game series and have failed to do it each time. This will be opportunity No. 9.

The good news is the Nationals will have Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup and at third base after he was held out by Davey Johnson last night with a recurrence of soreness in his right shoulder. In a bit of a surprise, Johnson isn't stacking his lineup with right-handed hitters against Hamels, though he tried a similar thing last time, citing the effectiveness of Hamels' changeup against righties.

A friendly reminder that tonight's game will be on ESPN2 ... but you can only watch that broadcast if you live outside the MASN viewing area. Live updates and analysis to come, so please check the Nats Insider live game thread...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, ESPN2 (outside D.C. area) MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Scattered storms, 74 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to LF

NATIONALS (26-17)
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
LF Xavier Nady
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson

PHILLIES (21-23)
LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
RF Hunter Pence
C Carlos Ruiz
CF Shane Victorino
1B Ty Wigginton
SS Freddy Galvis
2B Mike Fontenot
LHP Cole Hamels

UMPIRES
HP Lance Barksdale, 1B Fieldin Culbreth, 2B Adrian Johnson, 3B Gary Cederstrom

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign.

The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.

Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.

Today's move: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Just one year after going all the way through the arbitration process, the Caps and Marcus Johansson looked poised to do it all over again this summer.

Johansson tallied 46 points in 2015-16, just one point shy of the 47 he posted the season before. No doubt he sees himself as a top-six player, but he will likely find himself playing wing on the third line. So for the second year, the Caps had a different value of Johansson than what he could find on the open market.

Both sides began talking seriously on the day of the hearing, howver, and Johansson agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.75 million which carries a yearly cap hit of $4.583 million.

RELATED: ORLOV, CAPITALS REMAIN IN TOUCH

“I'm just happy we could figure it out in the end,” Johansson said after narrowly avoiding arbitration. “To be able to be part of this team for three more years, that's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously the cap in the NHL and you have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to the agreement that made both parties happy.”

Johansson is one of the most polarizing figures in the organization when it comes to the fans. There are two main reasons for this. First, when he first came into the NHL, he was touted as the solution to the Caps’ hole at center on the second line.

Did he live up to that billing? No. Johansson was not able to cement himself in that position—proving to be more effective as a winger than a center—and joined a long line of failed “solutions” for the position including Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Arnott, Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger and Michael Nylander.

The second reason Johansson is so heavily criticized is his perceived lack of physicality. While it would be fair to say that the physical aspect of the game has never been his strong suit, it would also be fair to say Johansson was noticeably more physical in 2015-16 than we had previously seen. No one is going to mistake him for Tom Wilson, but he at least showed improvement.

In terms of production, Johansson has proven himself to be a 40+ point player with 44, 47 and 46 points in his last three seasons. With Jason Chimera’s departure, Johansson is now most likely the fastest player on the team. As speed is so important in today’s NHL, that certainly ups Johansson’s value.

Johansson was also one of the few players willing to screen and crash the net this season, one of the few noticeable weaknesses of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps team. Again, that is not his strongest suit, but it should be noted that he was at least willing to fight for the dirty goals.

Grade: B+

Yes, I know this one is going to spark some disagreement.

Johansson may not be Washington’s favorite player, but he does clearly provide the Caps with speed and offensive production. The fact that he can also play wing and center is also a valuable asset. When Jay Beagle was out with injury last season, Johansson played well in his place at third line center. That kind of flexibility brings value that most NHL players do not.

Let’s also consider where the team stands and what Johansson’s role will be next season. The Caps are in it to win it. With several contracts expiring and several prospects nearly ready to become full-time NHL players, this team may look very different next year meaning this may be the last year that championship window is open for Washington.

With that in mind, the Caps need players who provide value now. Johansson most likely will play wing on the third line next season. Even his staunchest critics have to admit that having talent like that on the third line is an asset.

Does it come with a hefty price tag? Perhaps. When comparing his contract to other players with a comparable cap hit, Johansson’s production is a bit underwhelming. Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers is signed through 2019 with a $4.5 million cap hit and tallied 59, 49 and 61 points over the last three seasons. Clearly Johansson does not stack up to that comparable.

The Caps were not going to walk away from Johansson in the offseason, however, because there is zero benefit to walking away from a player of his caliber for nothing in return. Of course they were going to re-sign him because it would have been foolish not to.

Is his cap hit a bit high? Yes, but Brian MacLellan was able to sign him and still add Lars Eller and Brett Connolly while keeping the rest of the roster largely intact.

Plus, his contract is not immovable if they decide to move on after this season. Johansson has a modified no-trade clause after the first season of the deal, but he can only name five teams in which he does not wish to be traded. It also does not offer him automatic protection in next year’s expansion draft.

With the Caps still gunning for the Stanley Cup, this team is better for having a player like Johansson on the third line. If after this season the team decides his value is greater as a trade asset, then moving him becomes an option thanks to his multi-year deal. For now, however, it makes all the sense in the world to have a player like Johansson back for at least one more run at a championship.

MORE CAPITALS: GRADING THE MOVES: CAPS FIND OFFENSIVE DEPTH WITH ELLER

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Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick Glen Rice Jr. was arrested in in Georgia on July 25 on charges of felony robbery, aggravated battery and marijuana possession.

On Friday, new details were released on what took place and it does not look good for the oft-troubled son of former NBA star Glenn Rice.

According to the police report obtained by TMZ.com, Rice Jr. got into a an altercation with former Tulane basketball player Jordan Callahan in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store.  A fight between the two broke out, with Callahan reportedly suffering a broken jaw and being left in a pool of his own blood.  

A witness told police they saw Rice Jr. flee the scene on foot with two bags. Police found the two bags — containing an AK-47 assault rifle and a Taurus .38 special — hidden underneath nearby leaves. When the cops arrested Rice, they found him in possession of roughly $2,700 in cash and six cell phones.

Rice Jr., who was drafted by the Wizards with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was suspended three times during his short career at Georgia Tech before being dismissed from the program following a DUI arrest in 2012. He then spent a season in the NBA D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being drafted by the Wizards. 

He appeared in just 16 games in two seasons before being released by the team in January 2015, two months after he was shot in the leg at an Atlanta-area restaurant. Rice Jr. was charged with reckless conduct and possession of marijuana.

RELATED: WHY DID BRADLEY BEAL PASS ON THE OLYMPICS?

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DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

RICHMOND - DeSean Jackson streaked down the right sideline, Josh Norman running with him in close step. Then, suddenly, Jackson planted his feet, cut in toward the hashmarks and veered away from the Redskins new $75 million cornerback. Within seconds, Kirk Cousins fired a pass to a location that the speed receiver grabbed out of the air. It was offensive precision.

Sure, that was only a training camp drill in July, but it also served as a reminder to how dangerous Jackson can be. With arguably the NFL's best corner from 2015 covering him, D-Jax showed his unique blend of vertical speed and lateral quickness. And though he wouldn't say it, Jackson has a track record of strong performances against the NFL's best secondaries, which could mean many more spirited practice matchups against Norman.

"We're here to get better and make each other better," Jackson said Thursday of the drills against Norman. "It's always a great addition to have a guy like him."

<<<RANKING THE REDSKINS - WHO'S AT THE TOP>>>

During the 1-on-1 drills, Jackson and Norman talked back and forth, and the wideout explained that was "a little bit of fun, talking, kind of communicating, going back and forth."

Bringing in Norman could help a Redskins defense that struggled at times last season. Depending on the metric, Washington's defense ranked as mediocre (17th in points allowed) or bad (28th in yards allowed). An improved defense, to go along with an offense that looked explosive late in the 2015 season, could mean a much improved Washington squad.

"Pushing for another year to hopefully redeem the [2015] NFC East championship. We have a lot of work to do," Jackson said. "We got a lot of good stuff started, we just got to continue to build."

Building for Jackson could mean better health, after a 2015 season where he started just nine games. Remember Jackson injured himself in training camp last year in a bizarre incident where he hit a blocking sled before a more severe hamstring injury Week 1. It's also worth noting that Jackson enters 2016 in the final year of his Redskins contract.

"You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get," he said. "That's regardless of your last year or your first year."

Asked what the team can accomplish this season, Jackson explained that while last year was a good start, it was far from any ultimate goals.

"We got to the playoffs and lost the first game. No one is really happy about that," Jackson said. "We feel like we have a lot to prove still. Nobody believes in us, we don’t really care. We believe in ourselves, we're the ones putting in the work."