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3 bold predictions: Caps face Kings in the city of angels

3 bold predictions: Caps face Kings in the city of angels

The Caps are in Los Angeles for game two of the California trip to play the Kings (10:30 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. The Capitals will not score on the power play

The Kings boast the third best penalty kill in the NHL and have allowed only one power play goal in their last 10 games. That’s bad news for a Caps’ power play that could not muster a single goal on five opportunities Thursday in San Jose.

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2. This game will go into overtime

What’s my reasoning for this? Because it’s starting at 10:30 and the clocks go back an hour, that’s why. At least one game on this road trip is going into overtime and I’m picking this one.

3. Dmitry Orlov will score

Orlov has become the forgotten man on this defense after the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk. When it comes to offensive contribution, everyone talks about Shattenkirk or John Carlson, but we all seem to forget about Orlov. He’s due for a big night and he will put one into the back of the net.

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Troy Mann: Nathan Walker is 'as close as anybody' to being ready for NHL

Troy Mann: Nathan Walker is 'as close as anybody' to being ready for NHL

For the first time in a couple of years, the Caps will have some job openings when training camp opens in September. One—maybe two—of those openings could be in the bottom-six forward group.

Asked on Tuesday to name some prospects he believes could seize a spot on the fourth line, Bears Coach Troy Mann didn’t hesitate to say that he believes Nathan Walker is “as close as anybody” to being ready to make the jump from the minors to the NHL.

RELATED: Who still needs a goalie? Possible destinations for Grubauer

Walker, the Caps’ third round pick in 2014, is aiming to become the first Australian-born player to reach the NHL.   

“I think when you look at our guys, Walker comes to mind,” said Mann, who is running the Capitals’ development camp this week. “He plays the game the right way. He’s a 200-foot player. He gets in on the forecheck. He has good stick detail.”

Walker posted 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games for the Bears last season. Earlier this month, the 23-year-old winger signed a two-year, two-way contract extension that will pay him $650,000 per year in the NHL.  

“I’d love to see him slide into [Daniel] Winnik’s spot, from my standpoint, because he’s really grown here the last couple of years,” Mann added.

Winnik, who was the Caps’ fourth line left wing last season, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.  

Mann also mentioned forwards Chandler Stephenson, whom he believes is “the most physically NHL ready” prospect in Hershey, as well as Riley Barber and Travis Boyd as being in the mix to challenge for a spot in Washington this fall. Stephenson played four games for the Caps in 2016-17, while Barber saw in action in three games.

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Who still needs a goalie? Possible trade destinations for Philipp Grubauer

Who still needs a goalie? Possible trade destinations for Philipp Grubauer

Heading into the expansion draft, the Caps knew they would most likely lose either defenseman Nate Schmidt or goalie Philipp Grubauer. They lost Schmidt and, in order to find a replacement,trading Grubauer may be the most viable option. But if that is the option the team decides to take, the clock is ticking.

The list of teams in need of a goalie continues to get shorter and shorter while free agency is just around the corner. This year is a buyer's market for goalies. With pending free agents like Ryan Miller, Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason and Brian Elliott among others available, those few teams looking to upgrade their starting goalie will have plenty of options.

If Washington is hoping to address their hole on defense by trading away Grubauer or at least building a trade package with him as the centerpiece, it would benefit the Caps to make a deal before July 1 when free agency opens or they may be forced to hold onto him longer until a favorable deal presents itself.

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But who would be interested?

Most teams in the league would love to get a 25-year-old budding starter. To maximize what general manager Brian MacLellan could get for the young netminder, he should focus more on teams in need of a starter now. Teams like these.

Here are the teams who definitely need a starting goalie, the teams who might be in the market and the teams who need a new starter but who are unlikely to deal with Washington.

Teams who definitely need a starting goalie

Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller is set to become a free agent on July 1. There has been talk for months about potentially re-signing him to a short-term deal, but less than a week away from July 1, there is still no deal in place. Vancouver seems to think Jacob Markstrom will one day be able to be the team’s top starter, but I do not know what they have seen from him to make them believe that. At 27 years old, Markstrom has a career 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage. What am I missing? Grubauer would be an instant upgrade for a team that continually refuses to rebuild.

Winnipeg Jets: Mercifully, Ondrej Pavelec will finally be leaving as a free agent. Connor Hellebuyck was given every chance to cement himself as the starter, but managed only a 2.89 GAA and .907 save percentage in 56 games last season. At only 24, it is too early to give up on him completely, but Grubauer is only 25 and has shown just as much if not more potential. While a tandem of two potential starters is never ideal (see the Philadelphia Flyers), Grubauer-Hellebuyck would certainly be an upgrade over what they had last year. Think they wouldn’t turn the reins over to two young goalies? Well, the only other goalie under contract in Winnipeg is currently the 27-year-old Michael Hutchinson who has appeared in only 99 games in his NHL career. Vancouver has to do something to address that.

Teams who might be in the market for a starting goalie

Buffalo Sabres: Just as the Canucks seem to be the only team that sees Markstrom as a starter, the Sabres may be the only team that views Robin Lehner as a No. 1. He has shown potential with a .924 and .920 save percentage in each of the last two seasons suggesting the Sabres' problems have more to do with their defense than their goaltending, but Buffalo has cleaned house this offseason with a new general manager and coach. Perhaps they could also be in the market for a new goalie as well.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche raised some eyebrows by protecting Semyon Varlamov over Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft and paid the price for it as Pickard is now a Golden Knight. Colorado needs another goalie and Grubauer presents a younger, more durable option than the inconsistent Varlamov.

Detroit Red Wings: Speaking of raising eyebrows, Petr Mrazek was one of the most surprising players left exposed to Vegas. Golden Knights general manager George Mcphee, however, didn’t bite and now the Red Wings have a problem. Clearly, there’s an issue with Mrazek and Jimmy Howard is 33 years old making the team's future in net uncertain.

Teams who need a goalie but are unlikely partners

New York Islanders: The Islanders’ goalie situation was a disaster last season which resulted in Jaroslav Halak playing in the AHL. J.F. Berube is now with Vegas which means New York is down to two goalies again, but that may not solve the issue. The real problem last year wasn’t that the Islanders had too many goalies, it’s that they didn’t have enough. If one goalie had emerged as the clear No. 1, it would have made life a heck of a lot easier. Having only two goalies may help, but it is hard to imagine the Islanders having much faith in either netminder.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Steve Mason-Michal Neuvirth tandem has not brought much success to the Philadelphia and it is time to move on. Everyone knows it and general manager Ron Hextall has reportedly been in the market for a new goalie.

The problem with both the Islanders and Flyers is that they are both Metropolitan Division teams along with the Caps. Trades within the division are not unheard of, but they can make things more complicated. Would Washington really want to trade the Islanders their franchise goalie? Is either team willing to trade what it would take to get him? The answer may well be "no" which will make life difficult for the Caps considering just how small the list of teams who need a goalie is otherwise.

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