Quick Links

Caps' Brooks Orpik misses practice Monday

Caps' Brooks Orpik misses practice Monday

Brooks Orpik was not on the ice for practice Monday as the veteran defenseman took a “maintenance day”, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said.

Trotz called Orpik  “probable” for Tuesday’s home game against the surging Flames, who are 12-1-0 in their last 13 games.

“Just a maintenance day,” Trotz said. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow. Felt much better. Just got bumped up in [Tampa on Saturday night]. We gave him a maintenance day; he was thinking about coming out [to practice]. [We thought] a maintenance day would do him a lot more good.”

RELATED: OSHIE TRIES TO REMAIN FOCUSED EVEN IN CONTRACT YEAR

Trotz said Orpik will take the morning skate and then the player and coach will decide together whether the rugged blue liner is healthy enough to suit up against Calgary.

Orpik missed three games last month due to an infection in his leg.

Trotz also acknowledged that he has contemplated sitting the 36-year-old as the postseason approaches. But Trotz added that he’ll allow Orpik to make the decision.   

“He takes care of himself better than anybody on our club when it comes to fitness and what he puts in his body and how he trains and how he prepares for games,” Trotz said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who matches him in that.”

Orpik’s ice time per game this season—17:47—is down almost two minutes from his average a year ago and down about four minutes from 2014-15, his first season in Washington.

If Orpik does not play against Calgary, Trotz would turn to Nate Schmidt or Taylor Chorney. Trotz had a lengthy talk with Schmidt on the ice following practice, explaining later that he was “making sure he’s not discouraged” about his recently reduced role.

“We’ve got some depth on defense,” Trotz said. “Not really in Brooks’ size and physicality and all that. So our options are a little different.”

MORE CAPITALS: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKING

Quick Links

Continuing a trend, the Caps loaded up on defensemen Saturday

Continuing a trend, the Caps loaded up on defensemen Saturday

CHICAGO—The Capitals tried to move up a couple of times on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, but those deals did not materialize.

Instead, GM Brian MacLellan and his staff used the four picks they began the day with...and continued a trend the organization has established in recent drafts: selecting defensemen.

In fact, three of the players the Caps drafted Saturday at United Center were blue liners—Switzerland’s Tobias Geisser in the fourth round, Sweden’s Sebastian Walfridsson in the fifth and Minnesota high schooler Benton Maass in the sixth. (Winger Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen was the team’s seventh round pick.) Going back to last year's draft, Maass' selection marked five straight defensemen drafted by the Caps.

“It’s not a conscious effort,” MacLellan said of using three of the team’s four picks on defenseman. “The philosophy has been to take the best player available and our amateur staff liked these guys here today.”

Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney added: “It comes down to taking the best player that was available to us, and there happened to be defensemen that we liked that were still on the board, so we took them.”

Conscious or not, the trend is tough to ignore.

Dating to the 2015 draft, the Capitals have chosen defensemen with nine of their 15 picks during that span. Among them are highly regarded prospects Lucas Johansen (first round in 2016), Jonas Siegenthaler (second round in 2015) and Connor Hobbs (fifth round in 2015). 

Mahoney acknowledged that have a surplus of blue liners in the pipeline can be a good problem to have.

“It is for sure,” he said. “Teams are always looking for defensemen. There’s no problem having extra defensemen in the farm system.”

Mahoney also said that as the game gets faster, finding and developing smart, puck-moving rearguards will become even more critical.

“You want your defensemen to be able to skate and have good sense and be able to make quick decisions because the game is so fast now,” he said. “The forwards get on the defense really quickly, so you want to make sure you get guys that can skate and move the puck well.”

None of the Caps’ draftees were in attendance. It was unclear as of Saturday afternoon if any of them will attend next week’s development camp at Arlington.

Quick Links

Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

CHICAGO—As excited as Barry Trotz was about retaining T.J. Oshie’s goal production, he was just as pleased to keep all the intangibles the 30-year-old brings to Washington's lineup. 

“For us, that was the highest priority,” Trotz said of re-signing Oshie. “Obviously, Osh means a lot to us.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps locked up the high-scoring winger to an eight-year, $46 million contract extension. 

“I think it sends a great message to not only our team [but] our fans,” Trotz said. “You see what Osh did the last two years. He’s a big part of our culture, a big part of our success.”

RELATED: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but to keep Schmidt

Oshie has put up back-to-back career highs in goals, scoring 26 in 2015-16 and 33 last season. He’s also a lead-by-example type who plays bigger than his 6-foot, 189-pounds.

“He’s a guy that brings energy,” Trotz said. “He’s a guy that consistently brings a high compete level, a high execution level and a relentless attitude. That’s Osh.”

The Caps now have four of their top-6 forwards from last season under contract, with Oshie joining Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, meantime, is expected to re-sign, while Andre Burakovsky figures to round out the top two lines. Burakovsky is also a restricted free agent.

“We knew we were going to lose some guys,” Trotz said. “We still feel we’re going to be a high-scoring team. Obviously Osh had a career year last year. We’re hoping that he can build on that and have other people step in and fill some roles.”

MORE CAPITALS: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs