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How should the Caps spend their money?


How should the Caps spend their money?

Its difficult to say how Thursdays announcement that the NHL is raising its salary cap from to 64.3 million to 70.2 million will impact Sundays start of free agency.

With the current CBA set to expire on Sept. 15 there is a very real chance that salary cap number will be renegotiated during labor talks.

But even if it its a loose figure, the additional 6 million in cap space will undoubtedly give teams the freedom to sign players they might otherwise avoid.

The Capitals, for example, will arrive at Sundays free agent frenzy with 20.8 million in cap space, assuming they let Alexander Semin walk. Thats significant coin for a team that spent all of last season at the salary ceiling.

On Wednesday, Caps GM George McPhee dropped this interesting nugget when explaining his decision to trade defenseman Dennis Wideman instead of paying him the 26.25 million the Calgary Flames gave him over five years.

To have the cap space to do the right things, we werent going to be able to sign him, McPhee said.

So that means, at least in theory, the Caps have money targeted for someone else in free agency, right?

Not necessarily, says McPhee, noting the addition of second-line center Mike Ribeiro and the progression of rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov as two significant pieces to the 2012-12 puzzle.

I think were in pretty good shape, McPhee said. We have good young goalies, the dee is complete, we added a skill guy. Well get into free agency like everybody else does, but if we dont do anything I wouldnt be disappointed. And if theres something there that makes sense at the right price, then well do it.

Well, NHL free agency is anything but The Price Is Right. Its more like The Price Is Over-Inflated But Were Willing To Pay It Because The Market Says We Must.

Truth is, Devils left wing Zach Parise, the top forward on the market, is going to command at least 8 million a season. And the Predators Ryan Suter, the top defenseman, will get similar money in a long-term deal.

Could the hiring of former Devils assistant Adam Oates help sway Parise away from front-runners Minnesota and Pittsburgh and convince him to sign with the Capitals?

Unfortunately, Im not allowed to talk about that, Oates said, because hes still employed with the team. So I better not.

Even McPhee admitted that having more than 20 million in cap space a few days before the free agent signing period is pretty tempting.

But it doesnt mean you have to use it all now, he says. You can use it during the season or at the 2013 trade deadline.

Its expensive to use it now. If you do something, its always more than the guys worth. The question is how much more and are you trying to trade him by November because he cost too much.

If the Capitals believe Parise and Suter are too expensive for their taste, how about the next level of free agents?

Goal-scoring forwards like Shane Doan, P.A. Parenteau, Dustin Penner, Ray Whitney and Lee Stempniak would be perfect complementary wingers to centers like Nicklas Backstrom and Ribeiro.

And on the back end, solid defensemen such as Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, Michal Roszival, Bryan Allen and Bryce Salvadore will be available to fill the Capitals need for a No. 4 defenseman who can bump Roman Hamrlik down to a better-suited No. 5 role.

Which way will McPhee and the Capitals go? How much of that 20 million will they spend? Do you believe they will make a run for Parise or Suter? Or should they go the less expensive route? Join the conversation below.

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NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

The schedule makers did the Capitals no favors in their return from the bye week. They returned with a road game at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Detroit, then had to play the New York Rangers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., less than 24 hours after the game against the Red Wings started.

That would have been tough at any point in the season. Having that back-to-back coming out of the bye week was a raw deal.


The record across the NHL for teams returning from the bye is 3-12-4. Many may argue this is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions from and that's probably true. Claiming every time a team loses out of the bye that it's because they have been off for a week is an easy excuse. Every team has to play the schedule it's given. Nashville had a similar challenge to Washington, playing a back-to-back out of the weekend against Minnesota and Columbus with both games on the road. The Predators, however, managed a win in the second game.

But still, the NHL needs to be smarter with how it schedules after the bye. No team should have to play a back-to-back in their first two games back, period. If that record continues to get worse, then the leauge will have to adjust to ensure teams coming out of the bye play each other. Otherwise they are giving a competitive advantage to the opponent and to any team that ends up with multiple games against teams in their first game back.

You can't blame the schedule for Washington walking away from this weekend with only one point. That's on them. But, you also can't argue that the schedule put them at a disadvantage for Sunday's game when they played a Rangers team that had been off since Thursday in New York less than 24 hours after the puck dropped in Detroit.

With two losses in their return, the Caps relinquished the top spot in this week's NHL Power Rankings. Find out how far they fell and who took their place here.

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Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

NEW YORK—Philipp Grubauer didn’t get the ‘W’ Sunday at Madison Square Garden, but his scintillating 28-save performance against the Rangers still managed to bolster the backup’s standing as the NHL’s best No. 2 netminder.

Grubauer, in fact, now leads the league in quality start percentage (.786), having posted 11 quality starts in 14 opportunities. The guy right behind him? Wild starter and Vezina Trophy favorite Devan Dubnyk, who boasts a .756 quality start percentage in 45 opportunities.

“Grubi has got a lot of the tougher starts, the back-to-backs, and he’s accepted that and he’s come out and played well,” Coach Barry Trotz said.

Indeed, Grubauer was called upon early and often in Sunday’s game as he stopped 18 of the Rangers’ 19 first period shots. It was the second game of a back-to-back set for the Caps, and it included a quick turnaround and no morning skate.

RELATED: Power Rankings: Bye week blues

Trotz acknowledged that the Caps’ post-bye week schedule factored into the goalie rotation over the weekend. The team practiced on Friday, then hit the road for back-to-back matinees in Detroit and New York. That meant no morning skate in either city. And because Holtby, who is also having a strong season, prefers to face shots during the morning skate prior to a start, the staff decided to tap him against the Red Wings since the starter against the Rangers would go two days without the benefit of a morning skate.

Which, of course, is the sort of thing that happens to backups.

“We thought [Grubauer’s] mindset would be much better to handle that than Braden, who is used to being in there all the time,” Trotz explained. “[Grubauer] was very accepting of that. He’s played fantastic for us this year.”

Grubauer said the Caps’ slow start against the Rangers actually helped him get back into the groove following six days off and the team’s challenging weekend schedule.

“It was good to get into the game, but that’s not the way we want to start,” he said. “You’ve got to find your rhythm again and it helped to get a couple of [quality] shots early.”

Trotz said the game could have been “5-0 in the first period, not 1-0” without Grubauer. And his players agreed.

“Grubi was outstanding, in the first especially,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.

Nicklas Backstrom added: “Grubi kept us in there in the first period. He kept us in the game there. We were lucky we were only down a goal. It could have been more, but he made some huge saves.”

Performances such as that one have helped Grubauer rack up some outstanding numbers. Overall, the 25-year-old German is third in both save percentage (.932) and goals against average (1.98) among goalies with at least 15 appearances. In addition, he’s got three shutouts, including two in his last six starts.

It also seems likely that Grubauer will hear his number called frequently down the stretch with five sets of back-to-backs remaining. With 14 starts already this season, he just two behind the career-high he established last year.

MORE CAPITALS: Vrana reassigned as Sanford makes most of his opportunity