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Pittsburgh Penguins await Caps in the second round after eliminating Columbus

Pittsburgh Penguins await Caps in the second round after eliminating Columbus

The Capitals still have work to do if they hope to advance to the second round, but they now know who they will face should they get there.

The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday with a 5-2 win to advance to the second round. They will play the winner of the Washington-Toronto series.

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The Pittsburgh-Columbus series was expected to be one of the most competitive of the first round. It didn't turn out that way as the Penguins needed just five games to put away the Jackets. Evgeni Malkin led the team with 11 points while Pittsburgh also got surprising goal-scoring contributions from Jake Guentzel (5 goals) and Bryan Rust (4 goals). Sidney Crosby also registered seven points in the series as the Penguins dominated Columbus goalie and likely Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky with 4.20 goals per game.

Pittsburgh will now have extra time to rest as they await the winner of the Caps' series with Toronto. That will give the Penguins a chance to heal their wounds, especially goalie Matt Murray who missed the entire first round with a lower-body injury. He has yet to resume skating. Marc-Andre Fleury started in his stead and was fantastic for Pittsburgh, registering a 2.52 GAA and .933 save percentage in five games against Columbus.

Should the Caps advance to the second round, it will be a rematch of last year's second round matchup between Washington and Pittsburgh, a series the Penguins won in six games en route to a Stanley Cup championship. In their history, the Caps have met the Penguins in the playoffs nine times winning only one series in 1994.

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Caps issue qualifying offers to RFAs, Brett Connolly not tendered

Caps issue qualifying offers to RFAs, Brett Connolly not tendered

The Capitals have extended qualifying offers to seven players, including forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, the team announced Monday.

By issuing the one-year tenders, the Caps secure the right of first refusal or draft pick compensation should a player sign an offer sheet with another team.

Bottom six-winger Brett Connolly did not receive a qualifying offer. The sides are negotiating, CSN is told, and the team still expects to re-sign him. If no deal is in place by July 1, however, the 25-year-old becomes a free agent.

RELATED: Development Camp: 5 players to watch

Connolly scored a career-high 15 goals in 66 games last season, his first in Washington, but was a healthy scratch in the second round of the playoffs.

MacLellan said last month that the Caps and Connolly’s agent have been close to an agreement “a couple of times” and that he views Connolly as “a young guy who still has some upside.”

On Saturday, MacLellan indicated that negotiations with the team’s RFAs are progressing.

“Hopefully we’ll get a few of them done in the next few weeks,” MacLellan said, speaking at the draft.

He added: “We’re working at ‘em. As we get closer to the deadlines, a little more urgency might come in and hopefully we’ll hopefully get them done.”

The deadline for player-elected salary arbitration is July 5. The deadline to accept qualifying offers in July 15.

MacLellan said in May that he’d be open to signing cornerstone youngsters Kuznetsov and Orlov to long-term extensions. Meanwhile, Burakovsky, Grubauer and Connolly are candidates to receive bridge deals as they continue to prove themselves.  

Also on Monday, Washington extended qualifying offers to forward prospects Liam O’Brien, Chandler Stephenson and Travis Boyd. All three were recalled from Hershey last season, though Boyd did not appear in a game.

Minor league defensemen Darren Dietz and Cody Corbett did not receive qualifying offers and, thus, become free agents on Saturday.

MORE CAPITALS: Four 2017 draftees among prospects attending development camp

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Development Camp players to watch: Who will emerge as the next Capitals star?

Development Camp players to watch: Who will emerge as the next Capitals star?

This year’s development camp for the Capitals will not include some of the bigger-name prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey or Christian Djoos. There is only so much the team can learn from players competing against other prospects making multiple return trips unnecessary.

The storylines for those players will play out in Caps' training camp in September and October. But, this camp still provides plenty of players for fans to keep an eye on.

Shane Gersich, F

Gersich enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at North Dakota last year with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. He was in the conversation for the Hobey Baker Award for the top college player in the nation through the first half of the season and highlighted his skills with an overtime goal off an incredible spin move. As a fifth-round pick, not much was expected of Gersich, but perhaps he showed last season that there is more untapped potential in him than once thought. Was last season an anomaly or evidence that the team may have something here?

RELATED: Four 2017 draftees among prospects attending development camp

Jonas Siegenthaler, D

The Swiss defenseman is one of the more highly touted prospects in the entire organization. He always seems to dazzle in international play, including the 2017 World Junior Championship, but his play has been spotty whenever he has comes to North America. Whether he can adjust to the North American game may be the biggest question facing his NHL potential. Siegenthaler dealt with a family issue in Washington's training camp last season which seemed to affect his play. The team will no doubt feel better about his NHL future if he can shake that off and show what he can do on this side of the pond this week.

Connor Hobbs, D

Hobbs turned a lot of heads last season with the performance he put on in the WHL. He tallied 31 goals and 85 points in 67 games as a defenseman. That’s an incredible rate of production. He can utilize both his booming slap shot and sneaky wrist shot from the blue line to score or set-up the offense. His defensive acumen needs some work, but he has clearly and quickly established himself as a high-potential player.

Lucas Johansen, D

The Caps’ first-round pick from last season, the team remains very high on Johansen and is also in serious need of some help on the blue line. Barring a miraculous performance at training camp, Johansen will likely not going make it to the NHL to start this season, but development camp should give us a glimpse of whether he has surpassed the talent of the young prospects and if he could be ready to make his NHL debut sooner rather than later.

Tobias Geisser, D

Do not underestimate the damage a lost draft can cause. Washington had only four picks in this year's draft which concluded on Saturday. The first player the team took was Geisser in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick. Just to put that in perspective, in 2012 the Caps made five selections before 120. The Caps need value to emerge somewhere from the four players they drafted and Geisser seems the most likely. He has great mobility for his size and is good on the transition which should translate well in today’s NHL. How he performs against fellow NHL hopefuls this week will show the team a lot about his potential.

CSN will be your source for the latest development camp coverage as our reporters and cameras will be on hand all week to report on the action. Be sure to check out our development camp show on CSN on July 20 as we recap all the action and give our insights into what the future may hold for the team's prospects!

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