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St. Louis, Brewer score twice in Lightning win

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St. Louis, Brewer score twice in Lightning win

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Martin St. Louis and Eric Brewer each scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 6-3 in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.

St. Louis added an assist, while Vincent Lecavalier and Cory Conacher also scored goals for the Lightning.

Joel Ward scored twice and Wojtek Wolski also had a goal for the Capitals, who lost in Adam Oates' NHL coaching debut.

St. Louis' drive from above the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 advantage at 4:47 of the third. Conacher, who had an assist in first NHL game, scored his first goal to extend the lead to 5-3 with 6:36 to go. Brewer scored his second goal late in the third.

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps re-sign Tom Wilson

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps re-sign Tom Wilson

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 Tom Wilson

Not every offseason move involves bringing in someone new. Tom Wilson may have been a restricted free agent, but the Caps still had to make a choice on whether or not to bring him back. The team decided to walk away from fellow RFA Michael Latta, but offered Wilson a qualifying offer and re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $4 million.

RELATED: WHAT WILL SANFORD'S ROLE BE THIS SEASON?

In the end, the move was no surprise.

General manager Brian MacLellan made clear after the season that he wanted Wilson to become a Joel Ward type of player.

“It’s on Tom and on us to turn him into that kind of guy that has a net-front presence, that finds loose pucks, finds rebounds, plays good along the wall," MacLellan said. "I think Tom is our answer to that."

But is there room for Wilson with such a crowded roster? If he develops into the player MacLellan envisions, absolutely. The Caps have a need for players willing to fight for those dirty goals and Wilson's physicality and offensive upside makes him an ideal candidate to do just that.

Grade: A-

To truly evaluate this move, let's try to forget where Wilson was drafted. It's clear he's not going to live up to his first round selection. That, however, does not mean he does not still have value for the Caps. It's time now for that value to come from his offense rather than just from his fists.

The best part of this move is not the price, but the clear, achievable goal the team has set before Wilson.

The Caps need a net-front presence. Wilson needs to find his offensive game. Despite what other general managers may think of him, Wilson can and should be contributing more than just seven goals and 16 assists in a season. Now he has a "prove it" deal and a clear, defined goal of what the Caps want to see him develop into.

When the Caps drafted him, they were hoping for a Milan Lucic type of player. That does not look like it's going to happen, but it would still be foolish to give up on Wilson who is just 22 years old. At this point, it doesn't matter where he was drafted. If he becomes a Joel Ward, there's still value in that.

MORE CAPITALS: CAN CAPS RELY ON JOE CANNATA AS THEIR NO. 3 GOALIE?

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Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

After covering the Redskins for the past four seasons, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m returning to the hockey beat as CSN’s Capitals Insider.

In a lot of ways, this feels like a homecoming for me. 

For those of you who don’t know my backstory, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

I’m a native Washingtonian who learned to play hockey at Wheaton Ice Rink, went to games at Capitals Centre and had a Scott Stevens ‘drink your milk’ poster on my bedroom door. 

One of my first jobs in the business was contributing to The New York Times’ coverage of the Islanders, Rangers and Devils in the late 1990’s. Then, in 2005, I realized a dream of mine: I was named Capitals beat writer at The Washington Post and, over the next seven years, was fortunate enough to cover the highs and lows of the franchise I grew up cheering for. 

I was at Verizon Center for Ovechkin’s board-rattling NHL debut and witnessed “The Goal” from the press box in Glendale, Ariz. I was at Kettler Capitals Iceplex when Boudreau was hired on Thanksgiving and covered the dueling hat tricks by Ovechkin and Crosby in 2009 playoffs. I also worked the locker room after the Caps were humbled by Halak and the Habs in 2010 and after they got swept from the playoffs by Stamkos and Co. a year later.

Although I stopped writing about the Caps in 2012 and left The Post to join CSN a little while later, I never stopped following my hometown hockey team. I didn’t miss many games, but when work or my son’s crazy travel hockey schedule didn’t allow me to watch, I almost always dialed up the highlights on my laptop in the morning. 

This past April, I jumped at the opportunity to join CSN’s playoff coverage as an analyst on our post, postgame show, #CapitalsTalk. Although I hadn’t covered hockey in four years, it was like lacing up on an old, broken-in pair of skates; it just felt right. So when the chance to cover the Caps full-time was presented to me recently, I’m pretty sure I said, ‘Yes’ before my boss finished his thought.   

So, here we are. 

I’ve watched and covered a lot of Caps hockey over the years and now, after a scratching my NFL itch, I’m back for more. I’m pumped to join CSN’s deep and talented roster of analysts, reporters and producers. In my new role, I’ll lead our network’s coverage on the web and contribute to our coverage on the air. 

My first day on the job is today.

Please give me a follow on Twitter (@TarikCSN) and a like on Facebook (facebook.com/TarikCSN).

Talk to ya’ll soon.

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps sign Zach Sanford

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps sign Zach Sanford

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: Signing Zach Sanford

Every year at development camp there is always one or two players who stand out. This year, it was Zach Sanford. Not only was his physical prowess on display, (6-foot-4, 191 pounds), but his skill was as well. He looked comfortable with and without the puck and was miles ahead of most of the other prospects in terms of development.

Even so, it was a bit surprising to hear the Caps were pushing to sign him to an entry level contract. He still had two years of eligibility at Boston College and the Caps' roster is loaded. Why push for him to sign just to spend the season in the AHL?

The reason why the Caps did it most likely has something to do with Jimmy Vesey.

RELATED: CAN CAPS RELY ON JOE CANNATA AS THEIR NO. 3 GOALIE?

Vesey was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2012. By staying in college for four years without signing with Nashville, he will become a free agent on Aug. 15 and looks set to test the market. The same thing may be playing out between Washington and Thomas DiPauli, the Caps' fourth round pick from 2012 who remains unsigned. This type of thing is rare and it certainly seemed to catch Nashville off guard, but it did serve as a reminder to teams: sign your prospects before they have the chance to leave.

Sanford was drafted in 2013 out of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. The rules for players drafted out of junior leagues are similar to those drafted out of college. Full disclosure, I do not speak legalese, but based on my understanding of the collective bargaining agreement that sets the rules for signing players, by playing one year in juniors after getting drafted, Sanford could have become a free agent in August of 2017. It does not technically matter that he will have played only three years of college, all that matters is that it will have been four years after he was drafted.

So what does that mean for him this season? The Caps are set at center with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle. Plus, Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky can play if need be. Barring injury then, Sanford will spend the season in Hershey.

Brian MacLellan has hinted at trying to keep room under the salary cap open for prospects to cycle in and get some NHL experience throughout the season. Sanford will have to adjust from playing in the NCAA to the AHL, which is quite a jump, but don't be surprised if Sanford gets his first taste of the NHL later in the 2016-17 season.

Grade: Incomplete

Vesey may have changed the game when it comes to prospects. Teams need to get these guys signed when they can or risk losing them. The Caps may well lose DiPauli and they didn't want the same thing to happen to Sanford.

This gets an incomplete, however, until we see what position Sanford plays this season. He played wing and center in college. Considering his size, he could be a good power forward and someone the Caps are tempted to call up to plug into the bottom six, but I absolutely do not want to see this unless it is at center. You can never have enough centers and it would be better for the team in the long-term to commit to developing him as a center rather than rushing him as a wing.

Granted, I am not a scout. If the Caps have determined he has no NHL future as a center, then they should ignore this and develop him as a wing. That's not what I saw at development camp, however.

If Sanford spends the season in Hershey as a center, then this move is a solid A. If the Caps try to rush him into their lineup as a winger this year, however, that would be a mistake. Patience is a virtue.

MORE CAPITALS: DID CAPS MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION WITH CHIMERA AND LATTA?