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Williams to meet with MacLellan over the week, has 'no inkling' whether he will return with Caps

Williams to meet with MacLellan over the week, has 'no inkling' whether he will return with Caps

There has been a running theme for most of the Caps’ unrestricted free agents heading into this offseason: They enjoyed their time with the Caps, the Caps enjoyed having them, and no one is sure what is going to happen. The same holds true of Justin Williams.

Williams, 35, told CSN Mid-Atlantic on Saturday that he has met with Brian MacLellan and they plan to have another meeting this upcoming week.

“We had a sit down at the end of the year and we also, we have another meeting scheduled this week,” Williams said. “We'll see what's going on. I know he enjoyed having me and I enjoyed having my time here. I think there's just a lot of things that are going to happen in the next month that no one really knows so it's kind of a wait and see for a lot of people including me.”

RELATED: Justin Williams becomes U.S. citizen

The Vegas expansion draft, Washington’s restricted free agents and the NHLPA’s decision on whether to use its escalator clause to increase the league’s salary cap all will have an impact on what William’s future in Washington may be.

Given his leadership capabilities and pedigree of success, it would make sense for the Caps to try to bring him back. The team, however, will be strapped for cash once they re-sign their restricted free agents including Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Nate Schmidt. And, even if there is cap space remaining, MacLellan’s first priority will most likely be to try and re-sign T.J. Oshie who was tied with Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in goals with 33 this past season.

Williams was signed by Washington as a free agent in the summer of 2015. A top-six caliber player with three Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy and a perfect 7-0 record in Game 7s seemed the ideal candidate to help the Caps get over their playoff hump. Unfortunately, Washington’s playoff woes continued in Williams’ two seasons as they failed to get past the second round and Williams suffered the first Game 7 loss of his career. Now, he finds himself at the end of his two-year deal and with no clear idea of what his future holds.

“I have no inkling right now whether or not I'll be back,” Williams said. “[MacLellan and I] both expressed our desire to perhaps get something done. There's just a lot of intangibles, a lot of things that could happen in the next month that could change that.”

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36


Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

The Capitals have made another significant round of cuts, reassigning 16 players to AHL Hershey and releasing another.

Among the players headed to the Bears are: forwards John Albert, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Hampus Gustafsson, Tim McGauley, Garrett Mitchell, Mason Mitchell and Wayne Simpson; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis, Connor Hobbs, Tommy Hughes, Lucas Johansen, Hubert Labrie; and goalies Adam Carlson and Vitek Vanecek.

The club also released forward Stephen Collins.

The highest profile cuts were Johansen, the team's first round pick in 2016, and Hobbs. The Caps have high hopes for the young blue liners, but it’s obvious both will benefit from some seasoning in the minor leagues as they make the leap from junior to the pro ranks.

Hershey’s training opens on Monday.

After taking Sunday off, the Caps will return to practice on Monday with a roster of 36 players—and three preseason games left to sort out the position battles.  

Forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Liam O’Brien, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana and Nathan Walker are left battling for the three available jobs up front.

Meanwhile, defensemen Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Lewington, Aaron Ness, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams are competing for the two open spots on the backend.

Although some players, such as Chiasson and Walker, have already begun to separate themselves from the others, you can expect the competition to intensify over the next week. The Caps host the Devils on Wednesday, then play at the Hurricanes on Friday and at the Blues on Sunday.

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Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?


Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

Barry Trotz likes to play his cards close to the vest. With roster battles and lineup holes surrounding the team, there are plenty of questions for the Caps that need answering this preseason. If you look at how Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes ended, however, he may have given us at least one answer.

At the start of the game, Jay Beagle centered a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Wayne Simpson on his wings. By the end of the game, Nathan Walker was playing on the left with Beagle at center and Smith-Pelly on the right.

"Walker was giving us some energy, he was giving us some speed and I just made that flip," Trotz told reporters after the game. "I just thought Walks was starting to make things happen. His speed was noticeable, his will on the puck if you will was really good. I thought that'd be a good fit. I just moved him over there and I thought he had an effect on the game."

Could that have been a preview of the team's fourth line?


Walker turned in another tremendous performance showing great energy, speed and grit. Despite being 5-foot-8, he still remains a feisty player who could be found at the center of every scrum. He exchanged hits and jabs with the 6-foot-3 Klas Dahlbeck multiple times throughout the game and even drew a penalty on the Carolina defenseman as he drove the net after managing to slip away from a hit along the boards.

"He's one of those hard guys to play against because ... they're on you all the time," Trotz said. "When you can affect the opposition and take them out of their game because the way you play, then you're pretty effective."

That brings us back to the lines. The Caps have not one, but two openings on the fourth line to play alongside Beagle. The fact that Trotz put Walker and Smith-Pelly on that line, two players fighting for a spot in the lineup, could be a preview of what the fourth line may ultimately look like to start the season.

That would be just fine with Beagle.

"It's fun to play with a guy who brings that much energy," Beagle said of Walker. "He's always had that energy and he's always been a little guy who grinds it out and isn't afraid to get in there and get in the corners and wins a lot of battles. He's awesome to play with. He's a lot of fun."

At this point, given how he has played in his two preseason games, it is hard to see how Walker does not make the roster. His energy and style are a perfect fit for what the Caps need on their fourth line. He would be an excellent compliment to Beagle and that has not escaped Trotz's notice.

"I think they might enjoy playing together, but they're effective together," Trotz said. "They get on the puck, they work you over and they tire you out. I'll tell you that."

With other players such as Alex Chiasson, Riley Barber and Anthony Peluso still vying to make the team, it is still too early to tell if this is definitively what the fourth line will look like, but the trio certainly made their case.