George McPhee has sent a message to the NHL and to Caps fans – the time to win is now.
It’s been an exciting offseason for the Capitals. After another playoff disappointment, a lot of fans were looking for the team to make major changes. Most were hoping the changes would start with head coach Bruce Boudreau. I was not of those fans. I’m glad to see coach Boudreau get another year. But I also know this is his last shot to take this team deep into the playoffs.
General Manager George McPhee went out this offseason and used free agency to help get Boudreau and the Caps get over the hump. McPhee’s nickname is the Undertaker but after this offseason should it be changed it to Yoda? The guy pulled off the biggest Jedi mind trick in history.
It was pretty obvious that goalie Semyon Varlamov was not going to be re-signing with the Capitals. His agent was making it clear that Varly would rather play in the KHL then backup Michael Neuvirth. So McPhee got on the phone and somehow convinced the Colorado Avalanche to give the Capitals a first and second round draft pick in 2012. If the Avalanche fail to make the playoffs that first pick has potential to be a lottery pick. The Caps received these picks for an unproven goalie that hasn’t played a full season in his short, injury-riddled career. As details of the trade made their way around the hockey community, Twitter exploded with comments on how McPhee had hoodwinked the Avalanche into a terrible trade.
The beauty about the Varlamov trade is that it took away the market for Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun to the Capitals had been rumored for nearly two years and when he finally became a free agent, the Capitals were there to sign him. Trading Varly to the Avalanche eliminated all other teams in need of a goaltender. The Capitals were then able to sign Vokoun to a meager one year deal worth only 1.5 millions dollars. Vokoun is an obvious and instant upgrade at goalie and gives the Capitals one of a top five NHL goaltenders.
The additions of defenseman Roman Hamrlik and right winger Troy Brouwer bring Stanley Cup experience to the team. But the Capitals didn’t need to completely overhaul their line-up. They’re still the winningest team in the regular season over the last 3 years. They resigned center Brooks Laich to a six year deal. The offensive core of winger Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and Laich will be around for a while. Consistency is key if you want to be a cup contender for years to come. The team also signed former captain center Jeff Halpern to a one year deal. Long time Caps fans loved that signing but nearly as much as the team bringing back former goalie Olaf Kolzig as an associate goalie coach.
This offseason the Caps kept their core roster intact while adding Stanley Cup experienced players and upgrading the goalie position. George McPhee improved what was already one of the best teams in the NHL. Will it translate into a Stanley Cup Championship? I hope so.
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