Washington Capitals Make All the Right Moves
Article by James O’Hara
If you were watching the NHL transactions going down on the first day of free agency you might have been wondering if someone had replaced the Washington Capitals with the Washington Redskins with all the deals they were making. However unlike the Redskins these deals weren’t for flashy high-priced guys, it was for the gritty grinders that this team has sorely lacked in the playoffs the last couple of years. Now let’s take a more in-depth look into the players the Capitals have brought in, hoping that they can bring them a championship.
Jeff Halpern, C: While Halpern’s age, 35, is a bit of a sore spot in this deal, the amount of money that the Caps are paying him is actually not too bad. Halpern instantly brings in a great veteran presence to a team that is incredibly young. On the ice he is a more than serviceable fourth line center who will give you great production when short-handed, win draws, and won’t make too many mistakes. As a one-year deal this is a good pickup, if it was for any longer than questions might have arisen.
Joel Ward, F: Ward is one of those guys that may not contribute as much during the regular season, but when you get to the playoffs he gets noticed in a hurry. Last season with Nashville, while he only had 10 goals and 19 assists in the regular season, Ward had seven goals and six assists in only 12 playoff games. Ward is the grinding forward who can muck it up in front of the net that the Capitals have been missing in their last playoff runs. While the contract is a little bigger than desired, GM George McPhee admitted that he overpaid by about 16%, he should be a great contributor once the more important second season comes around.
Roman Hamrlik, D: This move is similar to one’s seen all the time in the NBA, a great player who is just a couple of years away from retirement and still without a title latches on to the hot team for one last shot at the Cup. While Hamrlik is at a more advanced age, telling reporters “I’m not getting any younger” at his introductory conference call, his game has not diminished by much as he has been a shutdown defender for the Canadiens for the past four years. He has collected no fewer than 26 points in his last 13 seasons; he finished with 34 points last season while still averaging 22 minutes of ice time, more than any other Caps defender. In addition Hamrlik brings a wealth of experience to a youthful blue line, and could be a great partner for Mike Green who has gone through his struggles as of late. As long as his age doesn’t catch up with him the Capitals will have a savvy veteran who is a consistent contributor.
Tomas Vokoun, G: Like Halpern and Hamrlik, Vokoun brings in experience to a young unit, in addition to being one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, possessing the best save percentage in the league since 2005-06 at .922. Despite being considered the top free agent netminder the Capitals were able to get him for a relatively bargain price of one year, $1.5 million. Perhaps the best thing for Caps fans is that Vokoun was the one who initiated the discussions, as McPhee explained “We were told early yesterday that Tomas Vokoun wanted to play on a top team and that he would forgo a big deal to do it.”
With a busy first two days of free agency the Capitals brought in the veteran leaders that they usually wait until the mid-way point to trade for, signaling that this team is playing for nothing less than a championship this year.