George McPhee entered the 2011 Offseason with one objective in mind: add players who can help the Washington Capitals vanquish their Playoff demons in 2012.
It appears he’s done just that, by inking Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern to contracts on July 1st.
In addition to acquiring 2010 Stanley Cup winner Troy Brouwer at the 2011 NHL Draft, McPhee brought in three skaters who have proven to be valuable contributors during the Postseason, which is exactly what the Capitals need.
In particular, Joel Ward is a guy whose stock has skyrocketed since the 2011 Playoffs, as the North York, Ontario native tallied seven goals and six assists in just 12 games for the Nashville Predators during the Postseason. While it’s Ward’s offensive numbers during the Playoffs that helped him gain notoriety, he’s just as capable in his own end, which is why he’s such a welcome addition to the Capitals’ lineup.
Though Ward is a player who the Capitals hadn’t had many chances to face in the past, Roman Hamrlik is a familiar foe for Washington. During the 2010 Playoffs, Hamrlik helped the Montreal Canadiens shut down Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals’ vaunted offense en route to a seven-game upset in the Quarterfinals.
While Hamrlik has never won a Cup, he’s a three-time NHL All-Star who was a vital piece in the Czech Republic’s surprising run to the top of the Olympic Podium in 1998 at the Nagano Games. Hamrlik is a shut-down defenseman who can also provide an offensive spark from the back end, so he’s the type of rearguard who is capable of playing any role for a Washington defense corps that found themselves depleted during the 2011 Playoffs.
In Halpern, the Capitals have reacquired a native son. Halpern is the first player from the Washington, D.C. area to become an NHL regular, but that’s not why McPhee brought him back into the fold.
Halpern is a solid two-way center who is capable of putting up 35-40 points in a season, and more importantly, he’s a good face-off man, which a priority once Boyd Gordon signed with Phoenix earlier on July 1st.
He was a fan favorite while in Washington for obvious reasons, so it’s nice to see the Capitals bring back a player who so desperately wanted to be part of a contending team, especially one based in his hometown.
Each player brings different attributes to the table, and all were characteristics that seemed to be missing from the team during their last two Postseason appearances. Halpern is a gritty, yet reasonably skilled, third-line center who gives Washington another option up the middle behind Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Hamrlik is the type of experienced stay-at-home defenseman that the Caps needed, and thought they’d obtained when they dealt for Scott Hannan during the 2010-11 Season. And finally, Ward, is the kind of two-way presence who can elevate his game when it matters most, which is what the Capitals need most desperately.
Did McPhee overpay for Ward and possibly Hamrlik? Probably, but that doesn’t matter. If these roster moves push the Capitals over the edge in 2012 or 2013, all anyone will remember is that Washington brought home the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. These moves might make that dream a reality.