By Tyler Leli @jetleli on April 7, 2014
There are now four games remaining in the 2013-14 NHL regular season, and it seems a sure bet that the Washington Capitals won't make the playoffs. One of the main reasons for this is frightening inconsistency on the defensive end of the ice and in net. Keeping this in mind, I have identified five free agents the Capitals should target this offseason with their .2 million in salary cap space.
During the current season, the Capitals have struggled defensively to the tune of the 24th spot in goals per game against and 17th in penalty kill percentage. Heading into 2014-15 they will bring back Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner as definite top four options, but they need a real enforcer. Enter in Willie Mitchell, who is a physical behemoth, brings great leadership and likely could be had for close to million next year.
The Capitals have one of the best power play units in the NHL, but inconsistency has led them to rank 17th in goals per game. A main issue is that the team has no truly dynamic players besides Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but Jussi Jokinen could help change this. Jokinen would fit in on the top line alongside Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom because of his offensive skill and shootout prowess. He could be had for million a year.
The Capitals' defensive troubles have already been documented, and Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik is another option to shore things up. Orpik is the classic shutdown defender, as he is 6-foot-2, 219-pounds, isn't afraid to block shots, relishes the opportunity to punish opposing forwards and is used to playing more than 20 minutes per game. Put him next to Mike Green or John Carlson and the Capitals suddenly have a great defensive top four.
Jaromir Jagr would help solve the Capitals' dearth of wingers and would also help improve their already great power play unit. At 42 years old Jagr won't be available for anything more than a year and isn't what he used to be, but he still has great strength on the puck, has an innate ability for making the timely pass and can notch 25 goals a year. On top of on-ice prowess, Jagr would also be great in the locker room and be a bargain signing.
The Capitals don't want to give up on either Philipp Grubauer or Braden Holtby in net, but how consistent either will be over a whole season can't be said. Additionally, it doesn't seem that Washington specifically wants to re-sign Jaroslav Halak, and bringing in a steady presence in net is needed. Slot in Tim Thomas, who will enter the 2014-15 season at 40 but is still an above average shot stopper. He would be a great backup goalie.
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