BLUES ON BLUELINE?
The Capitals face a big void on defense if pending UFA Carlson signs elsewhere
NOT TO TWIST THE knife for Capitals fans, but Washington is basically like Pittsburgh without the Cups right now. Years of going for it has deprived the Caps of high picks, and now the cupboard is pretty bare. In 2017, Washington made just four selections, and the first came with the 120th pick (Tobias Geisser). Luckily, late-rounder Benton Maass had an incredible freshman season at New Hampshire to make the crop look rosier. IMMEDIATE NEEDS: Some minor pre-deadline deals helped shore up Washington’s blueline, but it is still an area of concern. That situation will get worse should John Carlson leave this summer, and the numbers make that likely. Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos were given big assignments this year, and they’ll have to step up even more. LONG-TERM NEEDS: The Caps had a goaltending controversy brewing, predicated by Braden Holtby’s slump before the playoffs. Philipp Grubauer got the start in Game 1 against Columbus, an unheard of concept in the past. With star prospect Ilya Samsonov free to leave the KHL for North America, Washington GM Brian MacLellan has a decision to make once Samsonov is ready for his big chance. CAP SITUATION: Washington is up tight against the cap, with at most $15 million, assuming the ceiling goes up as much as expected this summer. Carlson is the big UFA, and depending on his needs, the Caps might have to walk away from their No. 1 defenseman. Power forward Tom Wilson, not to mention Bowey and Grubauer, are all RFAs, and they will eat into that Carlson pie.
IN THE SYSTEM 2018-19:
There’s no lock for a riser right now, but defenseman Lucas Johansen is probably the best bet if someone makes the jump from AHL Hershey. Johansen is a slick-skating blueliner, and while he can’t replace Carlson, he can at least move the puck. DID YOU KNOW: Maass wasn’t even the most prominent defenseman on his high school team last year (that was Tampa Bay pick Nick Perbix), but the Elk River Elks (Minn.) product made a big splash at New Hampshire, finishing second in blueline scoring.