BLUES ON BLUELINE?

The Cap­i­tals face a big void on de­fense if pend­ing UFA Carl­son signs else­where

The Hockey News - - NHL - – RK

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.

JOHN CARL­SON

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