By Bill Sands
The NHL Draft kicks off this Friday June 22 and as always, it looks like it’s going to be busy weekend for league executives. In addition to selecting amateur players, the draft is usually punctuated with free-agent signings and trades. The Ottawa Senators got things started early, as troubled winger Mike Hoffman has been traded twice on Tuesday morning alone.
The Caps expect to be major players this week as well, as they have several needs to fill and possess several valuable assets they can use to get what they need. Here’s a list, in order, of everything the Caps need to do to set themselves up for success.
- Get a Head Coach: Teams are molded to fit the style of the coach, and Barry Trotz’s departure means that the Caps need to find out who’s going to be running things from behind the bench. We’ve already discussed how Todd Reirden seems to be the man for the job, and the Caps need to formalize his hiring before doing anything else.
- Trade Philipp Grubauer’s Rights: The Caps are going to be in a salary cap crunch this summer, and the first thing they can do to clear up space is trade goaltender Philipp Grubauer’s rights. Grubauer had an excellent season and is ready for a starting job, and the Caps need inexpensive prospects and draft picks. The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders seem to be the most interested suitors, and both teams hold high first-round picks. Whatever the Caps get for Grubauer, they need to pull the trigger soon so they can use the draft pick this weekend.
- Draft a Forward with Offensive Upside: The good news is that the Caps seem well-stocked for the future. Prospect Ilya Samsonov is ready to make the jump to North America and looks like the goalie of the future in Washington. The Caps also have several strong defensemen in the pipeline, meaning high-end offense is the only thing in short supply. If the Caps can trade up in the draft, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to snag a talented goal-scorer or play-maker.
- Figure out What to Do with John Carlson: The decision about John Carlson is probably complex enough to warrant its own post, but for brevity’s sake, the Caps need to figure out what to do with their free-agent-to-be. Whether it’s resigning him or letting him walk in free agency, the decision on Carlson will determine all other moves the Caps make this summer.
The draft is always a busy time and this coming week will give us a good indication of what the Caps are planning for the future and where their priorities lie.