It has been a quiet off-season for general manager George McPhee of the Washington Capitals. The manager has not made a big splash in free agency with signing a name as big as Vincent Lecavalier, but McPhee has done a solid job in other areas that is not getting the credit it deserves. The Capitals have lost some solid players during the free agency period, like Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks. Ribeiro was a sharp player, producing 49 points in the 48 regular season games he played in. Hendricks was the tough guy, player to watch during the shootouts and a fan favorite, but Hendricks is a replaceable player. Some felt that Ribeiro was not as replaceable as Hendricks was, but the Capitals did not want to give the long-term deal to the second line center as he requested. So McPhee let Ribeiro walk and addressed to the media that currently he plans on using Brooks Laich as the teams second line center. A move that is getting good praise, but some negative as well. So McPhee has so far been slightly scrutinized for the lack of signing a player with a big name of some sort, or at least someone that fits the second line center role. While he has been criticized for those moves, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for what he has done to keep some of the core players together on this team.
The Capitals have key players on the team that are restricted free agents this offseason. One was Karl Alzner and the other is Marcus Johannson. The Capitals announced on July 10th that Alzner got a new deal for four years worth $11.2 million dollars. This was a great move for McPhee and the Capitals moving forward because Karl Alzner is one the young, bright, and future stars of the Washington Capitals. Alzner, who is 24 years old, has been one of the team’s best defensemen for years now. He typically goes against the opposing teams top players game in and game out. Pairing him with another stud defensemen, John Carlson who is 23 years old, makes for a great defensive duo in Washington for quite some time. It was important for Washington to make this move to sure up the defense and to make sure no one else pursued Alzner. Now that he is re-signed, the next priority is to re-sign forward Marcus Johansson. McPhee made it known before the start of free agency that he would match any offer for the team’s top restricted free agents. Johansson is the last of them and now that Alzner is taken care of, Johansson is the team’s next priority. Johansson, known by the fans as MoJo, is the teams first line winger that plays alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. MoJo is a very young player at 22 years of age, but with the young age he has a lot of experience in his short career, playing in 183 regular season games. MoJo still has a lot of potential in his career, so for George McPhee, it is time to sign him to a new deal. He is still a young player with plenty of room to grow, a first liner and there is plenty of cap space to make this a reasonable move. MoJo is likely to get a deal averaging near $3 million a year. It is well deserved for MoJo to get an extension, but it also leaves a little bit of extra cap space left in case the Washington Capitals desire to make another move. So with the off-season it has been for the Capitals thus far, patience is key with the team making moves. McPhee is doing a great job right now in retaining key young players to the team. Just because he has said before he plans on using Laich at second line center does not mean things cannot change. Especially after re-signing MoJo, there could be some extra cap space left for McPhee to add another piece, possibly a second line center. So the most important thing going forward with the Capitals in the off-season is patience. McPhee has done a solid job so far, better than what he gets credit for, but just because he has not made a move yet, does not rule out the potential of someone else being brought in.