The Washington Capitals made some final cuts today and informed three players who were on the bubble that they would be going to Boston for the season opener on Thursday night (7pm on VERSUS). For forwards Quintin Laing and Chris Bourque plus defenseman Tyler Sloan the news was good but for defenseman Karl Alzner and forwards Brandon Sugden, Alexandre Giroux, and Keith Aucoin it was back to the minor leagues (unless someone claims Aucoin or Giroux to play at the NHL level).
On Alzner, the process was a tough one and as I alluded to yesterday, money likely played a factor in the decision on him in a salary cap league (Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned that today and #27 has a $1.675M cap hit versus some lower numbers for guys like Jeff Schultz ($715K) and Sloan ($640K)). The fact that he could be sent down without having to clear waivers was another factor. The Caps have to protect all of their assets.
The only real decision left is Michael Nylander who did not play in a single pre-season game but is still on the roster. It appears this could end up being a non-decision because #92 has a no movement clause making a trade extremely difficult (especially with his $4.875M salary cap hit), can’t be bought out at this point in the season, and is unlikely to retire given that he is due $8.5M over the next two years. The only other option is to loan him to another team (he can’t sign elsewhere due to his existing NHL contract) but that would involve Nylander waiving his no movement clause and the Caps would still pay his salary BUT that would not count against Washington’s salary cap. So it looks like Nylander will be scratched on a routine basis unless the injury bug hits hard or he agrees to go to a team in Europe.
Barring any injury in practice the next few days, here are your projected forward lines for the Bruins game (I have a high degree of confidence in the first 2 line combinations but I am speculating on the last two line combinations):
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich – Brendan Morrison – Alexander Semin
Chris Bourque – Dave Steckel – Chris Clark
Quintin Laing – Boyd Gordon – Matt Bradley
On defense, the Caps have eight players and only six will dress on Thursday:
Mike Green, Tom Poti, Brian Pothier, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, Milan Jurcina, John Erskine, and Tyler Sloan
In goal it will be Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov, who will likely be splitting duties on a game to game basis for the first portion of the season.
Notes: Defenseman Staffan Kronwall, who was claimed off of waivers from Toronto by the Caps last February and played a big role in Hershey’s Calder Cup run, appears to have made the Calgary Flames regular season opening night roster. I listened to Hockey Night in Canada Radio today with host Jeff Marek on Sirius 122 and analyst P.J. Stock was talking about the Eastern Conference and he said the top 4 teams are clear cut in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington. I will have my Eastern Conference regular season predictions up on Tuesday or Wednesday evening but just to let you know, I have the same top 4 but it will be in this order Boston (easiest schedule – they are in a weak division), Washington, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: At 740am on Tuesday I will be on WNST on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester to talk about the Caps and the opening of the NHL season.