Brett Connolly

Fight Video: Gudbranson punch knocks Wilson’s lid off

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson always seems to be at the center of a scrap and Thursday night’s game against Vancouver was no exception.

Things didn’t go according to plan against the Canucks, as the Caps lost the game 6-2. To make matters even worse, Vancouver defenseman Erik Gudbranson knocked Brett Connolly out of the game. Naturally, Wilson made him answer for that.

With Washington trailing 5-1 in the third period, Wilson put a solid hit on Gudbranson before challenging him to a fight. The Canucks defender kept turning him down until he had no choice but to drop the gloves.

You can watch the fight by clicking the video at the top of the page.

During the fight, Gudbranson actually held up pretty well. Two solid right-handers sent the Capitals forward’s helmet flying off.

I’m giving Gudbranson the win in this one.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Depth-challenged Capitals lose Andre Burakovsky for 6-8 weeks

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For the last couple years, the Washington Capitals haven’t just enjoyed one of the richest rosters in the NHL. They’ve also enjoyed the sort of startling health luck that inspired management to discuss such an advantages in hushed tones.

As they try to sweat out a summer hangover of tough losses, the worry is that some of that luck is running out, and possibly when the Capitals are most vulnerable against top-end losses.

This already seemed like a troubling week, what with a three-game road trip looming in Western Canada and Alex Ovechkin limping off the ice in practice. Tuesday brought a grim announcement: Andre Burakovsky is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery on a fractured left thumb.

It was already a rough start to the season for the 22-year-old. Aside from a nice one-goal, one-assist performance against the Red Wings on Oct. 20, Burakovsky had been on a serious slump. He went without a point in five of six games, with that Oct. 20 game representing his production during that span. Overall, Burakovsky generated one goal and three assists for four points in nine games this season.

Such struggles inspired some consternation and/or mild sarcasm.

Even a struggling Burakovsky is better than an absent Burakovsky, especially if Ovechkin needs to miss a little time or is slowed by an issue.

The Capitals are already leaning heavily on defensemen like John Carlson with Matt Niskanen suffering an upper-body injury, so this only makes Washington more reliant on top guys. (Granted, you could also do worse than a projected third line of Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana, and Brett Connolly.)

It says a lot about Washington’s previous depth that Burakovsky was only averaging 13:16 TOI per night last season. He was already up to 15:45 per contest this season, and one can only speculate that they may have begun to climb as Burakovsky gained more trust from Barry Trotz.

Now the Capitals must adjust to Burakovsky’s absence, and the young player loses opportunities to work through struggles and rise in his coach’s eyes.

Things look dicey in the short-term for Washington. After winning their first two games partially on the strength of a ridiculous start by Ovechkin, the Capitals are 2-4-1 in their last seven contests. There might be some frustration forming, as they’ve generated a shots edge in three straight games but only have an overtime point to show for those efforts.

The Capitals seem aware that they’re in for a tougher regular-season haul after consecutive Presidents’ Trophy wins, and it looks like there are already some steep hills to climb in the early going.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Looking to make the leap: Nathan Walker

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This post is part of Capitals Day on PHT…

Should Nathan Walker jump to the NHL this season, it’ll be a significant one.

Washington’s third-round pick at the 2014 draft, Walker would be in line for his big league debut if he makes the team out of training camp — but that’s not the only milestone at hand.

Should the speedy forward get the call, he’ll also become the first-ever Australian to play in the NHL. Heady stuff for a 23-year-old who, just six years ago, was playing for the Sydney Ice Dogs.

Walker’s rise has been a grind. He logged time in the Czech League, the USHL and the ECHL before emerging as a valuable contributor for Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey. Last year, he racked up 11 goals and 23 points in 58 games for the Bears — and another six in 12 playoff games — while emerging as a high-energy guy that liked to finish his checks.

More to the point, Walker’s a pest.

Despite standing just 5-foot-8 and weight 186 pounds, the Aussie a real edge to his game. It was certainly on display last preseason when, in a game against Montreal, Walker fought Andrew Shaw after Shaw tattooed Connor Hobbs into the boards. Walker would go on to scrap three more times for Hershey last year, one of the club’s more active pugilists.

That style of play will work to Walker’s advantage, as Washington’s thinned-out forward group has spots up for grabs — especially in the bottom six. Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Daniel Winnik are all gone, which means potential promotions for the likes of Tom Wilson, Brett Connolly and others. Wilson and Winnik were wingers on last year’s fourth line — centered by Jay Beagle — and Walker looks to have the inside track on a replacement spot.

That said, there will be competition. Devante Smith-Pelly was signed in free agency. Riley Barber, who played alongside Walker in Hershey and made his NHL debut last year, is in the mix. Farmhands Chandler Stephenson and Liam O’Brien will battle as well.

But the Caps like Walker, enough to have signed him to a two-year extension this summer. In announcing the deal, GM Brian MacLellan suggested Walker could very well make history this season.

“Walker has a good chance of playing,” MacLellan said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “These guys can all come up, and there’s just going to be more opportunity for them to play this year.”

PHT’s 2017 free agent frenzy tracker

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Welcome to Thunderdome!

Come embrace the madness with us. Throughout the weekend, we’ll be keeping tabs on all the UFA signings across the NHL, so check back regularly for all the biggest signings, trades and other acquisitions.

July 2

Patrick Marleau signs in Toronto: three years, $18.75 million (link)

— Steve Oleksy signs in Anaheim: two years (link)

Evgeny Kuznetsov re-signs in Washington: eight years, $62.4 million (link)

July 1

Justin Schultz re-signs with Pittsburgh: three years, $16.5 million (link)

— Tom Sestito, Frank Corrado, Casey DeSmith, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi, Zach Trotman, and Greg McKegg also signed with Pittsburgh.

Joe Thornton re-signs in San Jose: one year (link)

Chris Kunitz signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $2 million (link)

Darcy Kuemper signs with Los Angeles: one year, $650K (link)

Radim Vrbata signs in Florida: one year, $2.5 million (link)

Kevin Shattenkirk signs with New York Rangers: four years, $26.6 million (link)

— Brian Strait signed a one-year, two-way deal with New Jersey. Brian Gibbons and Bracken Kearns also signed two-way contracts.

— Zac Rinaldo signs a one-year, two-way deal with Arizona. Also signing with Coyotes: Andrew Campbell, Joel Hanley, and Michael Sislo.

— Ryan Stanton signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.4 million

— Mike McKenna signs in Dallas: one year, $650,000

— Paul Carey signs with New York Rangers: one year, $650,000

— Buddy Robinson signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Dominic Moore signs in Toronto: one year, $1 million

Patrik Nemeth re-signs in Dallas: one year, $945,000

Kyle Quincey signs in Minnesota: one year, $1.25 million

Nick Cousins re-signs in Arizona: two years, $2 million

— Cal Petersen signs in Los Angeles: two year, $1.85 million (link)

— Kyle Rau signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Tyler Randell signs in Ottawa: one year, $700,000

— Niklas Svedberg signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Kenny Agostino signs in Boston: one year, $875,000

— Anthony Peluso signs in Washington: one year, $650,000

— Ty Rattie signs in Edmonton: one year, $700,000

— Anders Lindback signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Matt O’Connor signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Dennis Robertson re-signs in Carolina: one year, $650,000

Luke Witkowski signs in Detroit: one year, $750,000

Jean-Francois Berube signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million

— Jordan Osterle signs in Chicago: two years, $1.3 million

— Derek Grant signs in Anaheim: one year, $650,000

— Michael Sgarbossa signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Anton Rodin re-signs in Vancouver: one year, $700,000

Cam Fowler re-signs in Anaheim: eight years, $52 million (link)

Jeremy Smith signs in Carolina: one year, $750,000

Scott Hartnell signs in Nashville: one year, $1 million (link)

— Seth Griffith signs in Buffalo: one year, $650,000

— Evgeny Dadonov signs in Florida: three years, $12 million (link)

— Dan Girardi signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $6 million (link)

— Cal O’Reilly signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

— Landon Ferraro signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

Ron Hainsey signs in Toronto: two years, $6 million (link)

Ryan Miller signs in Anaheim: two years, $4 million (link)

Christian Folin signs in Los Angeles: one year, $850,000

— Patrick Wiercioch signs in Vancouver: one year, $650,000

Mike Cammalleri signs in Los Angeles: one year, $1 million (link)

Adam Clendening signs in Arizona: one year, $775,000

Ryan Murphy signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

Chris Thorburn signs in St. Louis: two years, $1.8 million

Oskar Sundqvist re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $675,000

— Beau Bennett signs in St. Louis: one year, $650,000

— Antti Niemi signs in Pittsburgh: one year, $700,000

Paul Postma signs in Boston: one year, $725,000

Josh Jooris signs in Carolina: one year, $775,000

Martin Jones re-signs in San Jose: six years, $34.5 million (link)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic re-signs in San Jose: eight years, $56 million (link)

Justin Williams signs in Carolina: two years, $9 million (link)

Martin Hanzal signs in Dallas: three years, $14.25 million (link)

Tyler Pitlick signs in Dallas: three years, $3 million

Jonathan Bernier signs in Colorado: one year, $2.75 million (link)

Chad Johnson signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.25 million (link)

— Brian Elliott signs in Philly: two years, $5.5 million (link)

Steve Mason signs in Winnipeg: two years, $8.2 million (link)

— Alexander Burmistrov signs in Vancouver: one year, $900,000 (link)

Anders Nilsson signs in Vancouver: two years, $5 million (link)

Michael Del Zotto signs in Vancouver: two years, $6 million (link)

Sam Gagner signs in Vancouver: three years, $9.45 million (link)

Dmitry Kulikov signs in Winnipeg: three years, $13 million (link)

Trevor Daley signs in Detroit: three years, $9.5 million (link)

Patrick Sharp signs in Chicago: one year, $1 million (link)

Matt Hunwick signs in Pittsburgh: three years, $6.75 million (link)

Nick Bonino signs in Nashville: four years, $16.1 million (link)

Benoit Pouliot signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.15 million

Brian Boyle signs in New Jersey: two years, $5.1 million (link)

Alex Petrovic re-signs in Florida: one year, $1.8 million (link)

Nate Thompson signs in Ottawa: two year, $3.3 million (link)

Ondrej Pavelec signs with New York Rangers: one year, $1.3 million (link)

— Garrett Wilson re-signs in Pittsburgh: two years, $1.3 million

— Garret Sparks re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.35 million (link)

Curtis McElhinney re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.7 million (link)

Karl Alzner signs in Montreal: five years, $23.125 million (link)

Previous deals of note

Michael Stone re-signs in Calgary: three years, $10.5 million (link)

Dmitry Orlov re-signs in Washington: six years, $30.6 million (link)

Jordan Weal re-signs in Philly: two years, $3.5 million (link)

Kris Versteeg re-signs in Calgary: one year, $1.75 million (link)

Keith Kinkaid re-signs in New Jersey: two years, $2.5 million (link)

Magnus Paajarvi re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $800,000 (link)

Chandler Stephenson re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Dylan McIlrath re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Brian Lashoff re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brock McGinn re-signs in Carolina: two years, $1.775 million (link)

Sven Andrighetto re-signs in Colorado: two years, $2.8 million (link)

— Cory Conacher re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brendan Smith re-signs with New York Rangers: four years, $17.4 million (link)

Mike Condon re-signs in Ottawa: three years, $7.2 million (link)

— Jacob De La Rose re-signs in Montreal: one year, $725,000 (link)

— Pheonix Copley re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Noel Acciari re-signs in Boston: two year, $1.45 million (link)

Jordan Schroeder re-signs in Columbus: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Eric Gryba re-signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.8 million (link)

— Max McCormick re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brett Connolly re-signs in Washington: two years, $3 million (link)

Tomas Jurco re-signs in Chicago: one year, $850,000 (link)

Anton Forsberg re-signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million (link)

Tom Pyatt re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $2.2 million (link)

Zack Kassian re-signs in Edmonton: three years, $5.85 million (link)

Esa Lindell re-signs in Dallas: two years, $4.4 million (link)

Yanni Gourde re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $2 million (link)

Andrej Sustr re-signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $1.95 million (link)

Derek Ryan re-signs in Carolina: one year, $1.425 million (link)

Korbinian Holzer re-signs in Anaheim: two years, $1.8 million (link)

Andy Andreoff re-signs in L.A.: two years, $1.355 million (link)

Moving on: Williams leaving Capitals, Penguins lose Daley

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It sounds like “Mr. Game 7” will no longer be a Washington Capitals forward.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Justin Williams narrowed down his list of teams down to three or four, and the Capitals aren’t one of them.

The 35-year-old has been a bargain basically during his entire career, settling for a $3.25 million salary even after cementing his clutch credentials (not to mention being very effective even in your mundane, everyday regular-season game).

One wonders if the Capitals essentially chose Brett Connolly and especially T.J. Oshie over Williams. Maybe a 35+ contract was also too much for the team to consider.

Dreger believes that the Dallas Stars are on that short list.

It’s not the only interesting bit of expected-departure news, even beyond this full post on Steve Mason likely leaving the Philadelphia Flyers.

Trevor Daley is expected to leave the Pittsburgh Penguins after helping them win back-to-back titles, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey.

Daley might have his list narrowed down to two or three teams, and Mackey notes that he followed the Boston Bruins on Instagram. The Detroit Red Wings have been mentioned as a team interested in a veteran blueliner such as Daley, something that was even noted on their team website.

***

Free agency kicks into gear on Saturday, July 1. Still, it sounds like we might get at least a loose idea of who might go where – or at least who might go somewhere new – before that day hits. It should be fun.