Tom Wilson

Johansson on brink of big raise, but his role with Caps might decline

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Marcus Johansson had his arbitration hearing today and whatever ruling gets handed down by Friday afternoon, it’s likely to be a substantial boost from his 2014-15 salary of roughly $2.2 million, but will he earn his next sum?

That’s open for debate and it doesn’t have as much to do with Johansson as it does with the changing makeup of the Capitals as Chuck Gormley argued for CSN Washington:

With Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky slotted as the Caps’ first- and second-line left wings, and T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams slotted as their first- and second-line right wings, Johansson figures to start the season as a third-line left wing with centers Brooks Laich or Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.

His power-play time (2:55 per game last season, fourth on the club) could also dip because of the additions of Oshie and Williams.

And yet Johansson did record 20 goals and 47 points last season after finishing with 44 points in his previous campaign, so he could very well get somewhat close to his asking price from the arbitrator. Given that, Gormley wondered if the Capitals might end up walking away from Johansson’s contract. They would have the option of doing so provided that the arbitrator’s assigned salary is more than $3.8 million.

Keep in mind that Washington only has about $5 million worth of cap space to begin with and that’s excluding Justin Peters, who will presumably start the 2014-15 campaign in the minors, so the financial flexibility gained from a walk-away would be noteworthy.

At the same time, ending up with nothing in return for Johansson would be a tough pill to swallow. While a contract in the neighbor of $4 million isn’t ideal for someone playing on the third line, he would still have value to Washington in that role.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Johansson and the Capitals can still agree to terms on their own before the arbitrator’s ruling.

Related: Arbitration looms, but Johansson not worried about future with Caps

Caps hand Chris Brown a two-year, two-way pact

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The Washington Capitals really beefed up on Thursday.

After making the Zac Sill signing official, the team also announced that Chris Brown agreed to a two-year, two-way contract.

Perhaps they’ll need Brown on nights when Sill and/or Tom Wilson need to ice their knuckles?

Brown hasn’t really piled up penalty minutes during his sparse NHL appearances (21 PIM in 22 career NHL games spread out over four seasons, most recently with the Capitals). He wasn’t shy about dropping the gloves last season, getting into six fights in the AHL during the 2014-15 regular season and two preseason bouts at the NHL level.

The 24-year-old showed a dash of scoring ability in the AHL last season, too, with 28 points in 64 contests as a member of the Hershey Bears. Brown also played five games with the Caps in 2014-15, scoring one goal.

Caps sign tough guy Sill to one-year, two-way deal

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Washington has brought in someone to lessen Tom Wilson and Michael Latta’s fight load — Zach Sill, who announced his one-year, two-way deal to the Truro Daily News on Wednesday.

“They came with an offer and it was a good one,” Sill said. “I think there’s a good chance I’ll be able to play there. They have a good strong team and it looks like a good situation to go into.”

The 27-year-old split last season between Pittsburgh and Toronto, finishing with four points in 63 games… and nine fights. Sill’s willingness to drop the gloves should make Washington an even feistier team next year; the Caps were tied for the eighth-most fighting majors (31) last year, thanks in large part to Wilson (who fought 12 times — once against Sill!) and Latta (who fought eight).

No word yet on the financial details of Sill’s deal.

Capitals trot out new third jerseys

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Alex Ovechkin wasn’t just on hand to do some interviews at the 2015 NHL Awards on Tuesday. He also served as a model for the Washington Capitals’ new third jerseys.

Here’s the write-up from Caps PR describing the alternate sweaters, in case “rock the red” doesn’t get the point across:

The primary color for the uniform is red and closely resembles the team’s jersey worn from 1974-75 through 1994-95. The original Capitals wordmark is featured on the front of the jersey with six stars above it and five stars beneath the numbers on each sleeve. The Capitals will wear blue pants and red helmets with their third jerseys. The new third jersey will replace the white third jersey the Capitals wore from 2011-12 to 2014-15.

The new duds certainly won Tom Wilson’s approval:

It sounds like the Capitals haven’t been shy about trying out new looks since Ovechkin came to town:

What do you think, is the red an improvement or should they instead stick with white?

For a full gallery, click here.

Get to know a draft pick — Lawson Crouse

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Lawson Crouse (LW)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 215 Shoots: Left

Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

One of the biggest in this year’s draft. A hulking, physical presence, Crouse’s strength is his size yet he showed good offensive skills this season, leading OHL Kingston in goals (29) and points (51) despite playing just 56 games.

Still, the jury’s out on what kind of player Crouse projects to be at the NHL level. Optimists think he’ll be a power forward along the lines of Milan Lucic; pessimists suggest he’ll be more like Tom Wilson — not necessarily a bad thing, but a bit underwhelming (offensively speaking) for a potential top-10 pick.

The wildcard with Crouse are his intangibles: work ethic, grit, dedication and leadership. The stuff that flies in the face of analytics and fancy stats, but endeared him to his GM in Kingston — former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour.

“He’s a great kid in the dressing room, he’s going to be a great leader,” Gilmour said recently, per Sportsnet. “He’s a big body. He can skate, he’s got a pro shot — his release is phenomenal.

“He’s going to compete.”

Seidel says:

“Crouse is a man-child that skates exceptionally well and is comfortable in all three zones. Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff,’ he plays a heavy game, loves to finish checks and make opponents pay the price on every shift. His offensive game still has to evolve as he isn’t a naturally gifted scorer or set-up man, but does possess a pro-caliber shot that will serve him well in the NHL. He’s also a guy that will go into high-traffic areas. A surprise selection to Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Juniors, Crouse is the type of player coaches love to have in their arsenals.”

NHL comparable: Andrew Ladd/Scott Hartnell

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.