The NHL’s free agency period is set to begin this Friday, July 1, and already the Capitals have taken large strides to improving their team next season.
The moment the dust settled on the 2010-11 campaign, the Capitals went to work. The team added Swedish-born forward Mattias Sjogren
, a 6’2”, 214-pound center that spent the 2010-11 season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League, recording a career-high 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) and 44 penalty minutes in 51 games. Sjogren helped lead Farjestad to a SEL championship, registering nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 13 postseason games and won a silver medal for Sweden at the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia.
In mid-June the team announced former Capital Olie Kolzig was returning to the team as the associate goaltender coach. A former Caps first-round draft pick (19th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Kolzig helped guide Washington to its only Stanley Cup Final in 1998. Kolzig played in 711 games as a Capital from 1989-90 through 2007-08 and owns nearly every Capitals goaltending record. He and Dave Prior, who returns to his post as director of goaltending and NHL goaltender coach, will work with goalies in the organization.
The Caps took an active approach at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota June 24-25.
On day one, Washington traded their first-round pick (26th overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks for winger Troy Brouwer
. Brouwer, 25, recorded 17 goals and a career-high 19 assists for 36 points in 79 regular-season games in 2010-11. He led the Blackhawks and ranked fifth in the NHL with 262 hits. During the 2009-10 campaign, Brouwer registered a career-high 22 goals and 40 points in 69 games with the Blackhawks and helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
The Caps made four selections on the second day of the draft, selecting goaltender Steffen Soberg
, defenseman Patrick Koudys
, center Travis Boyd
and defenseman Garrett Haar
Perhaps the biggest news so far this offseason was the re-signing of fan-favorite Brooks Laich
. The center finished fourth on the Capitals in points (48), fifth in goals (16) and third in assists (32) while posting a plus-14 plus/minus rating and collecting 46 penalty minutes. For the third time in his career, he played in all 82 of Washington’s regular-season games and finished second on the Caps with 207 shots on goal.
In addition, Laich closed out the 2010-11 campaign fifth on the team in hits (113) and won 51.3 percent of his faceoffs. He scored his 100th career NHL goal on Mar. 15 at Montreal and finished second on the team in points during the playoffs (7) while leading the Caps with six postseason assists in nine games. Laich also finished first amongst Capitals forwards in average shorthanded ice time per game (2:18) and was instrumental in leading the Caps penalty kill unit that ranked second in the NHL during the regular season.
The Capitals will continue to use the offseason to improve their team and their organizational depth as they pursue their ultimate goal, a Stanley Cup.