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30 in 30: Grabovski extends depth of Capitals lineup

by Corey Masisak

The first season in charge for Adam Oates began with the Washington Capitals in unfamiliar situation and ended with an all-too-familiar one. The Capitals needed a second-half rally to win the Southeast Division for the fifth time in six seasons, but that was followed by another disappointing Stanley Cup Playoff defeat.

It was a quiet offseason for the Capitals after they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in a seven-game, first-round series. Free agents Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks and Joey Crabb signed elsewhere, and defenseman Jeff Schultz was bought out. General manager George McPhee signed defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner to long-term contracts, then had his patience rewarded when he was able to sign center Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million contract in August.


Under-valued: Mike Green -- Health is always the major concern with Green, but after leading defensemen in goals (12) and putting up gaudy power-play numbers (14 of his 26 points came with the man advantage), he's certainly worth the risk to draft as a No. 1-2 fantasy D-man on any squad.

Over-valued: Troy Brouwer -- Brouwer easily put together the most productive season of his career (19 goals, 14 assists in 47 games), but that was largely because he skated on a line with either Nicklas Backstrom or Mike Ribeiro. Unfortunately, this season he'll likely be centered by Brooks Laich, and that will result in a lot of regression.

Sleeper: Martin Erat -- From a point-production standpoint, Erat had one of the worst seasons of his career, averaging 0.53 points per game (he's usually closer to the 0.70 mark), but there's a chance he will spend time on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom, which would make the former Predators forward a must-own fantasy player.

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Adding Grabovski fills an obvious need and gives Oates more depth and flexibility up front. The offense should produce, the defense remains shaky after a solid first three, and the goaltending should be strong. A full training camp after a season with Oates in charge could lead to improvement, and Washington will be in position to compete for a playoff spot in the new-look Metropolitan Division.

Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Capitals:


Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer

Tom Wilson - Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward

Mathieu Perreault - Aaron Volpatti


Karl Alzner - Mike Green

Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson

Jack Hillen - Steve Oleksy

John Erskine


Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

NOTES: Whether Wilson and Orlov make the team will have a ripple effect on the rest of the roster. The top six looks set, provided Johansson (a restricted free agent) signs.

Laich or Perreault likely will be the No. 3 center. Where Perreault fits could be determined by Wilson being ready for a regular gig.

Carlson is Washington's No. 1 defenseman, but Alzner and Green played together most of last season. Orlov has the most upside as Carlson's partner. Erskine, Oleksy, Hillen and Tomas Kundratek will be in a competition for playing time. One of those four could be sent to the American Hockey League if the team keeps 14 forwards.

Holtby brought a sense of stability to the net, but Neuvirth likely will get plenty of starts and could play well enough at some point to make it a competition again. Holtby appeared in 75 percent of the games last season, something that hadn't happened for a goalie in Washington since 2003-04.


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