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Team Reset

Capitals add scoring depth with Panik, Hathaway, Leipsic

Hope trade for defenseman Gudas will bolster physical presence, lead to another championship

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Washington Capitals:

After the Washington Capitals' run as defending Stanley Cup champions ended with a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round last season, they realized changes needed to be made.

Their focus this offseason has been on retooling the bottom half of the lineup with the hope of making another run at the Cup. It began with the acquisition of defenseman Radko Gudas in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Matt Niskanen on June 14 and was followed by defenseman Brooks Orpik's retirement announcement June 25.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Then, forwards Richard Panik (four-year contract), Garnet Hathaway (four-year contract) and Brendan Leipsic (one-year contract) were each signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1 as replacements for Brett Connolly (agreed to terms with the Florida Panthers as an unrestricted free agent July 1), Andre Burakovsky (traded to the Colorado Avalanche for two draft picks and unrestricted free agent forward Scott Kosmachuk on June 28) and Devante Smith-Pelly (unrestricted free agent who won't be re-signed).

"I think it's just a natural evolution," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "I think we were fortunate last year to bring most of the guys back. When you have a successful team and guys playing well, they're going to get paid for that success and players move on. … I think we still have a good team, we're still a competitive team and we should be a contender [this season]."

Here is what the Capitals look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Richard Panik, F: The 28-year-old had 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 75 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. … Garnet Hathaway, F: The 27-year-old set NHL career-highs with 11 goals and 19 points in 76 games with the Calgary Flames last season. … Radko Gudas, D: The 29-year-old had 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 77 games with Philadelphia last season. With Gudas (255), forward Alex Ovechkin (223), forward Tom Wilson (200) and Hathaway (200), Washington has four of the 29 players in the NHL who had at least 200 hits last season. … Brendan Leipsic, F: The 25-year-old had 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 62 games with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings last season.

Video: ARI@VGK: Panik answers quickly for Coyotes

 

Key departures

Brett Connolly, F: The 27-year-old set NHL career-highs with 22 goals, 24 assists and 46 points last season. … Andre Burakovsky, F: The 24-year-old had 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 76 games last season. … Matt Niskanen, D: The 32-year-old had 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 80 games last season. … Brooks Orpik, D: The 38-year-old retired after 16 NHL seasons because of lingering problems with his right knee, which required arthroscopic surgery and limited him to 53 games last season. … Devante Smith-Pelly, F: The 27-year-old has yet to find a new team after getting eight points (four goals, four assists) in 54 games with Washington and 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 20 games with Hershey of the American Hockey League last season.

 

On the cusp

Alexander Alexeyev, D: Selected with the No. 31 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old had 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 49 games with Red Deer of the Western Hockey League last season. … Martin Fehervary, D: The 19-year-old, selected in the second round (No. 46) of the 2018 draft, plans to play in North America this season after getting seven points (one goal, six assists) in 45 games with HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League last season.

Video: Capitals draft D Alexander Alexeyev No. 31

 

What they still need

Defenseman Nick Jensen must prove he can play regularly in Niskanen's former spot on the right side of the second defense pair with Dmitry Orlov. The 28-year-old struggled at times after being acquired in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings and signing a four-year contract with Washington on Feb. 22.

 

Fantasy focus

Forward Jakub Vrana had an NHL career-high 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists) in 82 games and could reach 30 goals if his lineup placement with center Evgeny Kuznetsov carries over to this season. Despite not playing a role on the top power-play unit, Vrana has value at even strength, where he finished second on the Capitals behind Ovechkin with 23 goals. Vrana should be viewed as a value selection in late rounds of a standard 12-team fantasy draft. -- Rob Reese

Video: WSH@FLA: Vrana pots Oshie's feed to trim deficit

 

Projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin -- Lars Eller -- Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic -- Nic Dowd -- Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Radko Gudas 

Braden Holtby

Pheonix Copley

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