NHL Free Agency: Capitals Have Catching Up To Do

ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 28: Washington Capitals Vice President and General Manager George McPhee speaks to members of the media at Kettler Iceplex on November 28, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia. McPhee announced that Dale Hunter will become the new head coach of the Washington Capitals after Bruce Boudreau was fired. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

While their Eastern Conference competitors have made bold moves this offseason, the Capitals have mostly remained quiet.

While the rest of the Southeast Division has done its part to remake their rosters this offseason, the Capitals have mostly done minor tinkering to their roster.

The Capitals did address one big issue, acquiring veteran center Mike Riberio from Dallas at last month's draft, but also saw one of just three players who lit the lamp 20 times or more last year - Alexander Semin - walk to a division rival.

For a club that is looking to improve its offensive output under new head coach Adam Oates, having just Alexander Ovechkin and Jason Chimera as returning 20-goal scorers will require some more production from other players for that style of play to be successful. While it is true that Washington played a more defensive style under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter in 2011-12, someone else is still needed to replace a winger who had been a dangerous scoring threat. It's one thing to decide to part with Semin, but another not to eventually replace him in the lineup.

Semin's departure leaves Washington without one of the team's renowned "Young Guns," a group which included Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. The other three are now signed for at least three more years in the nation's capital, thanks to Green's deal signed earlier this month.

With just one restricted free-agent left to sign - defenseman John Carlson - the Capitals are $10,572,095 under the projected 2012-13 salary cap of $70.2 million per CapGeek.com, and it seems like Washington is largely done making off-season changes barring some bargains presenting themselves as summer progresses and the market thins out.

For a team that struggled to make the playoffs last year, the Capitals are taking a conservative approach to the new season, seemingly opting to bank some of that cap room for a mid-season deal and hope players elevate themselves into their new roles next season. Besides Riberio, Washington's off-season acquisitions are depth players, with the team hoping a player like Wojtek Wolski can find his scoring touch to fill that void left by the departures.

The Capitals did sign both of their first-round picks from this year's draft, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson, but it is unlikely either will play for the Capitals next year, as they start their seasons in Sweden and the OHL, respectively. So Washington will bank on the addition of Dmitry Orlov and perhaps Stanislav Galiev to inject some youth into next year's lineup.

In goal, the Capitals are seemingly set with Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth getting work next year, with the team likely to utilize both netminders during the regular season before settling on one starter for the playoffs.

Defensively, Orlov is expected to fill the departure of Dennis Wideman, and with Carlson re-signing with the Caps seemingly just a matter of procedure, there should be eight players to fill out Washington's defensive corps. Green, Karl Alzner and Carlson provide a solid base, but the Capitals need some more value from Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Schultz to boost the overall corps. New assistant coach Calle Johansson will try and work with the blueliners to not only be smart positionally, but to be able to carry the puck up ice more than has been seen the last two seasons.

For a team that led the league in scoring just three seasons ago, the forwards have now become the team's biggest question marks, and with more of an emphasis on offense this year, they will be a primary focus.

Ovechkin has seen his production drop in each of the last two years, but he scored more than double the goals of all but one of his teammates. Riberio was brought in to help increase scoring from the second line, but with Semin gone, someone needs to step up and fill that role of the guy who can actually convert those chances.

Washington is stocked with third-and-fourth line candidates, and there's always the chance that a player like Wolski or Marcus Johansson can elevate their game to be a second-liner. But it also seems likely that it will be an issue Washington has to address at the deadline - if not sooner.

Capitals GM George McPhee has been quieter than his counterparts this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how this lineup fares against some teams in the East who have improved their lineups.

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