Extreme makeover: Capitals

After losing top-end talent, will Washington compete for the Cup?

Originally Published: July 25, 2012
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
Mike RibeiroJohn Russell/NHLI via Getty ImagesThe addition of Mike Ribeiro should give Washington an important pivot player.

Trades and signings alter the makeup of rosters every summer, but some franchises renovate their rosters far more aggressively than others. For five weeks, Insider contributor Neil Greenberg will examine five of the biggest summer shake-ups to see what we can expect from the overhauled lineups in the coming season. The series continues with the Washington Capitals.

Last year, the Capitals made a huge splash during the free-agent frenzy, doling out $21.3 million over seven years in contracts during the first two days. This year, there has been more top-level talent going out than coming in. Gone are unrestricted free agents Dennis Wideman, Tomas Vokoun and Mike Knuble -- with Alexander Semin likely gone as well.

"It's a very inflated market this summer," general manager George McPhee said. "It's sometimes best just to sit back and stay out of it."

McPhee, true to his word, committed just $2.2 million on three players expected to play in the NHL next season: forward Joey Crabb (one year, $950,000), forward Wojtek Wolski (one year, $600,000) and defenseman Jack Hillen (one year, $650,000).

The Capitals did trade for the bona fide second-line center they have been missing since Sergei Fedorov in 2008-09, sending prospect Cody Eakin and a second-round pick to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribeiro. Washington also brought back franchise legends in coach Adam Oates and assistant coach Calle Johansson, who seem willing to open up the offense and get the franchise back to up-tempo hockey.

Are these changes enough for the Capitals to finally realize their potential, or will the lack of high-end talent cause them to once again fall short of expectations?

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.