- Jason Chimera, who took a puck to the face during Washington's 3-0 exhibition loss to Nashville Sunday, says he'll be ready to go in Friday night's opener at Atlanta (Photo: TBD Staff)
It was a busy day for everyone at the Kettler IcePlex today as the Washington Capitals held their media luncheon and made four confirmed roster moves as they got closer to finalizing their 23-man Opening Night roster.
Forwards Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, and Mathieu Perreault, along with defenseman Brian Fahey, were reassigned to Hershey of the AHL, with Gordon and Fahey having to pass through waivers. Those moves brought the Capitals roster down to 24 players. The Capitals must have a maximum of 23 players on their roster by 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and it is expected, though not confirmed, that third goaltender Dany Sabourin will be the last cut announced by the team.
Perreault's reassignment to Hershey means that Marcus Johansson received an early birthday present: a spot on the Capitals' NHL roster (The Swede turns 20 tomorrow).
"I had no idea when I came in what would happen today," Johansson said. "Obviously it's not fun to see other guys go home.
"I didn't know [I'd made it] until [Capitals head coach] Bruce [Boudreau] came by and said 'Welcome to the team.'"
"The first thing that jumps out about Marcus is his speed," Boudreau said at this afternoon's media luncheon at Kettler. "In the new NHL, speed is such a weapon, and he can skate while being smart."
When asked how hard the choice between Johansson and Perreault was, Boudreau admitted, "It might have been different if we were looking for a number 2 center [a position expected to be filled by Tomas Fleischmann]. Matty has more offensive upside, but Marcus has more defensive upside, especially coming from the Swedish league, where they preach defense all the time."
"It's tough telling a player he's not ready," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "It's the toughest part of the job, and today was as difficult as any day we've had.
"Marcus is an exceptional player. We love the way he thinks the game."
McPhee and Boudreau also took the opportunity to clarify whether Johansson could have returned to Sweden (as opposed to returning to Hershey) if he had not made the NHL roster.
"He doesn't have that option," McPhee said. "That's our decision."
Such a move is not unprecedented for the Capitals. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov played the 2007-08 season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Superleague after being drafted by the Capitals in the 2007 Entry Draft. However, McPhee said that a similar provision was not put in Johansson's contract.
"He has nothing left to learn in Sweden," McPhee said.
Johansson has drawn comparisons to his new teammate Nicklas Backstrom, the last player to jump directly from the Swedish Elitserien to the NHL. "He's ahead of where Nicky Backstrom was," McPhee said. "We were more careful with Nicky when he came up."
Another survivor of final roster cuts was forward Matt Hendricks, who ended last season with the Colorado Avalanche. "He can play all three forward positions, he can skate physically and he can stir it up. Those are the attributes I really like about him."
If Sabourin's reassignment is confirmed, than 20 of the 23 players on the final Opening Night roster will have played for either the Capitals or Hershey at some point last season (Johansson, Hendricks, and D.J. King are the exceptions), which speaks to the success of the Capitals' efforts to blood homegrown prospects.
"We came up with a plan and fortunately ownership and Ted [Leonsis] stuck with it," said McPhee. "We'll have 11 first-round pics on our opening-night roster. The league average is four."
Other notes from today's proceedings:
-Semyon Varlamov was back on the ice today after missing the Capitals' final five preseason games with an undisclosed injury. "We don't want to rush him back," Boudreau said. "We'd rather have him for 70 games than 20 games. So we're just going to take our time with him."
-Boudreau also said that he was likely to keep the defensive paring of Tom Poti and John Carlson intact to start the season. "They did a great job in the playoffs last year," Boudreau said today.
-Quote of the Day goes to George McPhee, when asked whether he thought the team could match last year's 121 points and 313 goals, "I don't care about winning the division or winning the President's Trophy. I just care about getting to the playoffs."