As The Nylander Turns
The Micheal Nylander drama that is starting to turn into the Capitals' "What not to do with a contract you not happy with" took a turn for the weird yesterday when they sent him to the minors for a conditioning stint. Send him to Hershey? Oh no, the Caps don't want to risk the playing time of their young prospects (I mean, they sent a first round pick back to Sweden to play a second tier team because he wasn't cutting it). Instead, they sent Nylander to Grand Rapids, the Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate.
This is not a trade, the Caps are still on the line for Nylander's salary and he still takes up a spot on the roster. Think of it as a young girl looking for the right prom dress, she has to put it on in the fitting room to see if she likes it. Nylander has to play so that teams in the KHL or other teams in the NHL have a chance to evaluate him. But why Grand Rapids?
Well if you ask anyone in management, on or off the record, they are pretty tight lipped about the move. A KHL team may have had some interest in taking the 37 year old forward off the Capitals' hands. But that interest waned when Nylander didn't see the line up. Whether George McPhee is keeping him off as to not hurt him, or McPhee and Bruce Boudreau can't stand it when he is in the line-up (or Hershey's line-up either) remains unclear.
If Nylander's presence is such a nuiscence, why are the Caps so hard pressed not to take a pitiful pick in return? Why not place him on waivers (not sure if that is stipulated in his contract)? Why not buy him out of his contract and take the hit (They are still on the hook for buying out Ben Clymer, remember him)? OR, why not just play him if other team's want to see his conditioning? No one really knows the answers to those questions but McPhee, and thus far his moves have been a quandary.
This move to send him to Grand Rapids could be a precursor to him being traded here or sold overseas. But at this point, who really knows.
Nylander's contract drops from $5.5 million down to $3 million next season.
Bank On Aucoin
Due to Alex Semin feeling a bit under the weather (hope it isn't H1N1), the Caps have recalled Keith Aucoin. Aucoin is quickly becoming a favorite of the Caps in call ups (mostly because Chris Bourque is a crutch they can't go to anymore). He shows flashes of brilliance at the NHL level and if given the time to work up some chemistry, I believe he could help the Caps' third line get a little offensive punch.
Back In The Southeast Division
Tonight marks the first time this season the Capitals will play a team from their division. The Caps head to HOT-lanta to face a Thrasher team that is off to one of their better starts. It looks more like a match up between friends rather than divisional foes. Head coaches from both teams shared a friendship in their AHL days (that still continues to this day). Star players from both teams also share an off ice friendship. But when the rink door closes, neither team seems to like each other.
The dislike stems from a Andy Sutton's high hit on Mike Green in 2006, although it could have been brewing way before that. Sutton's dirty antics set off a parade of Thrashers and Capitals to the penalty box with roughing and fighting majors sentences to serve. Ask any player on the Caps' squad and they will tell you that there isn't much love for Blueland.
The Dizzy Birds are 4-1-1 through their first six games of the season, hot on the heels of the Caps in the Southeast Division trailing by only one point (Caps 10, ATL 9). This should be a statement game for the Capitals who look to repeat as Division champs, otherwise the Thrashers could leap frog them for the lead in the division.