Over the next three days, I will be looking at holes the Caps may want to fill with free agency over the summer. Now, I don't claim to be a NHL general manager, nor do I have any experience at being one. So for the most part this is just fantasizing what George McPhee will do in the coming months to make his team better.
The three areas that can be solved with free agency will be goaltending (if he decides to move away from resigning Jose Theodore), second and third line centers, and veteran stay-at-home defensemen. Today, it's goaltneders.
Jose Theodore was the best goaltender in the second half of the season for the Capitals. But even that effort left many wondering if the Caps were solid enough in net. McPhee basically has some options if he doesn't sign Theodore. But the market for goaltenders is a bit thin, at best.
1. Marty Turco (35 years old, 8 NHL seasons, last year's salary $5.4 million) - The Dallas Stars let Turco go, vowing to take their goaltending in a different direction. That leaves the three time All Star to look for work. Turco brings some veteran savvy and a cup ring to any team that might be looking. When Turco is on, he is on. He has had the best save percentage in the league twice. But when he is bad, he is bad.
2. Dan Ellis (30 years old, 3 NHL seasons, $2 million) - Ellis was Nashville's saving grace a couple of seasons ago. Since then he has been riding the bench. A fan favorite in Nashville, it is unlikely he will try the free market and the Preds will work on getting back into the fold.
3. Marty Biron (33 years old, 11 NHL seasons, $1.4 million) - Biron was Philly's answer in net. He did lead them to an Eastern Conference Final, but they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins. From there he has fallen from grace. The long time Buffalo back up to Ryan Miller, Biron has signed with goaltender-laden Islanders and has been in the AHL on a conditioning stint to finish the season. Biron has some big game potential, but his age is a factor.
4. Ray Emery (26 years old, 5 NHL seasons, $1.5 million) - Uh, no.
5. Antero Niittymaki (30 years old, 5 NHL seasons, $600,000) - Niittymaki is a mixed bag of goaltender. One night he is spectacular while the next night he can be lit up for 6 goals. His consistency is key, and it's likely he won't stay in Tampa another year. If the Capitals go with Varlamov, Niittymaki wouldn't be a bad back up for the Capitals.
Of all of these options, I think the best bet is to resign Theodore for another season and work Varly in a bit more. Ellis or Niittymaki might make sense if the Caps go away from Theo, but the Caps will have to put all their horses on Varlamov to be a full fledged NHL goaltender and get at least 40 to 50 games under his belt.
McPhee could bring up both kids Nuevirth and Varlamov to share duties in net. But both have injury bugs from time to time. The best bet is get a capable back up just in case.