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Development Camp Closes

Photo by Chris Gordon, RMNB

ARLINGTON, VA – On the final day of Development Camp, General Manager George McPhee addressed the Washington media for the first time in two weeks.  McPhee, who has been the subject of harsh criticism this off-season for not signing a big name free agent to replace Alexander Semin, spoke highly of Wojtek Wolski, whom he signed to a one-year contract earlier in the week.

“A former first round pick that’s had some real productive years in the League, then sort of fell off,” McPhee said.  The general manager also noted that he feels Wolski will be motivated after such a poor year last year.  “Last year was a lost year for him, but here’s a guy with some ability, and there’s an opportunity here.  The ability is there, and I think the commitment is there as well.”

I tweeted about this when he was signed, but this is what you do in thin markets.  At $600,000 for one year, this deal for a potential top-six winger is a great move.  You’re not going to find bargains on standout players in this type of market, but you can hunt for talented guys coming off bad years.

“I get seduced by talent from time to time,” McPhee added.  “I like it, and we have a good group of forwards that are big and play hard and this is an opportunity to add some talent in there.  We like the move and hope that it works out for him and for us.”

McPhee also addressed the signing for 2012 first-round pick Filip Forsberg to a three-year, entry-level deal on Friday.  He said that it was important to get Forsberg signed by September 15 so that at the end of his season in Sweden he could come over and get acclimated to the North American game in the best developmental league in the world, the AHL.  Dmitry Orlov did something similar in the spring of 2011, and it helped accelerate his development.

In addition, McPhee made sure to note how impressed he was at Forsberg’s play in camp, along with fellow first-rounder Tom Wilson.

“I like him a lot,” the GM said of the Swede.  “Really competitive kid, strong on the puck, and certainly got some development to do, he and Wilson.  They have the intangibles, they want to be out there, they want the puck, and for 17 years old, they are doing really well.”

It does not seem likely that either Forsberg or Wilson see NHL time next year – both because it would force them to burn a year of their entry-level deals, which are very valuable, and also because they may not be ready, especially Wilson.  McPhee said when he drafted Wilson that he needed some serious development to get to the type of player he wanted him to become, and one week at Camp does not change that.

Read more on the final day of camp here.

“We really want to develop these players.  Sometimes when you throw them in too early, they become survivors, and it’s not about surviving, it’s about developing and seeing what they can turn in to.  I don’t want them to be career survivors.  Like Wilson, if he was ever going to be a top-six guy, he would be the total package.”

Mike Ribiero also addressed the media for the first time since being acquired for Cody Eakin and a 2012 second-round pick, saying that he wants to “create” while in Washington and likes the skill that he sees on the team.  Ribeiro said that he felt that he knew he was going to be traded since the end of the season, and said, “I’m glad that I’m here and I have a chance to win and a chance to win a Cup.”

Once discussion moved away from new players, it arrived on old ones.  When asked if he was “in” on unrestricted free agent Alexander Semin, McPhee declined to comment, but said he was “not necessarily” surprised the winger was still without a job two weeks after free agency opened.  Because it’s McPhee, he could swoop in at the last minute, but all signs point, as they have all summer, to Semin no longer being a Capital.

Restricted free agent defensemen John Carlsons and Mike Green’s qualifying offers expire on July 15, which means that after that date a new contract must be negotiated.  If I had to predict, I would say that Green signs by the time the weekend is out, because his qualifying offer is $5 million and he is not likely to get that in old-fashioned negotiations.  Carlson’s, however, will likely be drawn out as he looks to get more than his qualifying offer, which hovers around $1 million.  As the only two RFAs left for the Capitals, getting them signed has to be a priority.

Lastly, McPhee was asked about the team’s search for assistant coaches, as both of last year’s, Dean Evason and Jim Johnson, have taken new jobs with other organizations.  He said that one assistant coach has been agreed with in principle, and an announcement is expected at the beginning of this week.  That leaves one spot open.

On the ice, team Red beat team White 4-3 in overtime on a goal from Gregory Miller.  The Reds had a 2-0 lead at one point, but fell behind 3-2 before tying it with under 60 seconds left.  Miller scored the game winning goal soon after, closing the door on what may be the last Capitals hockey at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for two or more months.

Harry Hawkings is a college student who is credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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