The biggest news out of Washington Capitals’ training camp is that there isn’t any news. As the defending Stanley Cup champs face the Boston Bruins in the second meeting of the two teams already this preseason, there simply isn’t much to watch for in terms of camp battles and roster spots. GM Brian MacLellan and the Caps front office succeeded in keeping their championship roster together as well as any Cup winner in recent memory and are prepared to go for another title in 2018-19.
Of the 25 players who took the ice in the postseason for the Capitals, 21 return this season. The glaring absence is obviously backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was traded away to the Colorado Avalanche early this off-season. Another name who Washington fans were upset to see go was career Capital Jay Beagle, who signed with the Vancouver Canucks after ten seasons in D.C. Outside of that duo, the other two players who saw playoff action for the Cup winners were defenseman Jakub Jerabek, who played in two postseason games, and forward Alex Chiasson, who saw less than nine minutes of ice time in the playoffs. The team also lost regular season contributors Taylor Chorney, Tyler Graovac, and Anthony Peluso.
When any team can return 21 players to a roster limited to just 23, the result of few departures is few opportunities in camp. Rather than sign or acquire a backup of similar pedigree to Grubauer to backup starter Braden Holtby, the team seems content to let veteran minor leaguer Pheonix Copley try his hand at the job. With only youngsters Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, neither of whom have made an NHL appearance, also under contract, there really is not much of a competition to replace Grubauer. On the blue line, the top-four will line up exactly as they did in the postseason and Christian Djoos will pair with either his postseason partner, veteran Brooks Orpik – who was traded away and then re-signed this summer, or his frequent regular season partner, Madison Bowey. Orpik versus Bowey is one situation that could potentially be defined as a camp battle, although both are guaranteed roster spots. Up front, the top-nine is also locked in as the same group who dominated in the playoffs, leaving only fourth line and an extra skater spot or two up for grabs. The team has shown a commitment to Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson and the pair are almost certainly the energy liners on opening night. The one true position battle is at the final spot, where Travis Boyd and free agent addition Nic Dowd will fight it out to skate on that fourth line. The loser is likely to begin the season as an extra skater beside import winger Sergei Shumakov.
If you’ve been keeping count, that’s the entire roster: almost all familiar names and only one or two spots up for grabs. There won’t be many questions in need of answering out of Capitals camp, but the big question remaining is whether failing to insert some fresh legs or properly replacing Grubauer will come back to bite Washington in their attempt to repeat.