Just a little over 15 months from now, The NHL’s Winter Classic is coming to the District of Columbia. Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis made that announcement today at the fourth annual Caps Convention. While that news was certainly the biggest of the day, it wasn’t the only news of the day.
Early this morning, the Caps trimmed their roster by five more players. Left wing Andre Burakovsky – the team’s first-round choice (23rd overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft – was returned to his junior club, the OHL Erie Otters. The 18-year-old Burakovsky acquitted himself well in two preseason games with the Capitals this month and it’s going to be exciting to follow his progress with the Otters.
Forwards Ryan Stoa, Jeff Taffe, Nathan Walker and Casey Wellman were released from training camp. All four will report to the AHL Hershey Bears, which begin their training camp for the 2013-14 season on Monday. Stoa, Taffe and Wellman are all signed to NHL deals, but all are expected to be key cogs for the Bears this season.
The 19-year-old Walker opened many eyes at rookie camp and in two preseason outings with the big club, but because is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia, he is ineligible to be signed to an NHL contract and cannot play in the NHL during the upcoming season.
However, Walker is eligible to be signed to an AHL deal. During the course of his panel session at Saturday’s Caps Convention, McPhee revealed that Walker would indeed be signed to a Hershey pact for the upcoming campaign. Walker will report to Hershey’s camp this week and his performance will help determine where he plays in 2013-14. Players signed to Hershey contracts can also be sent to ECHL Reading.
Today’s roster moves leave the Capitals with 36 players still on the camp roster. That’s down from 70 when camp opened nine days ago. Washington – and the other 29 NHL clubs – have until the afternoon of Sept. 30 to trim their rosters to the maximum of 23 players and their payrolls to $64.3 million.
The Caps still have enough players in camp that they’ll have two practice groups. The first of those groups will take to the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 10 a.m. on Sunday and the second will follow at 11:15. Washington has a busy final week of camp ahead; it will play four exhibition games in a span of six nights starting with Monday’s visit to Boston to face the Bruins.
Wednesday brings the Nashville Predators to town for a preseason tilt at Verizon Center and the Philadelphia Flyers follow them into the District for a Friday night match with the Caps. Washington concludes its preseason slate with a visit to Chicago a week from tonight, and the Caps also open the 2013-14 campaign against the Hawks in Chicago on Oct. 1.
First, there are roster questions to be settled. All of that will shake out before our eyes over the next nine days and four preseason games.