Yes, that would be the Caps new goaltending tandem. "What," you say, wondering where the Russian likely star went.

Well, the Caps have been very, very busy in free agency the last 36 hours. They got former captain (and local boy) Halpern back. As a 4C, he should be a slight upgrade over Gordon or Steckel, and at a half-mil less than Gordo. Sorry to see Gordo gone, but I like this exchange for the Caps.

They traded the rights to Varlamov to Colorado for a first and second pick. I've had a possible reasoning for why Colorado might have done this explained, but it still doesn't seem like a great move for them. Given that, it seems, the sticking point was Varly being assured of being the starter, this was a fantastic move. And Czech-mate came today, when Tomas Vokoun was signed for a season for $1.5M. Wow. I guess Vokoun really wanted to win. The only hesitation on this (and it's a small one, I assure you) is the possible concern that Vokoun might be thinking of being the passenger this season, rather than the driver. Either way, heist of the highest order.

Joel Ward is another newcomer to the fold. He was recently of Nashville, where he kicked ass in the playoffs. I don't have a good feel for this one, as I'm not too familiar with him. My concern is that he is being signed for too much based on that playoff performance. I hope I'm worried about nothing, there. I mean, if he can repeat that kind of performance in the playoffs, I'm certainly all for it, but that's pretty much the definition of small sample size.

The final new arrival is Roman Hamrlik (incidentally, also Czech), the defender most recently of Montreal. I was hoping the Caps would hold onto Hannan, but Hammer should be pretty comparable while a little cheaper. He's a bit older, but since he's only on a two year contract, that shouldn't be too big a deal. Well, assuming his performance doesn't fall off a cliff, but that seems (without doing a thorough study) to be fairly rare in hockey. But he isn't too expensive, and rounds out a fantastic top six. Plus, he wants to be here, as he turned down a 3-year deal to take the Caps 2-year offer.

Also, I should mention here (since I didn't, back when it happened) that the Caps traded their first round pick to the Blackhawks for the rights to (restricted free agent) Troy Brouwer. He's another that I don't know too much about. A look at his Corsi rating with various teammates at Chicago, though, shows that he improved almost everyone he played with, so I'm definitely liking that.

And I also didn't talk about Brooks Laich being signed for six years and $27M. I was pretty leery about this when it happened (three or four days ago, I think); it was half a million more than I was thinking the top end of what the Caps should pay for him. I do feel better about it, though, after seeing several signings yesterday by various other teams.

Getting back to the goalie situation, a few more notes. Definitely going to be cheering for the Avs to collapse this season, so that that first round pick comes very early (which is a change; I generally like the Avs).

The Vokoun signing definitely came out of the blue; practically every goalie of any note signed yesterday somewhere. Apparently that left almost every team with any interest in a new goalie situated (Colorado did sign Varly, and got Jean-Sebastien Giguere later in the day), so there was basically no market for Vokoun. Damn, I'm loving that.

I did a little bit more reading into Ward, and I'm not feeling better about that signing. One thing is that he only played eleven NHL games before his age 27 season. One plus is that he's primarily a defensive forward. So he, Halpern, and Hendricks could make one heck of a shutdown line. Of course, with Boudreau at the helm, who knows what the lines will be (or how often they'll be repeated), but the bottom six looks very good.

So now the question becomes one of where this all leaves us. Arnott, Bradley and Hannan are certainly gone. Beagle and King are likely to be sent down, even if that means exposing them to waivers. Poti must be considered gone or presumed to be Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). One of Fehr and Chimera seems likely to be gone, just to clear cap space. The only serious question marks remaining are the two RFAs: Alzner and Brouwer. The reason for the prior several sentences is that there's no money to sign them under the cap, as things stand.

They each stand to make at least $2M (Alzner likely closer to $3M), and there's only half a mil in cap space. As long as they work things out to get both of them signed, this has been an unbelievably good series of moves. The only way things get really dicey is if non-roster players (Sjogren, Eakin, Perreault, and Orlov being the likelies) force their way into contention for roster spots.

With as much good stuff as I've heard about Orlov, I can't see much chance of him cracking the roster without multiple, serious defensive injuries.

The forwards have a much better chance, although still not good ones. Eakin and Perreault are going to find it especially tough, given that it seems that all four center spots are taken. But maybe they can make it as wings. Maybe. I'm actually kind of hoping Eakin will make it, but I definitely don't like his odds.

Anyway, assuming Alzner and Brouwer are (re-)signed, I'm loving this lineup. As long as they don't get complacent, they should be in the running for the President's Cup again, and one of the two or three favorites for the real Cup as well. The offense will hopefully improve just by getting average luck shooting, and the defense should be outstanding.

Complacency will be the biggest concern, but hopefully Ward, Brouwer, and Hamrlik will all help with that. The power play better get some offseason work. Well, and being out-coached in the playoffs is another big concern. That's a serious one. A few weeks ago, Backstrom was interviewed by a Swedish publication about last season, and said that the team basically didn't know what hit them against the Lightning. Man, that was damning of Boudreau's coaching job (I forget his exact words, but it was a lot more specific than what I just wrote).

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