Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Why this will be a big season for Dmitry Orlov

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

It's time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

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Andrew B. writes: I haven't studied the stats but it feels like Dmitry Orlov takes too many risks in the D zone to offset his offensive flash. He is eating up $5.1M in cap space that will be needed for Braden Holtby and/or Nicklas Backstrom. Do you still see Orlov's contract as a good value?

I think Orlov gets a bad rap. People remember the egregious turnovers early in his career and Brian MacLellan calling him a "high event player" and that colors our perception. 

Orlov is a top-four defenseman with offensive upside. I think there is another level to his game we have not seen yet. His career-high in goals is 10 which he has hit only once. I think he should consistently be in that range.

There is no denying he had a down season last year. I believe he was dragged down by Niskanen, but plenty of people reading this right now want to tell me it was the other way around. Regardless, neither player was all that great. When trying to decide between the two, you pick the 28-year-old with the lower cap-hit and that's exactly what the Caps did.

I see Orlov's contract being right where it should be for now...but that could easily change next season. At 28, he should be entering the prime of his career. A second down season in a row and you have to wonder if the team will consider moving on.

While $5.1 million is a reasonable cap hit for him, this has to be a big season for him.

Chas L. writes: With the new additions on the offensive side, it is clear that the Caps are trying to boost up depth on offense and to do that they lost skill on the defensive side by losing Matt Niskanen to Gudas. We've all seen how putting players on their off side takes away from their strengths (Nick Jensen) is there any way the Caps could look to improve on that front or is it better off to have a boosted up offense?

Actually, while the team may have signed several forwards, it was clear the goal was to improve the team defensively this offseason. Defense is not just the job of the defensemen, forwards play a role as well. In signing Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic, MacLellan was clearly looking for players good in possession and shot suppression.

There is also a case to be made that Radko Gudas was the better defensive player last season than Niskanen and that this could ultimately prove to be a defensive upgrade.

For more, you can read my article on how the Caps improved defensively this offseason here.

As for Jensen, he is a right-shot defenseman. I am very confident the Caps will have him playing on the right this season so no worries on that front.

The current CBA expires at the end of the 2021-22 season. The NHL also has the option of opting out of the current CBA on Sept. 1 and the NHLPA has the option of opting out of the current CBA on Sept. 19.

Talks between the two sides have apparently gone well, but there is no real way of knowing when a new CBA will be done.

There is reason for optimism, however, when it comes to avoiding a work stoppage.

There are two reasons I believe the league will not resort to another lockout. You correctly identified the first being Seattle. The Seattle expansion team will begin play in 2022-23, right after the CBA expires. Having a work stoppage prevent the new team's season from starting on time would be an embarrassment for the league and would not endear it to its new Seattle market.

The second reason to be optimistic is the Olympics. Going to the Olympics is not a right guaranteed the players in the current CBA and they did not get the chance to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 as a result. The players are outspoken in their desire to play in the Olympics, but that's OK because I believe the owners will actually agree with the players this time.

We know for the most part that NHL owners do not like the players participating in the Olympics, but the NHL has gone to great effort to build a market in China. Guess where the 2022 Olympics are?

The 2022 games in Beijing presents the league with a major opportunity to grow the game there and for once, the owners will likely be OK with the players going to play. It may mean guaranteeing them the chance to play for the remaining length of the new CBA, but I think they take that for the chance to send its top players to Beijing.

This means the players will be fighting for something in the negotiations that I believe the owners want to give them anyway.

The Caps will enter the season with the same four centers it had last season so unless we see a drastic improvement from them in the faceoff dot, then yes, the faceoff will still be a concern.

Where Oshie finishes will depend largely on how his body holds up this season. Oshie knows how to play the game only one way: 100-percent. That takes a toll on the body and we have seen that the last few years. He will turn 33 in December and it is fair to wonder if we could see a dropoff in his production.

Having said that, there are no real candidates to replace him on the top six, especially given his offensive production. Replacing him with Carl Hagelin or Panik would likely be too steep a drop in offense for that to make sense.

Nathan S. writes: Any idea how the various hockey leagues around the world rank in terms of quality? Clearly the NHL is number one but curious how the KHL and Swedish and Czech leagues compare. Is KHL considered in the same or a similar level to AHL?

It depends on who you ask. The NHL is the undisputed best league in the world. Next come the AHL and KHL. These leagues are about on equal footing. A case can be made that says the AHL is better, but I would give the KHL the slight nod considering the AHL is becoming more and more of a developmental league. After that, I would put the Swedish Elite League, the SHL, as the fourth-best. 

After that, it is tough to rank. There are several good leagues in Europe such as the DEL in Germany and the Czech Extraliga. There are also several very good junior leagues in North America such as NCAA, WHL, OHL and QMJHL.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Why this will be a big season for Dmitry Orlov originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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