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July 9, 2011
Howe and Why
So Far, Caps Are Offseason Champs

by Robert Vollman


It's been a busy summer for many teams. The Philadelphia Flyers underwent a major overhaul, shipping off Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov and Jaromir Jagr. The Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks traded stars -- Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley -- and the New York Rangers won the Brad Richards sweepstakes.

Capitals rising

Rating how much of an impact each team's offseason moves has had, based on the change in each team's GVT.

Team 		Change in GVT
Washington 	 29.8
Toronto 	 21.1
Florida 	 16.3
N.Y. Rangers 	 14.8
Edmonton 	 12.7
Buffalo 	 11.3
Columbus 	 10.1
N.Y. Islanders 	 8.1
Carolina 	 7.4
Detroit 	 6.8
St. Louis 	 3.9
Los Angeles 	 3.7
Ottawa 		 3.5
Chicago 	 2.2
Colorado 	 1.3
Anaheim 	 0.9
New Jersey 	 0.0
Pittsburgh 	-0.9
Dallas 		-2.4
Boston 		-3.3
Winnipeg 	-4.2
Calgary 	-6.4
San Jose 	-6.8
Minnesota 	-10.6
Tampa Bay 	-13.0
Nashville 	-13.4
Vancouver 	-13.9
Montreal 	-25.5
Philadelphia 	-25.9
Phoenix 	-27.6

These teams all have one more thing in common: None of them made the biggest overall impact this summer.

We're using GVT to measure the impact of all the trades and signings, since at a high-level it measures the entirety of a player's contributions, both offensive and defensive. It's measured in goals relative to replacement-level players, so we can see exactly how much the makeup of each team has been changed by all the wheeling and dealing through Tuesday, July 5.

Biggest Jumps

According to GVT (Goals Versus Threshold -- for a full explanation, click here), the biggest winner so far this summer has clearly been the Washington Capitals. By replacing Semyon Varlamov with Tomas Vokoun in net, beefing up their blue line with Roman Hamrlik and adding great two-way depth up front with Jeff Halpern, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Chris Bourque and Ryan Potulny, the Capitals have vaulted themselves into early Stanley Cup favorite status in a single week. Other than Varlamov, the only departures have been Marco Sturm and Boyd Gordon, leaving them with a net improvement of 10.2 more goals for and 19.6 fewer goals against.

What's even more amazing is that they secured what could possibly be a top-five selection from the Colorado Avalanche in the Varlamov deal, for what projects to be a very strong draft year, along with a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013. They also got Vokoun, who has the highest even-strength save percentage since the lockout, for the insanely low price of $1.5 million. Is it too early to name George McPhee the GM of the year?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have also given their fans something to cheer about, having made some positive moves to improve offensively (to an even greater extent than Washington), shedding overpaid and underachieving players like Brett Lebda and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to make room for John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson on the blue line, and Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi up front. If James Reimer is the real deal, the Maple Leafs could be a surprise and long overdue postseason participant.

Going The Right Way

Where exactly did the Caps improve? Measuring the Capitals' offseason additions and subtractions in offensive and defensive GVT.

Player 		OGVT 	DGVT
Tomas Vokoun 	-- 	19.4
Jeff Halpern 	2.5 	3.8
Roman Hamrlik 	4.4 	5.5
Troy Brouwer 	3.2 	2.0
Joel Ward 	-0.4 	3.1
Semyon Varlamov --	9.8
Boyd Gordon 	-2.4 	2.8
Marco Sturm 	1.9 	1.6

The Florida Panthers figure to allow more goals this season because of the departure of goalie Vokoun and sound defensive forward Marty Reasoner, along with utility players Rostislav Olesz, Darcy Hordichuk and Niclas Bergfors, but they did make substantial offensive improvements. Their plentiful cap space gave them room to add established veteran defensemen Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski and completely revamp their forward core with Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim. The down side of all of this is that Jose Theodore is unlikely to fill Vokoun's pads, and all these signings came at a tremendous and risky longterm-dollar cost.

Biggest Drops

The biggest drop this offseason belongs to the Phoenix Coyotes, who will try to replace star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with two sub-replacement-level netminders in Curtis McElhinney and Mike Smith. In Vernon Fiddler, Eric Belanger, Andrew Ebbett and the aforementioned Jovanovski, they've lost some key pieces that are unlikely to be filled by the largely cosmetic additions of Alexandre Bolduc, Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

You have to admire coach Dave Tippett and his plucky Coyotes for ignoring the headlines and earning two straight playoff appearances, but they'll need to order a few extra boxes of red light bulbs for their own end this season.

Speaking of Bryzgalov, he's not necessarily much better off in his new home with the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite their recent success, they overhauled their lineup, shipping off effective forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg, Darroll Powe and Daniel Carcillo, veteran defensive defenseman Sean O'Donnell, and backup goalie Brian Boucher.

Instead, their fate is resting on the shoulders of Bryzgalov, 39-year-old returning star Jagr, and a handful of promising rookies and role players, including Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Maxime Talbot, Wayne Simmonds and Andreas Lilja. According to GVT, Paul Holmgren's huge gamble is not expected to pay off, and the net result is likely to be a huge drop-off offensively, offset by only a minor reduction in goals against.

As for the Montreal Canadiens, they're losing more than 10 goals at both ends of the ice. They may have made an excellent pick-up in Erik Cole, and the backup goalie change of Alex Auld and Curtis Sanford for Peter Budaj and Nathan Lawson is basically a wash, but they'll definitely feel the sting of losing James Wisniewski, Alexandre Picard and Roman Hamrlik on the blue line, along with Jeff Halpern and Benoit Pouliot up front.

It's important to note, of course, that the summer isn't over yet, and there could be more big-impact negotiations still to come. Despite the headlines grabbed by the Flyers, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild, it's really the Capitals that have gotten off to the hottest start, making a huge upgrade in net and an almost boggling solidification of the forward corps -- and both at discount prices.

A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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