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THN.com Blog: Capitals could use new Prong in their attack

Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks is rumored to be available. (Photo by Brad Watson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks is rumored to be available. (Photo by Brad Watson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a true, tough-to-stick-to creed: Worry about the things you have the power to change, not the ones you don’t.

If I was a Washington Capitals fan, I’d be most vexed with my team’s goaltending. To be sure, Simeon Varlamov had a dozen quality playoff games this year and a single dirty one, the Game 7 blowout loss to Pittsburgh that washed out the Caps.

Still, he’s a 21-year-old kid with six regular season games on his resume. I’d hold off on handing him the keys to the franchise just yet.

Jose Theodore still has a year remaining on the two-year deal he was offered thanks to GM George McPhee’s knee-jerk reaction to Cristobal Huet fleeing as a free agent last summer.

Theo is set to make $4.5 million next season and nobody is going to take him off McPhee’s hands. Buying him out isn’t really an appealing option either because – unless you have complete confidence in Varlamov – you’re then committed to finding another 1A goalie for next year while still carrying two-thirds of Theodore’s salary for two more seasons. Depending on your opinion of soon-to-be 40 Dwayne Roloson and frequently injured Nikolai Khabibulin, the UFA goalie market doesn’t bear much fruit.

Basically, Washington has what it has in goal.

Defense is a different story. One of the names long rumored to be up for grabs on draft day is Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger. If he is made available, McPhee should be at the front of the line, asking Ducks GM Bob Murray what the cost of doing business is.

Pronger’s lock-it-down defensive play and overall unhappy disposition is something the Caps desperately need. He would provide the perfect compliment to Mike Green’s wandering tendencies and could help tutor up-and-coming blueliner Karl Alzner.

Pronger has one year left on his existing deal at cap hit of $6.25 million. Washington could absorb that and still have about $5 million left under a 2009-10 cap that is expected to remain in the neighborhood of the current $56.7 million figure. Aside from RFA defensemen Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina and Jeff Schultz, McPhee’s in-house to-sign list is pretty small this summer.

Word is Pronger is looking for an extension beyond his current pact and if his demands aren’t too extravagant, I’d be inclined to give it to him. Sure, he’ll be 35 in October, but it’s not like Pronger depends on fleet feet to make his mark. Losing a step isn’t a big concern for a guy whose calling cards are strong positional play, huge reach and physical strength, and an uncanny ability to fire low, hard bombs from the point.

Pronger is equally revered and revolted for his walk-the-line approach, so in theory his stock is going up because people tend to just get more nasty and bitter with age.

OK, that might be a stretch, but it’s no giant leap to suggest acquiring Pronger would elevate Washington’s Cup chances by a significant six feet and six inches.

MONEY WOES

An interesting report surfaced out of Finland earlier this week regarding former Los Angeles Kings center Esa Pirnes, who spent this season playing for Mytishchi Atlant of the KHL.

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If Finnish happens to be one of the languages you read, have at it.

Assuming it’s not, the short strokes go something like this: Pirnes was granted permission to leave the club early on during the league’s playoffs so he could be in Finland to attend the birth of his child. Unfortunately, the baby encountered some health problems and actually ended up in the intensive care unit.

The complications justifiably extended Pirnes’ stay at home and Atlant was knocked out of the post-season. Then things turned sour.

Pirnes didn’t receive his February paycheck, despite the fact he did play during that month. Bonuses were also withheld and the player was actually asked to pay roughly $350,000 for breach of contract. Apparently, Atlant management didn’t believe Pirnes was justified in missing work.

“I think I had a good reason,” Pirnes said in the Finnish story. “And actually, what is a good reason? Somebody has to die?”

In the wake of the story being reported in Finland, Atlant GM Leonid Veisfeld was fired.

Whether that completely resolves the situation or not remains to be seen. Atlant is the same club new Flyers goalie Ray Emery squabbled with over a salary discrepancy earlier this year.

These incidents likely stand as the exception to the rule in Russia. Still, stories like Pirnes’ do nothing to enhance the credibility of a league trying to attract top-level hockey talent from around the world.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.


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