- The Washington Times - Friday, July 1, 2011

The fact that the Washington Capitals have been a great regular-season team but struggled in the playoffs might be the worst kept secret in the NHL. Brooks Laich said earlier in the week that the biggest improvement the Caps needed to make was to “elevate” their game when the Stanley Cup was at stake.

So they made a couple moves Friday to help make that possible, signing playoff-performer Joel Ward and veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik.

Ward, a right winger, in particular is a move made with eyes set toward next April, May and possibly even June. He scored seven goals and added six assists in 12 games with the Predators this past playoffs. The Caps gave him a four-year deal worth $12 million with the hope he can replicate that.

“I think the Capitals are very close to not only competing but winning the Stanley Cup,” Ward’s agent, Peter Cooney, told The Washington Times. “I look at Joel as one of the pieces that could help them get there.”

Ward was contacted by 20 teams, but the Caps were among the first to show interest, Cooney said. The 30-year-old is 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds and will add some more grit to the wings in Washington.

Hamrlik’s addition likely spells the end of Scott Hannan’s time with the Caps. According to TSN, the deal with the 37-year-old is two years and $7 million. With Tom Poti’s future uncertain with groin injuries, the former No. 1 overall pick will slide onto the blue line as a veteran presence.