The Capitals' roster is expected to look very different next season because they will struggle to return several, if any, of their unrestricted free agents. Why? Because several of them will be in high demand.
TSN released its Top 30 Free Agent rankings and four Caps players made the list. Oops, sorry, buried the lead there. Four Caps' free agents made the top six of TSN's list. Considering how teams tend to overpay for the top free agents on the market, you can see why it will be difficult to keep them in Washington.
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Veteran Justin Williams comes in at No. 6. The savvy veteran has won three Stanley Cups in his career and had a productive season with 48 points, but at 35-years-old, teams will be paying for his leadership more than anything else. Karl Alzner is No. 4. With Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, Nate Schmidt and John Carlson expected to round out the team's top-four on the blue line, the Caps likely cannot afford to pay Alzner anything close to what he can make on the market. His value to the team is much lower than it would be on several others across the league.
Fan favorite T.J. Oshie comes in at No. 2. If the Caps were to retain any of their UFAs, Oshie would be the most likely candidate, but, as the highest forward on the list, he will be the top winger on the market and is due a major, major pay raise. Washington just may not have the cap room to pay him what he is worth. Could he possibly take a hometown discount? Perhaps, but there comes a point when one player is leaving just too much money on the table.
Topping the list? None other than Kevin Shattenkirk. That may surprise Caps fans as Shattenkirk did not play up to his potential in Washington, but let's not be prisoners of the moment. Deadline acquisitions struggle more often than not and Shattenkirk did, in fact, have a career before this season's trade deadline. His entire resume does not consist solely of two months with Washington.
Would I personally rank Shattenkirk over Oshie? No. That likely has something to do with him being a 28-year-old defenseman vs. Oshie as a 30-year-old wing, but there is no question he is the top defenseman on the market.
Where would you rank the Caps among the top free agents?