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How should the Caps spend their money?

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How should the Caps spend their money?

Its difficult to say how Thursdays announcement that the NHL is raising its salary cap from to 64.3 million to 70.2 million will impact Sundays start of free agency.

With the current CBA set to expire on Sept. 15 there is a very real chance that salary cap number will be renegotiated during labor talks.

But even if it its a loose figure, the additional 6 million in cap space will undoubtedly give teams the freedom to sign players they might otherwise avoid.

The Capitals, for example, will arrive at Sundays free agent frenzy with 20.8 million in cap space, assuming they let Alexander Semin walk. Thats significant coin for a team that spent all of last season at the salary ceiling.

On Wednesday, Caps GM George McPhee dropped this interesting nugget when explaining his decision to trade defenseman Dennis Wideman instead of paying him the 26.25 million the Calgary Flames gave him over five years.

To have the cap space to do the right things, we werent going to be able to sign him, McPhee said.

So that means, at least in theory, the Caps have money targeted for someone else in free agency, right?

Not necessarily, says McPhee, noting the addition of second-line center Mike Ribeiro and the progression of rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov as two significant pieces to the 2012-12 puzzle.

I think were in pretty good shape, McPhee said. We have good young goalies, the dee is complete, we added a skill guy. Well get into free agency like everybody else does, but if we dont do anything I wouldnt be disappointed. And if theres something there that makes sense at the right price, then well do it.

Well, NHL free agency is anything but The Price Is Right. Its more like The Price Is Over-Inflated But Were Willing To Pay It Because The Market Says We Must.

Truth is, Devils left wing Zach Parise, the top forward on the market, is going to command at least 8 million a season. And the Predators Ryan Suter, the top defenseman, will get similar money in a long-term deal.

Could the hiring of former Devils assistant Adam Oates help sway Parise away from front-runners Minnesota and Pittsburgh and convince him to sign with the Capitals?

Unfortunately, Im not allowed to talk about that, Oates said, because hes still employed with the team. So I better not.

Even McPhee admitted that having more than 20 million in cap space a few days before the free agent signing period is pretty tempting.

But it doesnt mean you have to use it all now, he says. You can use it during the season or at the 2013 trade deadline.

Its expensive to use it now. If you do something, its always more than the guys worth. The question is how much more and are you trying to trade him by November because he cost too much.

If the Capitals believe Parise and Suter are too expensive for their taste, how about the next level of free agents?

Goal-scoring forwards like Shane Doan, P.A. Parenteau, Dustin Penner, Ray Whitney and Lee Stempniak would be perfect complementary wingers to centers like Nicklas Backstrom and Ribeiro.

And on the back end, solid defensemen such as Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, Michal Roszival, Bryan Allen and Bryce Salvadore will be available to fill the Capitals need for a No. 4 defenseman who can bump Roman Hamrlik down to a better-suited No. 5 role.

Which way will McPhee and the Capitals go? How much of that 20 million will they spend? Do you believe they will make a run for Parise or Suter? Or should they go the less expensive route? Join the conversation below.

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:

Forwards

Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

Walker

Defense

Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney

Ness

Goalies

Holtby

Grubauer

RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”

 

  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”

 

  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  

 

  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  

 

  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”

 

  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.

 

MORE CAPS: Nicklas Backstrom shines among NHL's top stars

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

Nicklas Backstrom has been the Capitals’ best player so far this season, according to coach Barry Trotz. And he was recognized for his play on Monday when the NHL named him third star of the week.

No one had more points over the past week than the Caps’ star center, who racked up three goals and six assists in four games.

Trotz praised Backstrom for his point production — and his play on the other side of the puck.   

“He’s been really good,” Trotz said. “Nick has been all business. He’s playing very well. He’s been our best player, no question, with balance in his game. Nick’s balance in his game is really good—on my soap box again—and that’s what makes him one of the best two-way centermen in the National Hockey League. ”

RELATED: Andre Burakovsky's first NHL fight

Last season, Backstrom didn’t get his third goal until the 16th game (en route to a 23-goal campaign). In six games this season, the 29-year-old has three goals and eight helpers.

First star of the week was Winnipeg winger Nikolaj Ehlers (five goals, two assists), while Toronto center Auston Matthews (four goals, including two OT winners) received second star honors.

On Tuesday at Capital One Arena, it’ll be second star versus third star as Matthews and the Leafs take on on Backstrom’s Caps.

MORE CAPS: How the Caps flopped in Philly