OK, let’s try to make some sense out of what happened with Brooks Laich, John Carlson, Jay Beagle and the Capitals today.
By placing Laich on waivers, other NHL teams have 24 hours – until noon on Sunday – to claim him and take on the remainder of his contract, which has one more year and $4 million remaining, along with a $4.5 million cap hit.
Given Laich’s offensive struggles this season, that won’t happen.
In fact, Caps coach Barry Trotz said Saturday that Laich is joining the Caps on their trip to Chicago and could be in the lineup when the Caps face the Blackhawks at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, 30 minutes after he is expected to clear waivers.
If Laich clears, the Caps could assign him to Hershey following Sunday’s game, freeing up $950,000 in cap space through Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline. That, conceivably, would give general manager Brian MacLellan the flexibility needed to acquire the depth forward he said he’d like to add before the trade deadline.
The Capitals are currently at the 23-man roster limit, so placing Carlson on long-term injury reserve, which they almost certainly will do now that he will miss three to four weeks following a procedure Saturday to repair a lower body injury, would give them an additional $3.966 million of cap relief while also allowing them to activate center Jay Beagle ($1.75 million cap hit), who could return to the lineup as early as Sunday following Jan. 2 surgery to repair a broken hand.
Once MacLellan is finished tinkering with his roster on Monday afternoon, the 23-man limit is lifted, allowing the Caps to recall Laich from Hershey if they wish to do so. It is important to remember, however, that although a team can carry additional players on its roster following Monday’s deadline, they must remain under the salary cap.
Theoretically, the Caps could add a player before the deadline and carry him on the roster until Carlson comes off long-term injury, at which point that player could be sent to Hershey to make room under the cap for Carlson.