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Would Capitals walk away from Johansson?

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Would Capitals walk away from Johansson?

No matter what happens between now and Braden Holtby’s scheduled arbitration hearing on July 23, the 25-year-old goaltender is going to play for the Capitals next season and get paid handsomely (probably between $5.5 million and $6.5 million) to do so. The future of 24-year-old left wing Marcus Johansson is a lot more fuzzy.

Johansson has an arbitration hearing set for July 29. With five NHL seasons under his belt, Johansson is two years away from unrestricted free agency and is coming off a two-year, $4 million contract that paid him $2.175 million last season.

To retain his rights, the Caps were required to offer Johansson at least 100 percent of his 2014-15 salary, which they did, presumably at $2.175 million.

It is unclear whether the Caps made a second, more lucrative, offer to Johansson. If they did not, they may be content with letting his case go to arbitration.

Here’s where things get tricky.

If an arbitrator awards Johansson (or any other NHL player) $3,799,887 or better, the Capitals (or any other NHL team taken to arbitration by a player) can walk away from the award, making Johansson a free agent. (Last year's "walk-away" number was set at $3.5 million.)

Caps general manager Brian MacLellan is taking a wait-and-see approach on Johansson because he wants to see how the market dictates Johansson’s value.

MORE CAPITALS: MACLELLAN TIGHTROPES ON SALARY CAP 

Anaheim Ducks left wing Carl Hagelin ($2.4 million last season) is an unsigned restricted free agent who has put up similar numbers (58 goals, 72 assists, 130 points in 266 NHL games) as Johansson (61-125-186 in 345 games). But when the Rangers decided they were not willing to pay Hagelin more than $4 million, they traded him to the Ducks for Emerson Etem and a second-round pick.

The Caps, who have roughly $11 million in cap space, could find themselves in a similar predicament. If the Capitals are forced to pay Holtby more than $6 million, they almost certainly will not want to pay Johansson close to $4 million, especially if they have him slotted on a third-line behind left wings Alex Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky.

Last year, two days before his arbitration hearing, right wing Michael Frolik avoided arbitration with the Calgary Flames by signing a one-year, $3.3 million contract. Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello beat the arbitration clock by three days when he agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.

If Johansson, who is coming off a career-high 20 goals and 47 points, is awarded $3.8 million or more, the Caps could walk away from the forward and use Johansson’s allotted salary space on another player, like, say, Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak.

The Leafs appear to be set down the middle with centers Nazem Kadri, Peter Holland, Richard Panik and Shawn Matthias and are reportedly shopping Bozak, who is coming off a career-high 23 goals and 49 points.

Bozak, 29, hails from Barry Trotz’s home town of Regina, Saskatchewan and has three years remaining on a contract that pays him $4.2 million a season.

To get Bozak, the Caps probably would need to part with a roster player (Brooks Laich, Michael Latta, Jason Chimera?) and a prospect (Riley Barber, Connor Carrick?).

Take a look at the Caps’ current forward depth chart vs. one with Bozak and discuss what you would do?

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Marcus Johansson (RFA) – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Jason Chimera – Brooks Laich/Michael Latta – Stan Galiev/Jakub Vrana

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Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie

Burakovsky-Kuznetsov-Williams

Chimera/Laich – Bozak – Wilson

Latta-Beagle-Vrana/Galiev

 

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.