It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.
Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.
Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.
Mary B. writes: With the most recent player moves, where do the Caps stand regarding the salary cap?
I wrote an in-depth piece about this on Tuesday which you can read here. To summarize, the Caps have 25 players despite a 23-player maximum and are nearly $2.7 million over the salary cap. Michal Kempny has been designated as injured non-roster which takes him off, and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s roster spot and cap hit do not count during his suspension. That brings the roster below the cap ceiling and down to 23 men.
This is fine for now, but it means that all the tough decisions we thought the team would have to make at the start of the season will now have to be pushed back a week. Once Kuznetsov and Kempny return, general manager Brian MacLellan still has to trim at least two players and $2.7 million worth of salary.
@irieLife4me on Twitter writes: After watching preseason, what defensive pairings seem likely especially with Michal Kempny still out?
Jonas Siegenthaler has spent much of camp playing with John Carlson, which makes sense as the two seemed to play well together in the playoffs when the spinning wheel of partners to replace Kempny finally landed on No. 34.
Radko Gudas spent some time with Dmitry Orlov in training camp, but it appears Nick Jensen will start on the second pair for now. Orlov did not look as comfortable in that role during the preseason as perhaps the team was hoping, so I wonder how short the leash will be.
And for now, it looks like Fehervary will be playing on the third pair with Gudas.
So to recap, the top pairing is missing its left defenseman, the second pairing is one of the biggest question marks for the team this season and the third pairing consists of one player in his first season with the Caps and one player in his first season in the NHL.
Basically, the biggest takeaway from this is that Kempny still remains absolutely critical to the team’s defense this year and they need him back as soon as possible.
Darren L. writes: I was wondering about Michal Kempny’s hamstring. It’s been a very long rehab process and I just read that the Caps aren’t putting him on long-term IR. Are they still concerned about his status? Or is he very close and they don’t want to rush him back?
Kempny has skated in a non-contact jersey throughout all of camp. His participation has increased throughout so there has been progress, it just is a matter of waiting for him to get back to 100-percent.
If you are looking for a reason to be optimistic, the injured non-roster designation does not carry a minimum number of games that a player must miss. Long-term injured reserve, for example, would require Kempny to miss 10 games.
Kempny could be activated at any time, we just don’t know when.
@Jennife61533767 on Twitter writes: How well do you think the Caps will do this season? How do you think this team will meet the salary cap? Will all those waived, if not picked up, will they be reassigned to Hershey and South Carolina?
Let’s start with the cap. While the roster is cap compliant as of right now, more moves will need to be made once Kuznetsov and Kempny return as I explained above. I know fans are excited about Fehervary and Ilya Samsonov. Chandler Stephenson also had to earn his way back onto the roster after a bad season last year. But if I had to bet, I would think all three players will most likely be sent to Hershey. Fehervary and Samsonov are waiver exempt, so there is no danger in sending them to the AHL. Stephenson, meanwhile, is expendable and has a large enough cap hit at $1.05 million to make him a clear target to be waived.
All three players the Caps placed on waivers on Monday -- Christian Djoos, Liam O'Brien and Mike Sgarbossa -- all cleared and have been assigned to Hershey.
From top to bottom, the Caps still have the best roster in the Metropolitan Division. I believe they win a fifth straight division title. From there, it is all about matchups and how healthy they are. I do think they have it in them to make another deep playoff run, especially if the desperation of the closing championship window sets in.
Zac R. writes: How come there wasn't more talk about defensive prospect Colby Williams this preseason? He was one of the best defensemen on the ice both games he played in.
I’m not so sure I would agree with your assessment. He wasn't bad, but I don't think his play stood out in any way to change my or the team's perception of him. Williams is one of the best skaters in the organization, but I think it is safe to say he is an AHL player.
If the Caps thought he was good enough to be in the NHL, he would be. At 24 years old and with a $700,000 cap hit, being able to have him on the roster would help solve a lot of cap problems.
Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Cap Compliant!: Well, at least for now.
- Captain Carlson: John named second alternate
- Season Preview: Everything you need to know heading into 2019-2020