Quick Links

As Caps embark on road trip, navigating the salary cap remains a 'day-to-day' process

As Caps embark on road trip, navigating the salary cap remains a 'day-to-day' process

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The salary cap was one of the major storylines for the Capitals heading into the 2019-20 season. Facing a cap crunch in the summer, it was expected the team would have to make several moves to shed salary. General manager Brian MacLellan did, but he was also aggressive in acquiring players he felt the team needed to bolster the roster. As a result, the team entered the season with almost no space under the cap ceiling.

Now 27 games into the season, the strain the lack of cap space is putting on the team is coming into clear focus and there is no easy answer for how to ease that strain.

For a team with so little room under the cap ceiling, staying healthy was going to be paramount for being able to more easily navigate the cap. Thus far, the Caps have not been so lucky.

"Half the teams in the league, more than half the teams in the league, are in the same spot we're in where you're right at the cap, you're $1 million away from the cap,” MacLellan said Tuesday. “When you get injuries, it forces you to make certain decisions that you might not normally make."

Those "certain decisions" include stripping the roster down to only 12 healthy forwards and six defensemen. It includes recalling Tyler Lewington, a defenseman, to replace forwards Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd when both were out with upper-body injuries and playing a game with seven defensemen. It includes recalling Mike Sgarbossa and Beck Malenstyn on the day of a game against the New York Rangers and dressing a bottom-six that more resembled a Hershey Bears’ lineup than an NHL one.

Those are the issues facing the Caps now, but staying so close to the ceiling also will have ramifications later in the season.

At the trade deadline, teams make a flurry of moves to bolster their rosters. They are able to do this in part because of banked cap space. That extra space allows them to afford players they would not have been able to earlier in the season.

But Washington is not banking any space.

Judging from the first quarter of the season, adding a right-shot, top-four defenseman should be a priority for the team, but those players do not usually come with a cheap price tag. Trying to add a player like that will require an equal dollar deal be made because there is no other way for the Caps to fit another salary under the cap.

"I think it's gonna be tough,” MacLellan said when asked about making any late-season additions. “Depending on the long-term injury and the amount of cap space you have, it's gonna be hard to add an impact player. I think it's - it's going to be hard to add a high-salary player."

MacLellan will face another challenge soon as the Caps embark on a four-game road trip starting on Saturday in Detroit.

Carrying the bare minimum of healthy players is always a risk, as the last few weeks have shown. With a home-heavy schedule with the only travel being on the East Coast, the team rolled the dice believing it could make any recalls necessary and those players would be able to arrive in time for a game situation.

This road trip, however, will take the Caps to Detroit and then California. With Carl Hagelin eligible to return on Dec. 2 and looking healthy enough to be activated at that point, Washington will once again have to shed salary and will likely find itself without enough money for both a spare forward and defenseman for the road trip. What then? Do they recall Tyler Lewington who has the lowest cap hit in the organization as the 19th player and cross their fingers that there are no forward injuries until they get back to Washington? They may have no choice.

"I think we're day-to-day making decisions,” MacLellan said. “It's tough. We can play that game of projecting, but like I don't know what Nick's injury [is]. We don't have Hagelin back for sure yet. So are we gonna have a guy on LTI or not on LTI? I mean there are so many factors that go into the day-to-day decisions. We spent more time this year talking about injuries, roster, the cap on a day-to-day basis than we ever had."


Quick Links

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blue T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera shows plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and talled 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for ultimately his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 in to the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


Quick Links

Oshie makes a triumphant return to St. Louis for his first All-Star Game

Oshie makes a triumphant return to St. Louis for his first All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS -- Friday's All-Star Skills provided a brief glimpse of the type of reception T.J. Oshie can expect to receive from the St. Louis crowd when he takes to the ice in his first NHL All-Star Game.

"It's been pretty cool hearing them cheer when I got called up," Oshie said. "I heard a cheer so I looked up at the scoreboard and they were showing me skating in warmups. It's really cool and special to me to see the support that I still have here in St. Louis, a place that I really enjoyed playing."

Though it feels to many in Washington as if Oshie has always been a Capital, this is only his fifth season with the franchise. He spent his first seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues. It is the team that drafted him, developed him and where he broke into the NHL. St. Louis is the city in which his first daughter was born and now, the city in which he triumphantly returns, still a fan favorite, for his first NHL All-Star Game (NBC, 8 p.m.).

"Obviously in D.C. is kind of where my career really started to take off and I've had more success there as a team as well," Oshie said, "But to come back here where I really started growing my family and had a lot of special memories and place I was drafted to, it's a pretty cool story to be able to tell my kids when we're older and grandkids after that."

While there is no question that D.C. is now home for Oshie, he never lost that bond that he had with the team and his teammates. When the Blues won the Cup, Oshie was on the phone with several of his former teammates the very next day as they continued celebrating.

And while Oshie never lost the bond he had with the team, neither did the team lose that bond with him.

"He goes all that time, comes back here for his first [All-Star Game] after he did so much for us and played so many games," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said, who was a former teammate of Oshie's in St. Louis. "It's weird how things work out."

It certainly is. Just ask David Perron.

Perron was also a teammate of Oshie's with the Blues and both player's careers are connected in more ways than one.

Perron was selected 26th overall by St. Louis in 2007, Oshie was selected 24th overall by St. Louis in 2005. Perron played his first NHL season for the Blues in 2007-08, Oshie in 2008-09. Perron was traded in the summer of 2013, Oshie in the summer of 2015. Perron won his first Cup in 2019 with the Blues, Oshie in 2018...against Perron who was then a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Now, the two are united again, each making their first All-Star appearance and it just so happens to come in St. Louis of all places.

"I said how special is it that we're here together right now?" Perron said. "I think for him after 12 years of his career, for me 13 years, it's both our first time and both being voted in by the fans, fans of St. Louis obviously helped him out quite a bit because he was a fan favorite when he was here and they helped me out a lot as well. It's truly special, a heck of a player. He's always played the right way, won a Cup two years ago against us in Vegas, that was hard, but I was happy for him to win one. And he's put in the work, he's put in the time, I'm happy for him."

Most players spend the bye week and the All-Star break by stepping away from hockey and going on vacations or spending time with family. With a pregnant wife and two daughters, Oshie probably had other plans for this week that did not involve going to snowy Missouri.

If the All-Star Game were anywhere else, this week may have been more than an inconvenience for Oshie than anything else. But not St. Louis.

Said Oshie, "I don't think there's another place that would be more fitting for me to go to my first All-Star Game."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.