With a flat salary cap, some expiring contracts and the Seattle expansion draft, this is going to be a busy offseason for the Capitals. To get you ready, NBC Sports Washington Capitals writers Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan are breaking down the biggest offseason questions with their thoughts.
Today's question: Who will the Caps lose in the expansion draft?
Andrew: The “best case” scenario for losing a player would be Brenden Dillon, as much as it hurts to say losing a player is “best case.”
The reasoning here is that the Capitals will have Dmitry Orlov, likely Michal Kempny and Martin Fehervary as left-handed shots ready to play in the NHL. On the right side, they’ve got John Carlson, Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That’s a strong group of seven with defined roles.
But, assuming the Capitals wait to sign Alex Ovechkin, I think their protected forwards (as of writing this) will be Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller and Daniel Sprong. On defense, I think they’re going to protect Orlov, Carlson and Schultz and then Ilya Samsonov in net.
I think the Kraken would pick Nick Jensen in this scenario, which works for Washington considering they’d need all the scoring they can get in their forward group. The salary cap would be an issue here, as Jensen makes just $2.5 million, meaning they could be forced to make an extra move.
The Golden Knights loaded up on defensemen, and I think the Kraken will look to give Jensen a bigger role in Seattle.
JJ: I think Andrew is right about the protected list with Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Anthony Mantha, Lars Eller and Daniel Sprong being the seven forwards, John Carlson, Justin Schultz and Dmitry Orlov being the three defensemen and Ilya Samsonov being the one goalie.
Of the players that leaves exposed who is the most likely to go? It's not going to be a forward or Vitek Vanecek. Seattle will have better options at both positions to choose from across the league, unless General Manager Brian MacLellan pulls out a wild card and exposes Oshie or Kuznetsov.
The Caps certainly seem to be thinking they could lose a right defenseman. Why would a team with so little cap space re-sign Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two-year deal after playing him only 26 games last season? My guess would be because they think either he or Nick Jensen could be headed to the Kraken.
If it's not one of those right defensemen, then Dillon becomes the most likely player which, as Andrew explained, would certainly be better for the Caps given the team's surplus at left defense. Would it be beneficial enough that MacLellan would consider throwing in an asset such as a draft pick to try to entice Seattle? That remains to be seen.