HERSHEY, Pa. – As a pending unrestricted free agent, Hershey Bears forward and Capitals prospect Riley Barber will soon be in need of a new contract. That contract, however, will likely be with a new organization as Barber is prepared to move on from the Caps.
“I've been here for a long time and kind of know what Washington feels about me,” Barber told NBC Sports Washington, “So it'll be nice to see what other teams feel about me especially with the year I had and see how it shakes out in July.”
Barber, 25, is in the midst of the best professional season of his career. His 31 goals with Hershey are a career-high and led the team. He finished the season with 60 points, also a career-high, and has added another three goals and two assists in seven playoff games.
With the Caps being up against the salary cap this offseason, the team may lose some of its forward depth in the bottom six. Carl Hagelin, Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky and Devante Smith-Pelly are all free agents this summer and the team may lose any or all of them depending on how the offseason plays out. Washington is going to need cheap forward depth to fill out its lineup which could give a young, productive player like Barber a chance to compete for a spot.
Barber, however, when looking at his future sounds like a player who has already mentally moved on from the organization.
“I've spent a while here,” he said. “I know how [the Capitals organization feels] about me. Didn't get a lot of opportunity. I don't think I'd see myself coming back, but I never know.”
Barber was a sixth-round draft pick of the Caps in 2012. He made the jump to the pros in 2015, but has been called up sparingly and has only played in three NHL games.
As a UFA, Barber will be free to sign with any team on July 1. The Caps have the chance to negotiate with him prior to that, but otherwise they will have to get in line with the other 30 NHL organizations and bid for his services.
But, given his age, Barber is not interested in just signing on to stay in the AHL. He is ready to make a push for the NHL and is confident he can produce.
“I like where my game's at right now,” he said. “I just think that if I get the opportunity [at] the next level, I'll be able to produce.”
Should Barber move on, as it certainly sounds like he intends to do, that will be one less option for general manager Brian MacLellan to fill out his bottom-six for next season.
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