The Capitals' work to retool the roster for a Stanley Cup run will continue on Friday with the start of NHL free agency at 12 p.m. and there are a number of targets the team can pursue despite its precarious salary cap position.
Washington went into the offseason with four major areas of need on the roster: top-pair defense, backup goalie, right defense and depth scoring. some of which have already been addressed. Brenden Dillon was re-signed, giving the Caps a much-needed top-pair defenseman. The team also re-signed prospect forward Daniel Sprong, who will likely be on the team this season. So, heading into Friday, I would say the Caps still need one backup goalie to play behind Ilya Samsonov, one depth forward and one right defenseman.
If you include Dillon and Sprong's new contracts, plus you add prospect defenseman Martin Fehervary to the roster -- who also looks like a lock to make the NHL in 2020-21 -- and put Michal Kempny on LTIR, that leaves the Caps with just over $7 million worth of cap room to re-sign Jonas Siegenthaler, sign a backup goal -- cough, Henrik Lundqvist, cough -- a depth forward and a depth defenseman.
Here are some potential targets for general manager Brian MacLellan to focus on in free agency who look like possible fits for Washington.
RD Zach Bogosian
2019-20 cap hit: $1.3 million
Bogosian was bought out by Buffalo in February and was hoisting the Stanley Cup in October. I think this guy is done with the losing and wants to play for contenders so getting Bogosian for cheap could be in play for the Caps who are all-in on this season.
Bogosian is a physical defenseman who I would peg as a third-pair player, but in the playoffs his two most frequent partners were Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, two guys who are obviously not bottom-pair players. This is the type of player the Caps can get to play on their bottom pair and feel good about pairing with Dmitry Orlov if they need to move Nick Jensen back.
C Alex Galchenyuk
2019-20 cap hit: $4.9 million
Galchenyuk is dismissed as a bust after washing out from his fourth team in two years, but consider that among all players in the 2012 NHL draft, Galchenyuk ranks first in games played, second in goals, fourth in assists and second in points. He is often bashed as a bust, but this may have more to do with the fact that he was a third-overall draft pick than his actual play. His career is trending downward, but the Caps have done well with reclamation projects in the past such as Brett Connolly.
On the Caps, Galchenyuk would play a third-line role at wing and also provide some center depth as that is the position he was drafted to play. Maybe he wants a top-six role and I really have no idea what the market will be like for a player like him, but if the offers aren't there and MacLellan can convince him to sign for cheap in Washington, this could be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Caps.
C Derek Grant
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000
Center depth is a need and Grant scored 15 goals last season despite an extremely cheap contract. This would be purely a depth move for Washington, but a depth player who can score like that is a definite asset.
RW Trevor Lewis
2019-20 cap hit: $2 million
I don't see Lewis as a great fit for what the team needs, but I bring him up because the team was reportedly interested in him in February. Now as a free agent, perhaps MacLellan circles back to him.
G Henrik Lundqvist
2019-20 cap hit: $8.5 million
The worst kept secret in hockey, Lundqvist has been linked to Washington pretty much ever since he was bought out by the Rangers. The team has spoken with him and this is expected to get done soon after free agency officially opens.
LW Pat Maroon
2019-20 cap hit: $900,000
If you need depth offense, a proven winner and someone who can help you in the playoffs, Maroon fits the mold and comes with a cheap price tag. He can get to the net and make life miserable for a netminder, plus he has won the Cup with two different teams in two consecutive years. I am guessing the Caps want to get a bit younger so maybe a 32-year-old free agent won't be at the top of their wish list, but he is someone to keep in mind as the team looks for depth forwards.
RD Trevor van Riemsdyk
2019-20 cap hit: $2.3 million
I am surprised at the trajectory van Riemsdyk's career took in Carolina. I had his potential a lot higher than it turned out. He's definitely a bottom-pair player and everyone knows it...which means he will be cheap. I like the idea of getting a player like van Riemsdyk because you can slot him in at that third pair, but there's also the potential for a career rebound that sees him become a much-improved player after a change in scenery.
RD Sami Vatanen
2019-20 cap hit: $4.88 million
Vatanen is going to be a reach for the Caps as I expect the market will put Vatanen well out of Washington's price range. While teams in need of a right defenseman all go after Alex Pietrangelo, however, perhaps Washington could swoop in and try to convince Vatanen to sign with the Caps.
Vatanen is a bonafide top-four defenseman and someone who could compete for that second-pair role with Jensen and because of that, he will probably be too expensive.
This is the kind of move a team makes at the trade deadline when you can acquire a prorated salary, but it is going to be hard for the Caps to swing even though he looks like a perfect fit.