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Stephenson signing pushes Caps further over the salary cap and decisions loom

Stephenson signing pushes Caps further over the salary cap and decisions loom

The Capitals went over the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap earlier this week. Friday night they just kept spending.

Washington signed forward Chandler Stephenson to a one-year contract worth $1.05 million. That avoids an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for on Aug. 1. That’s good because those can become contentious.

But Stephenson’s salary means the Capitals are now, according to the website, which broke the news Friday night, about $1.364 million over the cap. That’s fine for now. Teams can exceed the salary cap by 10 percent up until the end of training camp. But they will have to get below it by Oct. 2. There’s no other choice.  
The roster is full now. Washington has 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. It’s still unclear if Stephenson will be part of that mix. Maybe a trade is coming – though it’s hard to find an identifiable candidate who isn’t a key player or a free agent the Capitals just signed (Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic). 
Stephenson has primarily been a fourth-line winger during his career. He was used heavily on the penalty kill the past two seasons. He has some skill, and definitely some speed, but 11 points in 64 games (five goals, six assists) and frustrating inconsistency often left the coaching staff turning to other options. The Hathaway and Leipsic signings clearly showed Washington’s front office wanted to upgrade the fourth line. 
That doesn’t mean Stephenson or fellow fourth liner Travis Boyd can’t compete for a job. But the cap constraints mean someone is going to be left out barring a trade. Just a few days earlier, Djoos went through with his arbitration hearing and earned a one-year contract worth $1.25 million. 
Remember, Stephenson was a nice contributor during the Stanley Cup title run in 2018 as a rookie. He had two goals and five assists in 24 playoff games. But it’s fair to say he didn’t build on that in his second season. 
The Capitals can go in several different directions before the Oct. 2 roster deadline. But now just cutting Stephenson or Boyd ($800,000) won’t be enough. They could save $175,000 million by having top goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov take over for backup goalie Phoenix Copley ($1.1 million). But ideally you’d want Samsonov developing his game at AHL Hershey. It’s not clear if he’s even ready for NHL duty.    
Given that Washington’s scoring depth took a hit by trading Andre Burakovsky and simply replacing free agent Brett Connolly with Panik, it’s hard to imagine a trade of any top-nine forward. Moving any of the top five defensemen seems unlikely, too, especially on the left side where depth is in shorter supply. 
There are going to be promising recent high draft picks on defense at AHL Hershey (Lucas Johansen, 21, Alexander Alexeyev, 19, Martin Fehervary, 19), but none has played in an NHL game yet. They, too, need to prove themselves. 
Trading Djoos for non-roster assets and employing Tyler Lewington, 24, in that No. 7 depth defenseman role would save $575,000. Lewington would make $675,000 with the Capitals and at least played in two NHL games last season. Combine that move with keeping just 13 forwards would slide Washington under the cap. 
But for now, the best bet is let all of these players, and a few more, compete for the final roster spots in what should be a competitive training camp. If someone is injured enough to go on long-term injured reserve, that could solve the problem. If a cheaper player steals a job that would ease the crunch, too. The Capitals have decisions to make, but time to make them. Now, at least, Stephenson will apparently be in that mix again.

    •    Ovi to Vegas?: Fear not
    •    Decisions, decisions: Backstrom or Holtby?
    •    Burning questions: What's the PK look like?

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Alex Ovechkin jokes he'll retire if he passes Wayne Gretzky on all-time scoring list

Alex Ovechkin jokes he'll retire if he passes Wayne Gretzky on all-time scoring list

While Capitals fans may never want to see the day when Alex Ovechkin officially calls it a career, we may have gotten a small peek into what would be the driving force behind his retirement. 

In an excerpt from an interview with ESPN's Linda Cohn, Ovechkin was asked what would happen if he overtook Wayne Gretzky and became hockey's all-time leading scorer. 

"You're probably never going to see me on the ice again," Ovechkin joked. 

Ovechkin is currently 12th on the all-time goals list with 678 career scores. He's seven goals away from passing Teemu Selanne for 11th all-time and could realistically crack the top 10 by the end of the season. 

To pass Gretzky? He'll need 217 more. 

If Ovechkin has any hopes of catching Gretzky on the all-time points list, he may not get close. 

With 1,242 career points, Ovechkin is 38th on the all-time list and is 1,615 behind Gretzky. Yes, Ovechkin trails Gretzky by more points than he's accumulated over a 15-year career. 

Ovechkin may never come close to Gretzky on the points list, but he'll always be an elite goal scorer and as long as he stays healthy, there's no reason for him not to threaten "The Great One" for the all-time goals crown. 


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4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Is there any bad blood?

4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Is there any bad blood?

The Capitals (21-4-5) will look for its first ever California sweep as they take on the Anaheim Ducks (12-12-4) on Friday. Check out all the action on NBC Sports Washington Plus starting with Caps FaceOff Live at 9 p.m. and Caps Pregame Live at 9:30 p.m. bringing you up to the 10 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington Plus after the game for postgame coverage on Caps Postgame Live.

Here's what you need to know for Friday's game.

Things got heated the last time they played

The Caps and Ducks last played on Nov. 18 in a game the Caps won 5-2, but no one remembers that. What people do remember is the wild brawl that broke out in the second period. Brendan Leipsic had had enough of the Ducks so he crushed Derek Grant with an open-ice, clean hit at the goal line that immediately erupted into a line brawl. There was a total of 55 penalty minutes doled out from that sequence alone. Most notably, Garnet Hathaway was ejected and given a match penalty for spitting on Erik Gudbranson.

You think these teams remember that game?

Sometimes in games like these, the media can build it up and then the puck drops and...nothing happens. That's especially true when it's two teams from different conferences. The bad blood just does not carry over for too long when it comes to a team you barely see. In this case, however, this game was not that long ago and the spitting incident is something that I can guarantee you neither team has forgotten. This should be fun to watch.

Still no Backstrom

Based on the morning skate it appears Nicklas Backstrom will not play in Anaheim. This will mark the eighth straight game he has missed.

Here are the lines from the morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

The Caps have a massive power play advantage

If there are a lot of fisticuffs in this one, that would seem to benefit the Caps more than Anaheim. Washington boasts the fifth-best power play in the NHL at 24.2-percent. The Ducks' power play is, in a word, terrible, clicking at only 11.3-percent (29th in the NHL). The Caps are a team that tends to take far too many penalties on a good night and this one...may not be a good night. But if both teams keep heading to the box Washington is far more likely to take advantage of its power play opportunities than Anaheim.

This would be the first California sweep for Washington

With wins in San Jose and Los Angeles already, the Caps will be looking for their first-ever California sweep. Washington has never beaten all three teams on the road in a season in franchise history. If you tack on that first game in Detroit as well, a win on Friday would also mark just the second time the Caps have ever swept a four-game road trip.