With the signing of defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler on Wednesday, the Capitals crossed off one of the last major items on the team's offseason to-do list. So what comes next? Are the Caps done? Is the roster set? Are there more moves to be made? To figure this out, we need to look at the team's roster and salary cap.
Siegenthaler re-signed for $800,000 which actually gives the Caps more room than was previously thought. Let's first take the hypotheticals out of this and look at the salary cap based on the players who are locks.
Here's a look at the team's roster:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - ???? Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway 13th forward: ????
Brenden Dillon - John Carlson Dmitry Orlov - Justin Schultz Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen 7th defenseman: Trevor van Riemsdyk
Ilya Samsonov Henrik Lundqvist
You can quibble with the lines or the defensive pairings, that's not the point. The point is just to show who the Caps have on their roster.
In addition, there are two more players we can safely add. The first is Daniel Sprong.
Sprong was impressive in the summer training camp prior to the postseason and his low cap hit of $725,000 makes this an obvious move. But this isn't just based on conjecture. Here's what assistant general manager Ross Mahoney had to say in September when asked if Sprong could make the team next season.
"Yeah, we'd like to see that, Daniel come in and have a really good camp. Probably right now would be more in the bottom-six role as far as the forwards go."
Even if the team doesn't want to just come out and say it, that seems pretty definitive.
The second player we need to add is Paul LaDue. This may be a surprise considering he has played in only 69 NHL games in his career and just two last season. He is an AHL player, but since he was brought in, the team has given every indication that he will be on the NHL roster for next season. He is listed on the team's roster on the website, he had a Zoom conference call with the media and the team even Tweeted out his number.
You may think this is nothing, but take it from me, none of these things are typical for a player signed by the Caps to play in Hershey. If he is on the NHL roster, he would be the designated No. 7, someone who the team can park in the press box as a healthy scratch without feeling any real pressure to get him into games unless an injury necessitates it. His role would be similar to what Taylor Chorney had during his time in Washington.
So, here's a look at the roster with Sprong and LaDue added in:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Daniel Sprong Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway 13th forward: ????
Brenden Dillon - John Carlson Dmitry Orlov - Justin Schultz Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen 7th defenseman: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Paul LaDue
Ilya Samsonov Henrik Lundqvist
That's two extra defensemen and no extra forwards.
If you put Michal Kempny on long-term injured-reserve, this roster would leave the team with $50,123 in cap space.
The Caps still need a 13th forward. So what are the options?
- Send LaDue to the minors. Despite everything the team is broadcasting about LaDue being on the NHL roster, maybe I am reading too much into it and he is ultimately sent to Hershey. This would give the team about $750,000 in cap space, enough to recall a prospect like Beck Malenstyn, Brin Pinho or Shane Gersich. They could also sign a free agent. The free agent market has slowed considerably and the team may be able to find a player who is growing desperate and ready to sign for cheap.
- Trade a defenseman. Of the eight defensemen on the roster, five of them are right defensemen. The team is not going to trade Carlson and it just signed Schultz, van Riemsdyk and LaDue. That just leaves Jensen. The team has too many right defensemen and he would be the obvious candidate for a trade. The problem is, the economic reality of the NHL at the moment makes a trade difficult, especially for a player who has struggled in Washington and has three years remaining on his contract. A $2.5 million cap hit is not enormous and right defensemen are always an important commodity, but the Caps are going to have to trade away an asset as part of the deal just to generate interest. From there, the team can either look to trade Jensen for a forward or trade him in a salary dump for draft picks and sign a free agent, or promote a prospect. A trade would be similar to what the team did last year, trading Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas. Yes, they were both defensemen, but the point is the team shed salary while also trying to fill a need. Perhaps general manager Brian MacLellan will look to do the same again and try to trade for a reclamation project forward. to fill that need while also trading away an extra defenseman.
The Caps have addressed just about every need the team had in the offseason and finding a 13th forward (or a third-line forward if Sprong will be No. 13) looks like the final piece of the puzzle. That player may already be within the organization but the fact is there is still more work to be done before MacLellan can put a bow on his roster for 2020-21.