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Capitals bracing for Johansson's arbitration award

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Capitals bracing for Johansson's arbitration award

Marcus Johansson, his agent Marc Levine and the Capitals’ management staff -- along with a team of attorneys from both sides -- spent much of this morning stating their arbitration cases in Toronto, the results of which will have a lasting impact on the Capitals’ payroll.

With Johansson seeking a one-year salary of $4.75 million and the Capitals countering with a one-year award of $3 million, the stage has been set for an arbitrator’s ruling to come down by Friday afternoon, or a settlement sometime between now and then.

Based on the Nashville Predators’ signing of forward Craig Smith to a five-year, $21.5 million contract on July 20, which carries an annual average salary of $4.25 million, Johansson could receive up to $4.5 million in an arbitration award.

The Capitals currently have roughly $4.2 million in cap space, but could clear enough room for Johansson by sending goaltender Justin Peters ($950,000) to the AHL Hershey Bears before the start of next season.

If Johansson is awarded more than $3.8 million, the Capitals would have the right to walk away from such a ruling, effectively making Johansson an unrestricted free agent. Walk-aways are only permitted in player-elected arbitration cases and they must be made within 48 hours after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing.

It is unusual for a team to walk away from an arbitration award, but it happened three times in the summer of 2010.

The Chicago Blackhawks walked away from a $2.75 million arbitration award for goaltender Antti Niemi, with Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman saying, “That number was never going to work for us. We would have had to make some other moves to free up money.”

Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks and signed a four-year extension shortly thereafter.

The Atlanta Thrashers also walked away from a $2.4 million award for forward Clarke MacArthur, who went on to sign a one-year $1.1 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Buffalo Sabres waived forward Tim Kennedy after he was awarded $1 million in arbitration. Kennedy instead took a one-year, two-way contract with Florida that paid him $550,000 in NHL salary.

The issue with Johansson is not so much the award he will be given -- after all, he did finish fourth on the Capitals in scoring last season with 47 points (behind only Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson) -- but the role that is projected for him in 2015-16.

With Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky slotted as the Caps’ first- and second-line left wings, and T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams slotted as their first- and second-line right wings, Johansson figures to start the season as a third-line left wing with centers Brooks Laich or Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.

His power-play time (2:55 per game last season, fourth on the club) could also dip because of the additions of Oshie and Williams.

Simply put, the Caps are not keen on having a third-line left wing making in the neighborhood of $4.5 million, especially with Laich having two more years on a contract that pays him that same amount.

But if the Capitals walk away from Johansson’s award, they will have nothing to show for it except the additional cap space.

It makes for an interesting upcoming 48 hours.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps defenseman undergoes wrist surgery

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NBC Sports to nationally broadcast 18 Capitals games in 2018-19 season

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NBC Sports

NBC Sports to nationally broadcast 18 Capitals games in 2018-19 season

All eyes will be on the Caps as they begin their quest to defend their Stanley Cup title. Literally.

NBC Sports released its national broadcast schedule for the NHL regular season on Monday and coverage will begin with the Capitals' home-opener on Oct. 3 against the Boston Bruins. The nation will be able to witness Washington raising its first Stanley Cup banner to the rafters on NBCSN.

NBC Sports will present a total of 109 games in 2018-19, the most since acquiring NHL rights before 2005-06 and the Caps will be featured prominently.

Washington will appear eight times on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Hockey, the most of any team in the NHL, and four times on NHL on NBC. NBCSN will also broadcast an additional six games.

All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.

Here is the Capitals schedule as released by NBC Sports:

Wed. Oct. 3: Boston at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Oct. 10: Vegas at Washington, 8 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Oct. 17: N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Nov. 7: Pittsburgh at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. Dec. 11: Detroit at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN*
Wed. Dec. 19: Pittsburgh at Washington, 8 p.m. on NBCSN
Fri. Dec. 21: Buffalo at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN*
Tues. Jan. 8: Philadelphia at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN*
Sun. Jan. 20: Washington at Chicago, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Wed. Jan. 23: Washington at Toronto, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Sun. Feb. 3: Boston at Washington, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Sun. March 3: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Wed. March 6: Washington at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. March 12: Washington at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. on NBCSN*
Tues. March 19: Washington at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN*
Wed. March 20: Tampa Bay at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Sun. March 24: Philadelphia at Washington, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Tues. March 26: Carolina at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN*

* These games will be broadcast nationally, but will not be seen on NBCSN locally because they will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington

NBC Sports Washington remains the home of the Capitals for the 2018-19 season and will broadcast a majority of the team's games for the season including pre and postgame coverage. You can also expect extensive coverage on NBCSportsWashington.com throughout the season.

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Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

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USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: What will be the team's primary third defensive pairing?

Barring any PTOs or breakout performances in training camp, we can reasonably assume Brooks Orpik, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey are going to be the three players battling it out to be on the third pair.

General manager Brian MacLellan went through some salary cap gymnastics to get Orpik back for next season at a much smaller cap hit, Djoos played 22 playoff games in the Caps’ Stanley Cup run and Bowey was signed to a one-way, two-year contract for $1 million per year. Clearly, all three are expected to be on the Caps’ roster next season and play a role, but that role will be limited considering the top-four is pretty much set with Michal Kempny-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen.

Orpik will be 38 years old at the start of the season. His on and off-ice contributions are much greater than many were willing to acknowledge, but he was never a fast player and at his age, holding him to 60 games or fewer will make him a more effective player.

Djoos and Bowey are 24 and 23 respectively and, while both are ready for bigger roles, both are far from finished products. While they may be part of the future of Washington’s blue line, putting in two young, second-year players as their own pair is a risk.

But even if head coach Todd Reirden is not ready to turn the reins over to his two young defensemen just yet, he still needs to get both players plenty of playing time.

This is why Orpik may get a lot more playing time than many people think. The best thing for both Djoos and Bowey is for them to play. If you have concerns about them playing together, however, and neither is ready to supplant anyone in the top four, then you are going to see them cycle in and out of the lineup fairly frequently to play alongside Orpik.

That’s not to say we will never see a Djoos-Bowey pairing this season. They will probably have their chances and the better they look, the longer that pair will last. If they were ready, it would be a safe assumption that they would get the bulk of games together with Orpik serving more of a reserve role.

But a Djoos-Bowey pairing would be too vulnerable to opposing offenses at least at the start of the season and so we should expect a lot of Orpik.

While Reirden will work his defensive magic to bring Djoos-Bowey along as quickly as possible, I would anticipate Orpik-Djoos will see a majority of games this season as the team’s third defensive pairing.

Other key Caps questions: