The Capitals have some big – and potentially very expensive -- decisions to make before turning in their 23-man roster on Tuesday.
One of those decisions came before Sunday night’s preseason finale when 21-year-old center Chandler Stephenson was assigned to the Hershey Bears.
But just because Stephenson was sent to Hershey, don’t rush out to buy your Derek Roy Capitals jersey just yet.
Roy, 32, was not in the Caps’ lineup against the Islanders, and neither was forward Brooks Laich, scratched in favor of forwards Sean Collins and Liam O’Brien, each of whom impressed the Caps’ coaching staff enough to stick around the entire preseason.
In fact, it’s possible that aside from the absence of veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed the entire exhibition season while recovering from wrist surgery, the Capitals’ lineup Sunday night will be the one fans see when they open the regular season Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
And that could mean Collins and O’ Brien are in and Roy and Laich are out.
Roy, a veteran of more than 700 NHL games, signed a professional contract with the Caps just before the start of training camp and picked up a goal and an assist in four preseason games. Theoretically, the Caps would have room to sign him once they assign one of their goaltenders, presumable Justin POeters ($950,000) to Hershey.
But there could be mixed opinions about whether Roy is worth signing to a one-way contract, especially if the Caps hope to have Nicklas Backstrom back before the end of this month. As Trotz pointed out a few days ago, it’s always nice to have cap space when the trading deadline rolls around and signing Roy to a deal in the $700,000 range would eat up much of that space.
And then there’s the Laich dilemma. The Caps’ versatile 32-year-old forward can kill penalties, but at $9 million over the next two seasons the Caps need him to deliver more than he has on the bottom two lines.
The Caps could make a bold move by placing Laich on waivers, much like the Chicago Blackhawks did with veteran left wing Bryan Bickell on Friday, but like Bickell, Laich almost certainly would clear. The Caps could also stand pat on their roster and see which players become available on the waiver wire on Tuesday.
If Roy is better than anyone else on that list, the Caps may decide to sign him. Any way you look at it, there will be a lot of long conversations behind closed doors over the next 48 hours.
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