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Caps' MacLellan juggling invisible dollars


Caps' MacLellan juggling invisible dollars

With offseason hip surgery threatening to sideline top-line center Nicklas Backstrom for the start of training camp, the pending arbitration hearings for goaltender Braden Holtby and forward Marcus Johansson have handcuffed the Capitals from making any additional roster moves to strengthen themselves down the middle.

The Caps are currently about $11 million under the NHL salary cap and are trying to calculate how much money may be left over once Holtby and Johansson are under contract.

“I think we’re going to be pretty close (to the cap),” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “If we have to play out the arbitration cases we have an indication of what the numbers should be, but you can’t guarantee it. We have those numbers slotted in and depending if it comes out less than or greater than, we’ll make adjustments to our strategy going forward.”


Holtby is believed to be seeking more than $6 million in annual salary, while the Caps’ offer is believed to be in the five-year range at a little more than $5 million per season. Johansson is believed to be seeking about $4 million a year, while the Caps are believed to be setting their sights on about $3 million.

In both cases, if the two sides do not come to an agreement before their hearing dates of July 23 (Holtby) and July 29 (Johansson), the Caps can choose on a one-year or two-year arbitration settlement. And if the award is greater than $3.5 million per season, the Caps have the right to walk away from it, which is a possibility with Johansson.

The Caps appear to be exploring the possibility of adding a depth center who can fill the void left by Eric Fehr, who remains unsigned after scoring 19 goals while earning $1.6 million last season. If Fehr is willing to accept a similar salary the Caps could entertain the idea of bringing him back. If not, Mike Santorelli is another UFA center that might interest the Capitals.

If Holtby and Johansson combine for $9 million in annual salary, the Caps would have just under $2 million in cap space. As of now, they appear to be willing to use at least some of it.

“I think we’re going to let it play out,” MacLellan said. “We could address it internally, the third-line center spot. And depending how the contract situation plays itself out, there are a couple options in the free agency market. We’ll see and we’ll explore the trade market up until training camp.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that if Backstrom is unable to play right away, he could fill the center role internally, mentioning T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Laich as possibilities.

“We’ve got some options,” Trotz said, “but at the same time I know we’re not done looking. We don’t have a lot of (cap) room. I’m looking internally more. Can a Chandler Stephenson come up and play in one of the roles? We’ll look internally first and if something is a right fit, I know Mac will go out and fill a hole if we feel we have one.”

Trotz said he sees Burakovsky as a winger but probably will give him ice time at center during training camp, especially if Backstrom is not ready.

In other contract news, MacLellan said he has made a contract offer to RFA forward Chris Brown and “I think we’ll get him signed here shortly.”

Excluding Holtby, Johansson and Brown, the Caps have 41 players under contract, well below the 50-player limit.


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Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

With the NHL Draft just a few days away in Vancouver and after countless mock drafts, NBC Sports Washington will have you covered as the Capitals decide who to take with the 25th overall pick.

As part of NBC Sports Washington's coverage of the NHL Draft, the Capitals Talk Podcast will host 'Capitals On the Clock: Draft Night' on linear television and as a live stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app.

Capitals Talk will sit down with Rob Carlin, Grant Paulsen, Al Koken, Michael Jenkins, J.J. Regan and Brian McNally to discuss the Capitals the 2019 Draft. They'll be joined by Zack Fisch, Manager of Media Relations & Broadcasting with the Hershey Bears, who will shed light on who's ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

The live stream will also include an NHL and Capitals Draft trivia segment which fans will be able to play along with.

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Capitals Talk Podcast "Capitals on the Clock" Special

When: 8 p.m. Friday June 21

Where: NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports MyTeams App


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Should the Caps re-sign Devante Smith-Pelly?

Should the Caps re-sign Devante Smith-Pelly?

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s debate:

Region: Capitals free agents

Should the Caps re-sign Devante Smith-Pelly?

2018-19 stats

54 games played with the Caps, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 10:51 TOI

Playoffs: 3 games played with the Caps, no goals, no assists, no points, 9:47 TOI

Hockey-Graph contract projections

2 years, $1,170,523 cap hit

The case for re-signing

There is no question that Smith-Pelly can be inconsistent, but he always seems to bring it in the playoffs. Before his seven-goal performance in the 2018 Cup run, Smith-Pelly was brilliant with the Anaheim Ducks scoring five goals in 12 games back in 2014.

With Carl Hagelin re-signed and players like Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos and other depth pieces still on the horizon, affordability is pretty much the biggest asset for any free agent available to Washington and it won’t get much more affordable than Smith-Pelly.

Hockey-Graphs can be spot on with some of its projections and outright wrong for others and this case is definitely the latter. Smith-Pelly’s contract for the 2018-19 season was a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1 million. After scoring just eight points and getting demoted to the AHL, there is no way he walks into next season with a two-year deal and a raise. The cap hit is going to be low for Smith-Pelly and that makes him a very attractive choice for the Caps.

Sure, regular season production is an issue, but if you can get a bonafide playoff performer for $1 million or less, that’s a good deal.

The case against re-signing

When the Caps needed to send a player to the minors to free up cap space for Nick Jensen at the trade deadline, the team elected to send Smith-Pelly to Hershey over Dmitrij Jaskin. Jaskin played 37 games last season. That is pretty much all you need to know.

Sure, Smith-Pelly walked into the playoffs and performed well, but he still did not produce. Depth offense is a weakness for the Caps and one they will struggle to address with the little amount of cap space left. You cannot waste that remaining cap space on a player who is going to give you eight points.

Smith-Pelly came into the season in questionable shape, was so ineffective he was sent to the minors and this from a guy who has already bounced around the NHL and who came to Washington after getting bought out by the New Jersey Devils.

On breakdown day, general manager Brian MacLellan said of Smith-Pelly, “Internally we had a couple of issues we had to work through.”

There are just too many red flags here for a Smith-Pelly return.

Who’s your pick? Vote here.