If the Capitals hope to keep the core of their roster intact, some of their pending restricted free agents, namely goaltender Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson, may need to take shorter terms and slightly less than market value.
That, and the club’s stated priority of acquiring a top-line right wing, were the two biggest nuggets to come out of general manager Brian MacLellan’s post-season news conference on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
“I think it’s important for players to realize that we’ve had a successful team,” MacLellan said, “and if they believe we have a good chance moving forward to win a championship that they recognize that going to max dollars, which you could make the choice to do, it would hinder our ability to compete going forward.”
MacLellan, hired last summer to replace George McPhee, said he thinks that with the right numbers the Caps could re-sign unrestricted free agents Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle, but hinted that Mike Green and Joel Ward would probably need to take below market value to stay in Washington.
Ward said Friday his decision to return to Washington will be based, at least partly, on the role he would play next season and beyond.
MacLellan said he views Tom Wilson as a top-six right wing, if not next season, then certainly the following one, which could impact Ward’s devcsion.
As for Green, MacLellan said there is a way for him to return for an 11th season in Washington, but did not sound overly optimistic.
“I think it’s going to come down to if he’s comfortable with that role and what do you pay for that role gong forward,” MacLellan said. “It’s probably going to be a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts around that. The best thing we can do is keep in communication, tell him what were thinking, he can tell us what he’s thinking and if it works out, that’ll be great. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Green makes $6 more than million and it’s a safe bet the Caps do not want to play that kind of money to a fifth defenseman.
Whether or not the Capitals are able to re-sign Ward, MacLellan said the Capitals will be on the market for a top-line right wing to play with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. MacLellan said he will explore free agency to acquire that player, but it could come through a trade.
“It’s on the shopping list,” MacLellan said. “I think it would be a priority for us, if we can find a guy who can play there. I don’t know what the UFA market is going to provide that for us. We’ll se what happens in the trade market coming up here and see if we can find that. Otherwise, we’re going to have to develop a guy. We’re going to have to look at [Andre] Burakovsky.
“But it is a priority. I don’t like to see a revolving player go through that all year. You’d like to have some more stability there, where a guy is there permanently, or almost permanently.”
We’ll have a complete transcript of MacLellan’s thoughts as today unfolds.