Capitals left wing Jason Chimera saw what happened to Mike Green and Joel Ward last summer, when both veterans left Washington after receiving longer and more lucrative offers from the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks.
So he knows that after parts of seven seasons with the Capitals, it might be time for him to explore free agency even if that is not his first choice.
“I still think I’m going to be back,” Chimera said. “I’m not confident in anything. In this game, I think you’re not guaranteed anything to be back. I want to be back. You don’t think of playing anywhere else. You know the business side of it, but I still don’t think I’m going to play anywhere else, but you’ll see what happens, right?”
At 37, Chimera still possesses the size and speed that is valued across the NHL. And he is coming off a 20-goal regular season. But Chimera managed just one goal in12 playoff games and Caps general manager Brian MacLellan emphasized on Monday the need to add more depth to the Caps’ lineup.
Chimera made $2 million last season and could probably earn at least that figure on his next contract. The Caps have roughly $32 million committed to nine forwards next season and roughly $55.5 million committed to NHL contracts, leaving them with about $18.5 million in projected cap space.
If restricted free agent Marcus Johansson gets $4.5 million, Tom Wilson gets $1.5 million and Dmitry Orlov gets $2.5 million, that leaves about $10 million in cap space, which in theory would be plenty to sign a third-line center and Chimera.
“I don’t think anybody’s signing a 37-year-old guy that’s rebuilding,” Chimera said. “Hopefully, it’s here. I still believe firmly that this team could win a Stanley Cup, and it still has a special feeling. Even though we lost, I think it still does.
“If they win a Stanley Cup next year and I’m not part of it, I’ll go into a deep depression for a couple weeks probably. Maybe months or years. You put a lot in with these guys and you work a lot of hours with the guys and some of your best friends you meet in your whole entire world are on this team.
“You want to see that through. My 1,000th game is next year. You want to celebrate with these guys. I’ve been here a long time, you want to celebrate that with these guys. If it works out, good. But I’m not naive, I’m not young, I know the business side of it now.”
The business side could see players like Chimera, Mike Richards and Mike Weber and restricted free agent Michael Latta, signing elsewhere next season.
If so, Chimera said he will reflect positively on his seven seasons in Washington, except for the way it ended.
“This loss was maybe a little more -- not taxing, but I guess you don’t know what’s going to go on next year,” he said. “You don’t know if you’re going to be with these guys. You want to be with the guys, but you understand the business side of it, too. That’s why I was disappointed the way it ended, for sure, because you want to win with these guys and you don’t know if you’ll have that chance. … It would be tough to leave, for sure.”
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