In a perfect world, the Capitals would have locked up restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov by now, giving general manager Brian MacLellan a clear-cut picture of what he has to spend when the unrestricted free agent market opens for business at noon on Wednesday.
Instead, MacLellan will wade into the waters with trepidation, careful not to overspend the estimated $6 million he’ll have in cap space when the numbers for Holtby, Johansson and Kuznetsov are in the books.
Some of that $6 million will almost certainly be spent on a UFA depth defenseman, someone capable of playing third-pair minutes in the event Nate Schmidt or Dmitry Orlov are unable to handle the load or if one of the Caps’ top four defensemen gets injured.
Although MacLellan acknowledged he may be forced to pick through the UFA leftovers on Thursday or Friday, here are five defensemen that might interest the Caps if they are not snatched up quickly on Wednesday:
Barret Jackman, St. Louis Blues
2014-15 stats: 2-13-15, plus-3 in 80 games, 16:48
2014-15 cap hit: $3.16 million
Scouting report: A hard-edged, defensive defenseman, Jackman was the NHL’s top rookie way back in 2002-03. He plays a solid, reliable game and is a great leader in the locker room. He’d fit in nicely as the Caps’ fifth defenseman but other teams may need him to play a top-four role and will be willing to overpay.
Sergei Gonchar, Montreal Canadiens
2014-15 stats: 1-13-14, plus-6 in 48 games, 17:41
2014-15 cap hit: $5 million
Scouting report: Taken by the Capitals with the 14th pick of the 1992 draft, Gonchar could be a nice fit with the team that gave him his start in the NHL, especially if he’s willing to settle for a one-year, $1.5 million contract. He's played for six teams in his 20-year NHL career that included a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. Gonchar may have lost a step, but he is a reliable first-pass defensemen who might be willing to play a No. 7 role in a familiar city. Gonchar is also from Evgeny Kuznetsov’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Eric Brewer, Toronto Maple Leafs
2014-15 stats: 3-8-11, minus-5 in 44 games, 18:41
2014-15 cap hit: $3.875 million
Scouting report: Brewer doesn’t give you much offensively, but he’s a big [6-4, 216] left-shot defenseman who can log big minutes when needed. Brewer is well-respected in the locker room but has been to the playoffs just twice in the past 12 seasons. Like Gonchar, he would need to settle for a contract that pays him about $1.5 million.
Robyn Regehr, Los Angeles Kings
2014-15 stats: 3-10-13, plus-10 in 67 games, 20:19
2014-15 cap hit: $3 million
Scouting report: At 6-3, 222 pounds, Regehr is still capable of logging heavy minutes and is a force on the penalty kill. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2014 and would likely want a more meaningful role than the Caps have to offer. But if Justin Williams decides to come to Washington, he might be able to lure his Kings teammate with him.
Tim Gleason, Washington Capitals
2014-15 stats: 1-8-9, minus-13 in 72 games, 16:19
2014-15 cap hit: $1.2 million
Scouting report: Gleason did not rule out the thought of returning to the Capitals and neither did MacLellan, saying he liked the toughness and reliability of the 11-year veteran. Gleason is not likely to attract a high level of interest in the open market and his familiarity with the Caps could make him a good fit at a cap-friendly salary in the $1 million range.