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Holtby, Johansson inching closer to arbitration

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Holtby, Johansson inching closer to arbitration

With three days remaining before the start of the NHL arbitration process, 12 of the 23 cases filed on July 5 have been settled before going to a hearing. Will Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson, who are scheduled for arbitration hearings with the Capitals on July 23 and 29 in Toronto, be next?

“Nothing to comment on at this point other than we are preparing for the arbitration hearing on July 29,” Johansson’s agent, Marc Levine, told CSNwashington.com in an email.

A message left for Holtby’s agent, David Kaye, went unreturned on Friday.

Holtby, 25, is believed to be seeking a long-term contract with an average annual salary of $6.5 million or more. The Caps are believed to be offering in the neighborhood of $5.5 million per season. Holtby earned $2 million last season.

Johansson, 24, is believed to be seeking more than $4 million, while the Caps appear to want a cap hit closer to $3 million to $3.5 million range. Johansson earned $2.175 million last season.

Arbitration cases are heard by independent arbitrators and rulings must be made within 48 hours of the hearing, with both parties permitted to negotiate up until a ruling is made. Since Holtby and Johansson elected to go to arbitration, the Capitals can decide on a one- or two-year award. The Caps also have the right to walk away from any award above $3.8 million per year.

An arbitrator can give an award requested by the player, requested by the team, or come to his or her own amount. All travel costs to and from Toronto are the responsibility of the two parties (player/team) and the cost of the arbitrator is divided between the two sides.

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Going to arbitration could handcuff the Capitals, who currently have about $11 million in cap space, assuming recently signed forwards Zach Sill and Chris Brown begin the season in AHL Hershey.

If an arbitrator awards Holtby $6.5 million and Johansson $4.5 million the Caps would be slightly above the NHL salary cap of $71.4 million. Teams have until the start of the regular season to get below the cap. Caps GM Brian MacLellan has said he would like to enter the 2015-16 season with a $1 million salary cushion.

MacLellan has also said he’s prepared to go to arbitration with Holtby and Johansson. If that happens, Holtby’s agent likely would point out that his client finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season, behind Montreal’s Carey Price, who averages $6.5 million a season, and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who averages $7 million a season. (Devan Dubnyk, who finished third in Vezina voting, has a cap hit of $4.3 million).

Kaye might also point out that Holtby’s career numbers are comparable to Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who carries a cap hit of $7.425 million, and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, who’s at $6 million.

The Caps likely would counter by saying Holtby’s body of work – he’s been an NHL starter for two seasons – is not as large as any of the goalies used as comparables.

Of the 12 cases that have settled before their hearings, the one most relevant to Johansson would be Arizona Coyotes left wing Mikkel Boedker, 25, who agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract. Boedker had 14 goals and 14 assists in 45 games with the Coyotes last season and in 383 NHL games he has 67 goals, 107 assists and 174 points.

By comparison, Johansson had 20 goals and 27 assists in 82 games last season and in 345 NHL games he has 61 goals, 125 assists and 186 points.

Those numbers would suggest Johansson’s value would be at least $4 million.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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