Re-sign key free agents? Check.
Find a top-line right wing? Check.
Bring in more playoff experience? Check.
Now with Marcus Johansson re-signed, the Capitals' offseason checklist is complete. The team did everything they set out to do, but are they finished?
According to generalfanager.com, the Caps currently have just under $460,000 in cap space. That number, however, includes three goalies. One of those goalies, most likely Justin Peters, will be moved to AHL Hershey prior to the start of the season. If you take his $950,000 off the books, that gives the Caps just over $1.4 million of potential cap room they could still play with. There are always some surprises in camp and that number could end up being slightly different, but that is the general range.
To determine if any late summer moves are on the horizon, let's examine the key questions general manager Brian MacLellan must ask before he bringing in any more players:
What do the Caps still need?
The biggest need heading into the summer was a top-line right wing. They now have two potential candidates in Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie. Depending on how long Nicklas Backstrom is injured center could be a potential need, but players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson have all played center in the past and are capable of stepping in if necessary. The top four of the defense returns intact, but Mike Green and Tim Gleason are both gone. Dmitry Orlov, however, should finally be healthy and Nate Schmidt looks ready to be in the NHL full-time. Braden Holtby returns in net with either Philipp Grubauer or Justin Peters behind him. The Caps have even replaced goalie prospect Pheonix Copley who was part of the Oshie trade with the signing of veteran Dan Ellis. At this point, the only thing the Caps would be looking for is depth because you can never have enough depth.
Who is available?
As the draft has already come and gone, the trade market is pretty dry. Teams have already made the major moves they were planning to make. When looking at the free agent market in August, there's one very important thing to keep in mind: there's a reason why those players are still available. Having said that, there are some notable players still unsigned.
What can they afford?
The first thing fans need to keep in mind is that no general manager wants to spend right up to the cap. Teams need some cushion. Even though the Caps look like they have $1.4 million of room to work with, they would only actually feel comfortable spending considerably less. Don't expect to see the team free up any more cap space either. First, as explained above, barring something completely unexpected all major trades have already happened. The same things goes for buyouts. The buyout formula is complicated and teams actually end up saving a very minimal amount of money while also having cap space go to a player who is no longer on the team. Plus, teams won't buyout a player this late in the offseason out of fairness to the player. It's just not going to happen. If the Caps are still looking to buy, their cap space limits them to depth players only. If you're saying, ok, why not offer an unsigned player a contract at the NHL minimum ($575,000)? What have they got to lose? While beggars can't be choosers, NHL players (with an agent and a union) certainly can. Take for example, Daniel Briere (not that the Caps should or would be interested, this is just an example). Briere made $4 million last season. Would it be worth it to him to move to a new city and go through the rigors of another NHL season for $575,000? Probably not.
Looking at all three questions, the only thing the Caps would be interested in at this point is depth, but they cannot afford much more than the NHL minimum of $575,000. That essentially prices them out of most notable free agents and limits them to fringe NHL players who are not worth giving up a healthy cap cushion for.
The Caps managed to check off every box on their to-do list this summer. There's nothing left for MacLellan to do, but wait for training camp.
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