George McPhee entered Sundays start of NHL free agency with 20.8 million in cap space. He spent just 950,000 on fourth-line winger Joey Crabb.
So why havent the Capitals made a big play for Devils left wing Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, each of whom remained unsigned through the first two days of free agency?
Simply put, because McPhee doesnt believe Parise and Suter are worth more than Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and hes not about to tie up more than 10 years and close to 100 million on either player.
McPhee said he submitted contract proposals to Parise and Suter, but once their demands crossed the threshold the Capitals had established, they pulled out of the running.
Youve got to do what you think is right as far as dollars and terms, McPhee said, and if it doesnt make sense, you dont do it.
Especially if to comes to wreaking havoc on a teams salary structure.
Ovechkin is the Capitals highest-paid player at 9.5 million. He has nine years remaining on a 15-year, 124 million contract. Backstrom is next on the pay scale at 6.7 million. He has eight years remaining on a 10-year, 67 million contract.
McPhee said he cannot justify signing players to contracts that rival those of his top two players, no matter how much cap space he is working with.
You have to respect your own players in this process, McPhee said. We have some very good players here and you have to be careful not to pay other players more than you pay your own players, who are better players. Its important.
Do you want 15-year deals? Do you want 10-year deals on the books? Thats not a direction we want to go in. We werent desperate to do anything in free agency and we didnt do anything desperate.
Everybody wants to do something, but youve got to be careful. We all know what its like to feel like youve got to do something, but at the end of training camp or the end of October, youre looking at the guy and saying, Why did we do that?
Its better to be nimble and flexible and we are right now and were not going to commit to anything that doesnt make sense to us.
McPhee said that after Parise and Suter, there is a significant dropoff in the quality of free agents available this summer. That didnt stop the Dallas Stars from giving Ray Whitney a two-year, 9 million contract, or the Kings signing Dustin Penner to a one-year, 3.25 million deal, or the Flames giving Jiri Hudler a four-year, 16 million deal.
Its a very inflated market this summer, McPhee said. There arent very many players and there are a lot of teams pursuing the players. At some point you start inventing players and make them out to be better than they are and pay them more than you should. Sometimes its best to sit back and stay out of it.
And so the Capitals did. When asked how they plan on replacing Alex Semins offense, McPhee said he believe the Caps have the players on their current roster to fill the void, saying he expects more offense out of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson and Ovechkin, as well as more from defensemen Mike Green, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov.
McPhee said he will keep a close eye on the trade market and did not rule out the possibility of getting into the Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash sweepstakes, but said he would be just as content entering next season with the roster he has.
Theres a time to get in and a time to stay away, he said. You can survive the loss of a player, but its hard to survive bad contracts. You can do something at this time of year that handcuffs you for years. Were not interested in doing that.