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McPhee unwilling to pay 'inflated' prices

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McPhee unwilling to pay 'inflated' prices

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.

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lounge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?