Last month, after the Capitals were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs, veteran left wing Jason Chimera said he thought he’d be coming back for an eighth season with the Capitals.
On Thursday, Caps coach Barry Trotz said that likely won’t be the case.
“Seriously, I think it’s a slim chance he has an ability to come back,” Trotz said following the third day of development camp.
“Priority number one is (signing restricted free agents) Marcus (Johansson) and (Tom) Wilson. The problem is timing. If those guys’ (contracts) aren’t done before that you can’t commit a bunch of dollars (to Chimera) and then all of a sudden you’re losing a guy who’s 26 versus a guy who’s 37.”
The Caps have roughly $11 million in cap space and Johansson, Wilson and Dmitry Orlov figure to eat up about $9 million of it in new contracts.
Chimera, 37, matched a career high with 20 goals last season and added 20 assists, strong numbers for a player who has an opportunity to test the free-agent market for the first time in his career on Friday, when free agency begins at noon.
“There aren’t that many 20-goal guys that can skate like Jason Chimera in the National Hockey League,” Trotz said. “He’s a veteran guy who brings energy. I said to him, ‘If you keep taking care of yourself the way you are, (you) can play until (you’re) 45.’ I think he’s going to get a three-year deal somewhere in the National Hockey League. He’s got a 28-year-old body on him and I don’t think he’s going to get any slower in the next year or two.”
During breakup day last month several of Chimera’s teammates said they wanted to see him back next season.
“He’s great to have in the locker room,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “He’s just an all-around great guy. He’s a funny guy, he jokes around and stuff like that. You need that in the locker room.”
“He's a freak,” said Caps center Jay Beagle, who played alongside Chimera much of last season. “He's going to play for, I think, a lot more years. He's still one of the fastest guys in the league. He's got those young legs that never seem to slow down and he’s a great guy in the locker room, a great guy to be around.
“He's going to play a lot of years. It's up to management and him, but I would love to see him back and I would love to play with him again.”
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