One week from now, the Washington Capitals will look to draft some good young prospects for the future. The Capitals currently hold the 26th overall pick in the 1st round. They are without any 2nd or 3rd round picks, and do not pick again until the 4th round.
The Capitals should still end up with a good prospect in the 1st round, even though they are picking late in the round. GM Brian MacLellan has done a nice job with the salary cap, and he is in the driver’s seat to make any key adjustments to the roster. MacLellan will look to improve his roster in all areas, and if he plays his cards right, he should be able to fill several key holes.
MacLellan has some bargaining chips at his disposal at the upcoming NHL Draft. His biggest trade chip involves Marcus Johansson. If MacLellan decides that Johansson is not in the Capitals future plans, he will have to find a trading partner.
Johansson, 25, was the Capitals 1st round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, and could be valuable to a lot of other clubs because of his age and solid production at the NHL level. Johansson could be traded for another young player, or a very nice draft pick. Will MacLellan look to add another young defenseman or forward in a Johansson deal?
The Capitals 2016 1st round pick (#26) could also be used as a trade piece. MacLellan could use this pick in a trade package, or he could use this pick to trade down in the Draft. If MacLellan chose to move out of the 1st round, he would gather more picks to use later on.
With the Capitals likely to make a couple of moves, the Capitals could also use some of their younger defensemen in a deal. Could Dmitry Orlov or Nate Schmidt be 2 players that other teams could target because of their age? There are many teams searching for defensive help, so the Capitals could use their defensive depth to their advantage in a possible deal.
What about the Capitals loaded depth in net? After Braden Holtby, the Capitals have promising youngsters Philipp Grubauer and Vitek Vanecek waiting. The Capitals also selected Ilya Samsonov in the 1st round in the 2015 NHL Draft, but he has not signed a contract with the Capitals yet. Could one of these young goalies be used in a trade package to get help in the lineup elsewhere?
SALARY CAP FLEXIBILITY
Brian MacLellan has done a good job leaving cap space available to adjust his roster. With plenty of cap space to play with, he can freely make changes with his roster.
For the 2016-17 season, the maximum salary cap is expected to be in the $73 million range. If the salary cap gets to the expected $73 million max, the Capitals should have a little over $14 million in cap space.
Cap flexibility is key, especially when a General Manager has to make adjustments to his roster for the future. If a club does not have cap flexibility, they will most likely be forced to make a move that they do not want to make, and they may also not get fair value in that deal.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Like every other team, the Capitals will head into the Draft with multiple game plans. Trades can happen quickly around the NHL, and a flurry of activity is expected right before the Draft occurs.
With some teams looking to make moves to create cap space, and other teams looking to add young pieces, the NHL should be very busy in the next week. The Capitals will be in a good spot, because they have the cap flexibility and they already have some solid young prospects throughout their organization that they could possibly move.
Capitals fans should not expect anything earth-shattering. But they should expect Brian MacLellan to be aggressive in order to fill the roster holes. MacLellan has been an active GM the past couple of summers, and most of his moves have greatly improved the Capitals. Barring the moves MacLellan makes, the Capitals should be right back at the top of the NHL next season. Even if MacLellan does not make his moves before or during the Draft, he should be busy at the beginning of free agency on July 1.
By: George Foussekis