Just a few short weeks ago, both the Capitals and restricted free agent defenseman Dmitry Orlov were optimistic about getting a new contract done. Now, with the World Cup of Hockey and training camp starting, a new deal sounds a lot more uncertain.
Initially, it sounded as though the asking price and possibly the length were the underlying issues holding a new deal from getting done. While that still may be the case, at this point it sounds as though there’s something more holding them back.
With Orlov participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, some saw it as an opportunity for Orlov to establish his value. While his performance in the tournament to-date hasn’t been eye-popping, his 2015-16 NHL campaign showed the potential he possesses. In his first season back from an injured wrist, Orlov scored a career-high eight goals, 21 assists, and 29 points in 82 games played. While his offensive talent is clearly strong, costly defensive mistakes plagued the young blueliner throughout the season.
With the Capitals’ training camp starting, General Manager Brian MacLellan has to be feeling at least a little pressure to hammer out a deal with Orlov.
With the regular season just under a month away, time is clearly running out for a deal to get done. The Caps have made it clear they see Orlov as a Top 4 defenseman this season, but if they can’t get a deal done by at least the start of the preseason, what does it mean for Orlov’s future with the team? The upcoming Expansion Draft next summer is likely factoring into the delay, as is the team’s limited salary cap space. The Caps can only protect three defensemen next summer and it’s likely those three will be John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Karl Alzner (if they re-sign him). While Orlov is a valuable blueliner, Alzner provides more in the way of defense and the combination of offensive production from Carlson and Niskanen should make up for the potential loss of Orlov. The Capitals also have just $3,454,874 in available cap space, and spending most or all of it on Orlov isn’t practical in the long run.
No matter what the holdup is, it’s becoming increasingly clear that time is running out for both sides if they hope to get a deal done by the start of the season. If they haven’t by the team’s season opener, some big decisions will have to be made. They have until December 1 to sign Orlov; if he hasn’t by that time, he will have to sit out the remainder of the season and the playoffs. What do you think Caps fans? What should the Caps do if they haven’t completed a deal by the end of training camp?
By Michael Fleetwood