The salary cap and waivers are issues every team faces just about every season. For this year’s Washington Capitals team the salary cap already seems tighter than last year and the issue of contract costs and waiver status could play a huge role in who is with the club and who is sent to Hershey.
Note: Jay Beagle will be located at center.
With a bit of assistance from CapFriendly’s Armchair GM, the biggest need for the Caps at this point would be two left-wings. While both Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly, assuming that he stays in Washington, could slide to left-wing from right-wing, the two best players in Hershey at left-wing would be Nathan Walker ($650,000) and Jakub Vrana ($863,750). Vrana, while a bit of a higher price tag, is waiver exempt, so this is a rather intriguing option.
At right-wing, the Bears would then have Wayne Simpson ($650,000) and Anthony Peluso ($650,000) along with Riley Barber ($692,500) all waiver exempt. All three could be shuffled back and forth between the two clubs for Vrana if he has a rocky go or if they want to get a look at any of the three right-wingers.
Additionally, Washington is in need of an additional forward. The biggest options for this spot would have to be Chandler Stephenson ($650,000), Travis Boyd ($650,000), Barber, or Tyler Graovac ($625,000). Almost assuredly, Washington is set at the center position with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller, and Jay Beagle.
Finally, Washington needs two defensemen. The hole at left defenseman is probably Christian Djoos’ since he is a natural fit at that side. Madison Bowey typically plays on the right. As far as contracts go, Djoos is set for $650,000 and would require waivers. Bowey is $703,333 and is waiver exempt.
The 7th defenseman will more than likely be Aaron Ness who has some NHL experience. Ness is $612,500 and would require waivers. If the Caps want to take a look at some younger guys, it would make more sense to start with Bowey, Tyler Lewington ($655,000), Lucas Johansen ($925,000), Jonas Siegenthaler ($714,166), Connor Hobbs ($720,000), or Kris Bindulis ($792, 500). All are waiver exempt and could be interchangeable throughout the season. Unless they have stellar camps though, Johansen, Siegenthaler, Hobbs, and Bindulis will likely spend the season in Hershey getting used to the system and speed of the AHL game.
If Walker, Barber, Vrana, Djoos, and Bowey round out the opening night roster, that would leave the caps with $621,560 of wiggle room. Additionally, it allows for some interchangeable parts as the Caps will most definitely want to have their prospects in at some point during the season. With Barber, Vrana, and Bowey all exempt, it would give some degree of flexibility in that respect.
PROJECTED OPENING NIGHT ROSTER ORDERED BY CONTRACT VALUE PER POSITION
The bottom line is that the Caps need to put together the best possible roster within the constraints of the salary cap and the Bears should prepare as best they can given the current unknowns with regards to the Capitals roster.
By Julie Beidler