With NHL Free Agency kicking off in a few days, the hockey universe is gearing up for Christmas in July. All eyes are on free agents like Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to see where they will continue their hockey careers. While Panarin and Bobrovsky likely will not be joining the Capitals, the free agency period should provide fans a few signing splashes and some possible trades too.
The Washington Capitals are going into free agency with limited cap space. With Jakub Vrana’s contract still unsigned, the Capitals will still work diligently to get that completed. Once it is completed, the Capitals can continue to address other team holes.
ANDRE BURAKOVSKY DEALT
On Friday afternoon, Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a couple of draft picks and unrestricted free-agent forward Scott Kosmachuk.
With Burakovsky now dealt, the Capitals will have to address their top-nine forward rotation this summer since they do not have many prospects that are ready to make the jump to the NHL.
LOWER SALARY CAP THAN EXPECTED
For months, the NHL’s maximum salary cap was expected to be around $83 million. During the NHL Draft, the maximum cap was finalized at $81.5 million. That is a significant reduction for a team like the Capitals that tend to spend up to the maximum every year.
The Capitals are still crunched right now with the salary cap, so they will probably not be able to sign any high-priced free agents. The Capitals might be able to fill some depth roles with signings, but they must watch every dime that they spend.
FILLING THE REMAINING HOLES
If the Capitals sign any players, they must be on bargain deals. The Capitals cannot afford to spend big dollars on players in their bottom-six rotation.
The Capitals will likely will not be able to retain Brett Connolly as he will likely demand a huge raise. Connolly, 27, will seek to reward himself after recording 22 goals and 46 points last season with the Capitals.
The Capitals should go bargain shopping if they intend on making any free agency signings. They must find affordable players that will not break the bank for them to fill the holes in their depth positions. If they cannot find any bargains on the open market, the Capitals will likely fill those remaining roster spots with younger players that are still on entry-level contracts. If that is the case, a trade might be the best possible option to fill some more of the depth holes.
If Connolly departs, the Capitals must try to find a bottom-six winger that can play the third or fourth line.
In addition to a replacement for Connolly, the Capitals may try to address their fourth line. The Capitals may lose Devante Smith-Pelly and Dmitrij Jaskin in free agency, so some replacements will be needed here.
While it will be a tight fit for the Capitals under the salary cap, the Capitals have an aggressive general manager in Brian MacLellan that is not afraid to make some deals to try and improve the club.
By: George Foussekis