Photo: Fear The Fin
After the Washington Capitals sent forward Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for second and third-round picks in 2020 and the rights to forward Scott Kosmachuk on Friday afternoon, they have some cap space to play with as free agency begins on Monday at 12 noon ET. NoVa Caps examines how they can spend that money in the next few days.
The Capitals currently have $9,235,706 remaining in cap space. A little less than half of that will go to forward Jakub Vrana, who can become a restricted free agent on July 1, after his 24 goals this past season were the third-most on the Capitals. Another $1.4-1.7 million will go to defenseman Christian Djoos and forward Chandler Stephenson, who can also become restricted free agents on July 1.
That leaves the Capitals with a little more than $3.5 million to spend on the unrestricted free agent market with a forward spot up for grabs. The team could also look to add depth on defense as well.
Ideally, the Capitals would be able to re-sign forward Brett Connolly, who is set to hit the open market on Monday after setting career-highs with 22 goals and 46 points in 81 games this past season. But other teams could offer him upwards of $5 million and a spot in their top-six forward group. With the entirety of the Capitals’ top-six from last year returning, it would be hard to justify paying that much for a third-line winger. Besides, they might not be able to match any lucrative offers that get thrown at Connolly.
If Connolly’s price to stay is too steep, the Capitals will have to look elsewhere to improve their top-nine forward group. Possible options on the unrestricted free agent market include forwards Joonas Donskoi (who spent last season with the San Jose Sharks), Richard Panik (Arizona Coyotes), and Michael Ferland (Carolina Hurricanes). The price for signing any of them is likely to range between $2.5 million-$3.5 million.
Donskoi recorded 14 goals, 37 points, and a +10 rating in 80 regular-season games with the San Jose Sharks this season.
Panik tallied 14 goals, 33 points, and a -3 rating in 75 games with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19 and averaged 1:59 worth of ice-time per game on the power-play and 1:12 per game on the penalty kill this past season.
Ferland recorded 17 goals, 40 points, and a +13 rating in 71 games in his first season with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018-19.
If the Capitals feel like they want to improve their blueline, they will almost certainly sign a depth player with only $1 million at most to spend depending on their route to fix the bottom-six forward group. With the top-five defenders set in stone, the Capitals could look to add some more experience on the bottom pair. Defensemen Christian Djoos and Jonas Seigenthaler each bounced in and out of the lineup last season and Djoos missed a little less than two months due to thigh surgery. In addition, neither one of them has more than two years of NHL experience under their respective belts.
Options to add an extra defenseman that could slide into the lineup when necessary include Luca Sbisa (who spent last season with the New York Islanders), Deryk Engelland (Vegas Golden Knights), and Ben Lovejoy (Dallas Stars).
Sbisa recorded one point (an assist), seven blocked shots, 17 hits, and an even rating while playing only nine games last season, though he has averaged at least 15 minutes per game in each of the last two years and averaged 1:46 worth of shorthanded ice-time per game last season.
Engelland posted two goals, 12 points, a -3 rating, 26 takeaways, 152 blocked shots, and 165 hits while averaging 19:53 per game, including 3:12 on the penalty kill, in 74 games last season. He averaged more than 20 minutes per game and almost three minutes on the PK while shorthanded the season prior.
Lovejoy tallied two goals, nine points, a -1 rating, 118 blocked shots, 76 hits, and 23 takeaways while averaging 17:05 worth of ice-time per game (including 3:24 on the penalty-kill) in 71 games with the Stars and New Jersey Devils last season.
Once the Capitals add a top-nine forward and maybe a fourth-line one, they should mostly set for the 2019-20 season. After that, there are areas that could use improvement but are not as urgent. Look out for the Capitals to make 1-2 signings to help the bottom-six forward corps once the unrestricted free agent market opens at noon on Monday, but they will not be in the market for big-name free agents. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from while other teams chase the marquee players.
By Harrison brown