The 2021 offseason will be a big one for the Washington Capitals as captain Alex Ovechkin can become an unrestricted free agent and forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Ilya Samsonov can each become restricted free agents. They will have $16,333,334 remaining in cap space which will likely not be enough to sign the three, let alone be active in signing players from other teams. However, they could clear cap space with some prospects expected to be ready by the 2021-22 season in addition to the Seattle Kraken taking someone off of their hands in the upcoming expansion draft. NoVa Caps looks ahead to next offseason’s free-agent options for the Capitals. Some of these players could also be trade deadline targets if cap considerations allow.
Current Projected 2021-22 Lineup
Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie
Connor McMichael — Lars Eller — Richard Panik
Carl Hagelin — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway
Extra: Brian Pinho, Daniel Carr, Daniel Sprong
Brenden Dillon — John Carlson
Jonas Siegenthaler — Justin Schultz
Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen
Extras: Martin Fehervary, Michal Kempny
If Ovechkin, Vrana, and Samsonov are signed to the contract extensions that we projected here, the Capitals will be around $9 million over the NHL salary cap of $81.5 million, which means that other tough decisions are going to have to be made.
We explained here why Eller could be one of those pieces out the door.
After Fehervary impressed when given the opportunity with the Capitals in 2019-20 and Siegenthaler cemented himself as the team’s top penalty-killer, the team signed Brendan Dillon to a four-year contract. Add in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken on the horizon, and Orlov and Kempny (both left-handed shots) could each become expendable after this season. Shedding both of them would account for $7.6 million.
If Eller, Orlov, and Kempny leave, the Capitals would have nearly $2.04 million in cap space. The Capitals could increase that to $7.29 million if Panik and Jensen are traded.
That would leave the Capitals in need of a middle-six right-winger, a fourth-line left-winger, and a second- or third-pairing right-handed defenseman. They could also look for an upgrade in the goal crease after Samsonov if they wanted but that seems unlikely as it appears there will be a weak unrestricted free agent goalie market and they could save some money by putting Vanecek behind Samsonov. Here are some possibilities to fit those roles:
Sceviour was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Florida Panthers this offseason after recording six goals, 16 points, a +2 rating, a 46.1% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five, and a 48.02% expected goals-for percentage in 69 games last season. He was a healthy scratch for half of the Panthers’ four-game Qualifying Round loss to the New York Islanders, where he was held to just a -1 rating.
In 454 career games with the Panthers and Dallas Stars, the 31-year-old has recorded 59 goals, 141 points, and a -8 rating. In 19 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, he has posted three goals, eight points, and a +2 rating. His best season came in 2017-18 where he recorded a career-high 11 goals, came two shy of his career-best with 24 points, and tied a career-high with a +6 rating.
Defensively, Sceviour recorded 91 hits, 72 blocked shots, 26 takeaways, and 35 giveaways while averaging 13:15 per game, including 2:30 on the penalty-kill.
Sceviour’s next contract will likely carry a cap hit between $2-2.4 million.
The 26-year-old was signed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Florida Panthers as an unrestricted free agent this fall and will once again be eligible to hit the open market after this season.
Hinostroza recorded five goals, 22 points, a +1 rating, a 49.59% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five, and a 49.45% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five with the Arizona Coyotes in 68 regular-season games in 2019-20. He added two assists and earned a +1 rating in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. In 246 career NHL regular-season games with the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, Hinostroza has recorded 34 goals, 100 points, and an even rating. The best season of his career came in 2018-19 when he recorded 16 goals, 39 points, and a -4 rating in 72 games with the Coyotes.
Defensively, Hinostroza recorded 51 hits, 26 blocked shots, 20 giveaways, and 30 takeaways while averaging just 13:06 worth of ice-time per game, including 0:47 while shorthanded, last season.
Barring a breakout season, Hinostroza will likely cost around the same money the Panthers gave him.
The 28-year-old was signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Calgary Flames and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Nordstrom posted four goals, seven points, a -6 rating, a 43.17% Corsi-for percentage, and a 40.84% expected goals-for percentage in 48 games with the Boston Bruins last season. He has 31 goals, 68 points, and a -35 rating in 400 career regular-season games with the Bruins, Blackhawks, and Carolina Hurricanes. The best season of his NHL career came in 2015-16, where he set career-highs in goals (10), assists (14), points (24), and plus-minus (+1) in 71 games with the Hurricanes. In 46 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Nordstrom has recorded three goals, 10 points, and a -11 rating and won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2015.
Defensively, Nordstrom posted 91 hits, 31 blocked shots, 12 takeaways, and 10 giveaways while averaging 12:06 per game, including 1:56 on the penalty-kill.
Nordstrom will likely cost around the league-minimum unless he significantly ramps up his production with the Flames this season.
The 26-year-old was signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Jankowski recorded five goals, seven points, a -12 rating, a 48.84% Corsi-for percentage, and a 51.28% expected goals-for percentage in 56 games with the Flames last season. He has posted 36 goals, 64 points, and a -13 rating in 2018 career regular-season games with the Flames, including 18 assists, 32 points, and a +6 rating (all career-highs) in 79 games during the 2018-19 season. In 10 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Jankowski has no points and a -3 rating.
Defensively, Jankowski recorded 14 hits, 33 blocked shots, 20 takeaways, and 32 giveaways while averaging 11:06 per game, including 2:02 on the penalty-kill last season.
Jankowski will likely cost around the league-minimum unless he has a breakout season with the Penguins in 2020-21.
The 25-year-old was signed to a one-year, $975,000 contract with the Edmonton Oilers and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
After getting traded by the Blackhawks, Kahun recorded 12 goals, 31 points, a +8 rating, a 49.74% Corsi-for percentage, and a 49.27% expected goals-for percentage in 56 games with the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres last season. He has tallied 25 goals, 68 points, and a +18 rating in 138 career regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Penguins, and Sabres. In his rookie season, Kahun set career-highs in goals (13), assists (24), points (37), and plus-minus (+10) in 82 games with the Blackhawks.
Kahun posted five hits, 22 blocked shots, 18 takeaways, and nine giveaways while averaging 14:58 per game, including 2:13 on the penalty-kill and 14 seconds on the power-play.
Kahun will likely make around $1 million on his next contract barring an offensive explosion in Edmonton, which could happen as he is expected to get time next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
The 27-year-old center posted six goals, 21 points, and a -5 rating with the Dallas Stars during the regular season. He has been a negative plus-minus player for each of the past three seasons but Janmark posted a 51.18% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.44% Fenwick-for percentage, and a 54.57% expected goals percentage this past season. In 297 career regular-season games, he has recorded 46 goals, 109 points, and a -10 rating. The best season of his career came in 2017-18 when he posted 19 goals, 34 points, and a -13 rating.
Janmark also averaged 14:37 of ice-time per game, including 1:38 on the penalty kill, third among Stars’ forwards, and 38 seconds on the power-play. He posted 37 blocked shots, 22 hits, 27 takeaways, and 31 giveaways.
He signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in October and will likely make around the same amount on his next contract barring a breakout year offensively.
The 32-year-old recorded 11 points (all assists) and a +5 rating in 50 regular-season games during the 2019-20 season with the Coyotes. At five-on-five, he recorded a 47.11% Corsi-for percentage and a 47.11% expected goals-for percentage last season. In 658 career NHL games with the Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Dallas Stars, Demers has posted 45 goals, 210 points, and a +35 rating.
While averaging 20:30 of ice-time per game, including 2:16 on the penalty kill (third on the Coyotes), last season, Demers recorded 70 blocked shots, 76 hits, 15 takeaways, and 32 giveaways.
Demers will likely count for around $2.25 million against the salary cap on his next deal.
While there are some options on the free-agent market for the Capitals, perhaps it is better to give that ice-time to younger players or explore the trade market to fill these holes as the 2021 unrestricted free agent class is relatively weak and the team has to focus on re-signing their big guns.
Even if the Capitals wanted to be active on the free-agent market after this season, they would have to make numerous trades to clear cap space and get in on the action and it may not be worth doing so. However, it is worth a peek and a lot can change between now and when the 2021 free-agent market opens.
By Harrison Brown