Salary Cap Solvency Finally On The Near Horizon For The Washington Capitals

Often lost in the day-to-day rumblings and grumblings among Capitals fans (myself included) is the fact that the Capitals have been operating for more than two seasons with little-to-n0 fiscal budget. The scant salary cap space has often dwindled to next-to-nothing, forcing the Capitals to make moves they normally wouldn’t make.

First and foremost, you’re right, the Capitals have nobody to blame but themselves for the ridiculously skimpy margins they must contend with, but that’s where we’re at. A pricey roster core has maxed out the budget.

The loose change in cap space has led to boring trade deadlines and game rosters with atypical numbers of forwards and defensemen, all because the Capitals couldn’t afford to callup even the cheapest of prospects.

But those days will be finally drawing to a close this summer. The Capitals will be shedding a few, of what now seem like. exorbitant contracts, and will likely backfill the vacancies with primed young whipper snappers awaiting in the wings.

Immediate Savings

The Capitals will likely say goodbye to Justin Schultz ($4,000,000) and Michal Kempny ($2,500,000) in free agency this summer. That’s $6,000,000 in cap space realized right off the bat. That’s huge.

Yes, the Capitals will need to fill those vacancies, and you can’t ask two young prospects to replace that level of experience. But you can ask one young prospect to work with an experienced free agent veteran to fill the two vacancies.

If the Capitals can sign an experienced blueliner for $3,000,000 (plus or minus) and elevate Lucas Johansen and/or Alex Alexeyev, you’re looking at saving a net of $3,500,000. The Capitals could also retain Matt Irwin at $750,000, but he will be a free agent and likely get a few more dollars.

Potential Additional Cuts

It’s always difficult for fans to consider cutting loose a member of the 2017-18 team. Heck, I’ll even feel glum when Michal Kempny departs. But in the age of the salary cap, it’s part of hockey business.

Center Lars Eller could also be on the trade blocks this summer. Younger players have been nipping at his skates all season, as the time for saying goodbye to “The Great Dane” is sadly drawing near.

On the plus side, that’s a $3,500,000 contract that will be cut loose in exchange for a $863,000 contract (Connor McMichael or Aliaksei Protas). An additional savings of $2,637,000. Now we’re rolling in it.

Carl Hagelin’s injury was extremely unfortunate, first and foremost, because of the nature of the injury. Two surgeries later and it looks like Hagelin will be alright and might even be able to return to hockey some day.

On a much less important level, the injury complicates the ability to move Hagelin. But the Capitals also have much cheaper alternatives waiting in the wings in Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, and Johan Larsson is proving to be up to the task in filling in for Hagelin in the meantime. There will actually be good competition for Hagelin’s spot.

Removing Hagelin’s $2,750,000 may seem marginal in comparison to the aforementioned roster changes, but replacing him with Axel, who is 10 years younger and $2,000,000 cheaper, would be a huge savings. Larsson is even cheaper at $700,000, but he will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, will command more money and likely get it.

The Bottom Line

By making the roster adjustments noted above and the pending $1,000,000 increase in the league salary cap, the Capitals could realize a surplus of approximately $9 million in salary cap space to address other roster needs. Did somebody say goaltending?

The outlined moves I’ve specified in this post are what I would do. MacLellan and the Capitals may have other variations to the plan, but one thing is for certain, the days of Ramen Noodle cups for three meals a day are finally over.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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25 Responses to Salary Cap Solvency Finally On The Near Horizon For The Washington Capitals

  1. Anonymous says:

    Spot on. AND I CANT WAIT!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Caps should have D’Angelo last summer.. worth the risk…

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      D’Angelo, while a good player, came with some significant baggage, baggage I don’t think the Capitals normally prefer to deal with. See Brendan Leipsic.

  3. Lance says:

    Nice article, Jon. If the return was good enough (mostly draft picks) I would trade Kuzy and Carlson. I love both players but how else can you find star players except through the draft?

    With the salary cap and 32 teams it will take a lot of luck and great management to win a Cup.

    • steven says:

      Carlson I can see but sadly dont think the owner or GM has the balls to trade him. Also what team is going to take him with that salary and not expect the Caps to take back salary? As for Kuzy, not this summer but maybe next depending on who they get in the draft this year and next. Give him another year to either grow or he goes. Backy still has some use but maybe for his furute of walking he should retire. It is time to start the rebuild and somehow some of these big salaries have to go. Others to look at before they need a new contract and more money: Mantha and Wilson and Orlovv. So over the next few years either players are lost for nothing or you trade them to someonewho thinks that they are that player away from either The Cup or advancing in the playoffs.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Thank you, Lance!

    • Sessh says:

      Kuzy? What Top line center is out there to replace him? I’m fine with Carlson but I don’t think there’s anyone who would give the Caps what they deserve for Kuzy.

  4. James Brond says:

    Make a trade for Chychrun, go after Price for Sammy and ask the Habs to retain salary.

  5. novafyre says:

    Jon, you assume that the Caps organization is going to embrace a younger team. I’m not so sure. I think we have a veterans’ head coach, a veterans’ general manager, and perhaps a veterans’ owner. Salary cap issues force their hands but they do not appear to go there willingly.

    I hope I’m wrong. I like your suggestions as well as some of the comments even though I would be sad to see some players retire or play in other jerseys. These are necessary moves. I just question the resolve of the Caps management to make them. I think they are more likely to try to trade for more veterans or hire free agent veterans than let our veterans go and bring the prospects up.

  6. Rob says:

    The problem with trying to move Carlson is that there are literally no right shot defensive prospects anywhere close to NHL ready within the organization. Carlson’s 8 million cap hit is 10th among NHL defenseman but he leads all defenders in points over the last 4 seasons. Josi is 12 points back in the same amount of games and his cap hit is over 1 million higher than Carlson. If Carlson were a UFA there’s a good chance he’d get a 10 million+ AAV contract. He is more bargain than burden even at 8 million.

    • Franky619 says:

      Agreed, Carlson does what he’s paid for, produce offensively. One of the highest paid Dman and one of the most productive. Money is wasted on Backstrom, one of the worst if not the worst contract in the league. Top ten paid forward and probably can’t crack the top 200 in any 5v5 stats.

  7. Marky says:

    Nice article Jon and I think you are right on. I do think however that with the struggles of Backy and his degenerating hip now and in the near future, the Caps might want to think twice about trading Eller and replacing him with McMichael because if Backstrom has problems next year, who will be able to fill in? Not Hendrix, and good luck finding a serviceable 2 3 center anywhere right now unless they work a significant trade with someone…

  8. Dan H. says:

    Great article and some great comments. Agree with Rob that Carlson at 8m is not a bad deal for the offense he gives, and average defense (i don’t think he is bad defensively, just average) isn’t the end of the world – he just needs to be with strong defensive defensemen.

    I agree with your thoughts Jon, but I do think the comment about Backy getting hurt, and therefor lack of depth if they trade Eller is an interesting point. I agree that Hendrix won’t be ready, but I think Protas could be. I love Eller and how he is playing now with 39 and 43 by his side, but as you point out, tough calls like this are just that – tough – but trade talent where you have young talent “ready” to replace. I don’t think Connor will be Eller the 1st 1/2 od next season, but will likely be so the 2nd half.

    Post about going young isn’t current coaches preferred approach – maybe, but as pointed out more dollars need to go to Wilson down the road so need to start making room. Where do you find talent other than the draft…trades and free agency. Done all the time – look at Vegas, Columbus/Winnipeg and really every team.

    Trade Kuzy….now?? Please no, but it would fit the – trade them at their highest value I’d guess.

    • Marky says:

      Agreed, and another point about the draft: Draft Centers! As many as you can bear to pick! You can always move them to wing if they don’t play well there. Caps need to stock up even with McMichael, Protas, Lapierre etc…

      • Rob says:

        I wouldn’t draft a forward just because they can play center and possibly move to the wing. Best player available is the better strategy. The Capitals scouting department has done very well in the 1st and 2nd rounds considering the last time they had a pick inside the Top 20 was back in 2014 when they selected Vrana. Lapierre and McMichael would both go higher in a re-draft scenario than where they were selected in their respective draft years.

        • Marky says:

          I agree with BPA also. I am just saying that in general you can’t have too many centers and most young centers could move to wing where everyone says it’s easier or less responsibility. If a D man or goalie is the BPA, of course the should do that.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Players mentioned should have been moved at deadline when returns are better but all need to go. Kuznetsov stays. Going to be tough to find a number 1 goalie. Do need to pay up to get a top tier Dman via trade or FA. If they can add a Dman I would trade Jensen for further savings and use youth at his spot. Not roster related but GM and Coach need to go too.

  10. Capsfan says:

    The reality is they need to offload backstroke and oshie too. Nobody would accept Backstrom play if he had any other name on his back. Time to work on real personnel upgrades.

  11. JK Hendricks says:

    Great read! Very enlightening.

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