We have a full season ahead of us, and the opening of 2023 free agency is still 10 months away. However, for those players that are pending unrestricted free agents this season, discussions surrounding the possibility of returning to their current clubs have already begun.
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov is in the final year of his six-year, $5,100,000 AAV deal with the team. Orlov had a rocky start with the Capitals, but has settled in nicely and become one of team’s best blueliners over the past few seasons. But will he return for the 2023-24 season?
A lot can change over the next 10 months, on both sides. Orlov, who turns 32 next July, could turn in a sub-par season or a younger defensemen in the system could challenge him for a spot that might give the Capitals reason for pause.
However, there is also the possibility that Orlov decides to call it quits in the NHL and return home to play in the KHL to finish out his hockey playing career. In fact, he was very close to doing just that in 2016.
In September of 2016, reports began to surface, mostly in the Russian media (here), that Orlov was considering an offer to leave for the KHL. It was concerning, but probably taken with a grain of salt among Capitals fans. “This was a negotiating tactic, right? Orlov is just demonstrating he has options to better his stance for a new deal with the Capitals?” It seemed obvious at the time.
It turns out the option to return to Russia was very real and something Orlov seriously considered. He detailed his thinking at the time in a recent interview with former Washington Capitals centerman Andrei Nikolishin for the “Slippery Ice” podcast.
“In fact, there was such a situation in 2016, when I played for the national team (2016 World Cup) without a contract with the club (Capitals). I was preparing – and I had thoughts: to go to CSKA or Washington? And I waited until the last minute. When we lost to Canada in the semifinals, I sat with the guys for sushi and drank beer. My agent called and asked what we’re doing in the end.”
After his agent called him, Orlov immediately left the team dinner, called his family and began to decide his future.
“I moved away from the guys, I called my wife, parents. “As you decide, it will be.” And no one helped me. I sat for a couple of minutes and thought, my soul once lay down in Washington, they promised me that they would give me game time, I would play. In principle, they kept all their promises and then, a year later, I signed a contract for six years.”
Orlov ended up signing a one-year deal for $2.57 million on September 21, 2016 and would subsequently sign a six-year deal for $5,100,000 per season in the summer of 2017. He and the Capitals would go on to win the Stanley Cup in the first year of his new deal.
But will Orlov be back in October of 2023?
As noted, a lot can happen over the next 10 months that could sway the decision on both sides. One or both sides may want an extension or one or both sides may decide to move on. Orlov could also decide that it’s time for he and his family to return home. It’s clear it was a real possibly in 2016.
Daily ask: Right now (knowing a lot can change between now and next summer), do you think the #ALLCAPS will re-sign defenseman Dmitry Orlov, 31, who will be an unrestricted free agent in June?
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) August 17, 2022
We reached out to Orlov’s agent, Mark Gandler, and asked him if any contract talks with the Capitals have taken place to date, but Gandler did not reply to our request by the time of this posting.
By Jon Sorensen