Dmitry Orlov was a stalwart on the left side of the defensive corps in Washington in recent years, especially contributing to the Caps’ shutdown pairing with Matt Niskanen on the 2018 Stanley Cup winning team. After spending ten-and-a-half seasons with the Capitals, Orlov was traded alongside Garnet Hathaway to the Boston Bruins for Craig Smith, a 2023 first round pick, a 2024 third round pick, and a 2024 second round pick.
While the trading of a long tenured Capital in Orlov was rather shocking to fans, it was the right move to trade him to a contending team for future assets in order to bolster the prospect pipeline and add pieces to trade to help retool the current roster.
Now that Orlov is an unrestricted free agent, it’s certainly possible that there’s a homecoming after a short stint in Boston. Heck, even Orlov hinted at potentially signing again in Washington.
In this post, we’re going to run through some pros and cons of signing Orlov in free agency, and what that could mean for the Capitals.
Making the defensive corps a staple of the team’s (re)construction
As it stands right now, the Caps are slated to start the 2023-24 season with a trio of 23- year-olds manning the left side of each pairing (Rasmus Sandin, Martin Fehervary, and Alexander Alexeyev). By signing Orlov, you add a veteran presence to the left side of the ice.
I think Alexeyev will be a decent NHL defenseman, and perhaps it’ll be soon. But if you’re Brian MacLellan, do you want to bank on that happening in the 2023-24 season when you’re essentially putting all your chips to the center of the table to try to get Alex Ovechkin one last Stanley Cup? I’m not sure.
It’s rather rare to find a defenseman that’s solid at both ends of the rink that you can rely on in effectively any on-ice situation. Orlov fits that billing. Here’s his isolated impact chart from HockeyViz:
Orlov has substantial impact offensively, generating 5% more expected goals for per sixty minutes (xGF/60) when on the ice versus on the bench. On top of that, his performance results in fewer expected goals against during both even-strength play and during the penalty kill.
The Capitals currently don’t have a defenseman on the left side of the ice that has positive impacts on both ends of the ice. Fehervary is effective defensively, but his offensive game results in fewer xGF/60 when he’s on the ice versus off. Sandin is really effective offensively, but struggles a bit defensively.
Less money to spend on top six forwards
Outside of potentially moving both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha to clear up $13.5M in cap space, an Orlov signing would cut into the amount of money the Caps have available to spend to improve the roster considerably. Evolving Hockey has Orlov’s next contract projected at a 5 year deal that carries a $6.318M cap hit. Even if Orlov took a bit of a hometown discount, to the tune of maybe $500k, the Caps would not have a ton of money to add two top six forwards, as MacLellan said he aims to do.
Term for a 31-year-old
Realistically, this is Orlov’s last chance at getting a long-term contract with a substantial cap hit. He’s going to want a long term contract, and I’m assuming that’ll be at least 5 years. If we can expect Orlov’s cap hit to be around $6M, that’s a lot of money to be paying a 35 year old defenseman.
On the other hand, though, in 4-5 years, the Caps are likely going to be in the beginning stages of a rebuild. At that point, cap hit doesn’t really matter because you’re not going to be carrying a bunch of inflated cap hits any longer.
Should the Caps sign Orlov?
In my opinion, if the price makes sense and you can acquire top six forwards you’re confident in and be cap-compliant, why not? Like I mentioned, a long-term contract doesn’t really matter as much when you expect to be in the midst of a rebuild after the Ovechkin Era comes to a conclusion.
But, if the choices are sign Orlov and get one top six forward or acquire two top six forwards, I’m going to lean towards the latter. The Caps were not effective offensively, and signing Orlov long term would block NHL ready left handed defensemen in the future. On top of that, if you are in a playoff spot before the trade deadline, you can always trade for a veteran left-handed defenseman if that’s the area that needs addressing.
By Justin Trudel
Yes, bring him back. The left side is very concerning.
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I love the player but no we don’t bring him back.
Not even at a discount, and considering the age of the left side?
At 31 he is not giving the Caps a discount. He is looking for one last contract for big dollars and that the Caps cant afford!
I’m a big fan of Orlov’s, and it was a shell shock when he and Haths were traded away. But I’d still roll with the young guns! They show promise. They just need a proper defense and overall systems coach. Smth Lavi (as much as I respect the man) and Co. couldn’t give. I’m sure the fans would be thrilled to have Orly back, but cap space to retool is of greater importance, and we do need young legs for years to come.
Orlov is one of my favorite players but sad to say I say no to bringing him back. I would think that he is looing for his last contract and probably one of $6.5-8 mil for 5-6 years. that is just to much for this team to pay not only a 31 year old but also to pay anyone when they have other needs and the younger players will have to waste another year on the bench or in the minors. Sometimes you have to play the younger players and not worry about resigning an older player for big money and years at the age of 30 or more.
Fascinating circumstance for the Caps
Caps need a super-human deal from GM Mac to acquire just the right top-four defenseman, and a similar miracle from new Head Coach — to make it all work.
I’m thinking forget the top-four defenseman and go for an inexpensive middle 6 forward like Pius Suter who would cost very little probably under $1 mil a year on a 2 year deal. Suter is a 27 year old who needs a change of scenery much like Milano, Sheary and ANK. Trading Kuzy might net you a top four D-man with a short contract. Before bringing in a D-man I wish that the GM would sign Fehervary and do you realize that the Caps only have 10 forwards under contract for next season?.
They have only 10 forwards signed on the existing roster. However, this does not include Protas, who almost certainly will play next season, Snively, McMichael, or some wildcard out of camp like Ethen Frank. That has to be determined by their play in camp. I, for one, would like to see some youth injected into our roster.
I hope you are right in that they will add young prospects however I have this feeling that is not what is going to happen. I feel like they will trade picks or players or prospects or maybe some o all 3 to get an established, expensive 28 tear ole who is on a multiple year contrast or worse they will trade Mantha for a player with a similar contract but maybe a few more years from someone and it will not be a zero sum game. What gets me is that the owner and GM are both misguided and delusional about this current roster and think it is a team that could play for the Cup and the next HC will pay the price for that as they will ultimately blame him even though he had nothing to do with the makeup of this team. Sad that he will be a young HC and disposed of in 3or 4 years.
I’d sign him at 4 mill per, that’s it.
LMAO and then he is not coming here for less that what he made last year which was $5.1 mil. At 31 he is going to look for not only a payday but probably his last contract, neither of which he is going to get from Washington.