Current Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards – Is There A Fit With The Capitals?

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

According to Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan the Capitals’ priority for The 2023 off-season is to upgrade their forward corps, given that they would like to win another Stanley Cup before Alex Ovechkin retires. This article examines the top unrestricted free agent forwards to see if they would be good options for the Capitals to sign.

One obstacle for signing any marquee free agent forward is the fact that the Capitals have just $6,524,167 in cap space available for free agent signings and some of that amount will be needed to sign defenseman Martin Fehervary, who is a restricted free agent. This amount assumes that the Capitals don’t unload any of their current contracts, such as Anthony Mantha or Evgeny Kuznetsov in a trade.

This year’s crop of free agents at forward is a relatively weak crop, given that most of the forwards on this list have already celebrated their 30th birthday and/or have injury concerns.

The following list discusses the top available free-agent forwards who are expected to play next season. It omits Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Zach Parise, who either plan to re-sign with their current teams or retire.

Ivan Barbashev – Barbashev, who turns 28 in December, had a career-high of 26 goals during the 2021-22 season. He did not equal that high last season but scored 16 goals for his second-best season ever. As a two-time Stanley Cup champion, he will likely require a raise from the $2.6 Million he made this past season.

Michael Bunting – Bunting, who turns 28 before the start of the 2023-24 season, has scored 20 goals in each of the last two seasons, becoming a full-time NHL player in 2021-22. He will likely require a raise from his relatively minimal cap hit of $950K, but can probably be signed for a relatively reasonable price. The biggest negative is the fact he got suspended for three games during the playoffs this past season.

J.T. Compher – Compher is 28-years-old and made a reasonable $3.0 million last season. He has yet to reach the 20-goal threshold but has come close in each of the last two seasons. Last season, he reached a career-high in assists with 35. He is versatile in that he can play both center and wing.

Photo: Getty Images

Max Domi – Domi, who turns 29 in early March, scored 20 goals last season while playing for two teams. His salary from last season is also reasonable at $3.0 million. His productivity in goals and points has been variable, plus he has been somewhat of an NHL nomad, playing for several different teams.

Eric Haula – Haula’s best season was the 2017-18 season when he scored 29 goals and recorded 26 goals for the Las Vegas Knights. He has not approached that total since. He scored 14 goals during 2022-23 and 18 goals in 2022-23. His salary last season was $2.5 million. Haula is also 32 years old, which would work against the Capitals’ desire to get younger. His inconsistent productivity also works against him.

 Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Patrick Kane – Kane is one of the biggest names on the market. The long-time Chicago Blackhawks right wing has had a very productive career with over 450 career goals. However, his age and health are working against him. He turns 35-years-old this November. In addition, he just had hip resurfacing surgery which will keep him out for 4-6 months. This is the same type of surgery that Nicklas Backstrom underwent after last season and Backstrom was only the second player to successfully return to play in the NHL after that. Given that he would miss at least the first two months of the 2023-24 season, signing him would be too risky even if he signed for a much lower salary than his previous cap hit of $10.0 million.

Alex Killorn – Killorn had the most points overall and was tied for scoring the most goals among the free agent forwards. His salary last season was a reasonable 4.45 million. The main disadvantage is signing him is that he turns 34 before this season starts. Perhaps his age could lower his asking price and/or contract term. There is also the possibility that he would prefer to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Photo: Getty Images

Sean Monahan – Monahan, who turns 29 in October, had two seasons in the past where he scored 30 or more goals. However, his productivity has gone down due to numerous injuries, including a hip injury and a broken foot. He only played in 25 games during 2022-23 due to injury. Overall, he would help the team on offense, provided he were healthy. He earned $6.375 million per year in his last contract. With his questionable health, he will likely earn less, but it will probably be more than what the Capitals can afford.

Ryan O’Reilly – O’Reilly, formerly the St. Louis Blues’ captain, scored 16 goals this past season, a season where he missed time due to a broken wrist. He has generally been a perennial 20-goal scorer. However, he will turn 33 midway through the 2023-24 season. His most recent cap hit is $7.5 million which the Capitals could not afford. Even a $5 million salary would be too high.

Vladimir Tarasenko – Tarasenko had multiple seasons of scoring 30 or more goals. On the downside, he has undergone multiple shoulder surgeries. He is also 31 years old.  His prior annual cap hit was $7 million. While he would be a great fit for the Capitals, skill-wise, his salary requirements and desired contract term are likely more than what the Capitals can afford.

Tomas Tatar – Tatar scored 20 goals last season. For his career, he generally has 20 goals during seasons. He will turn 33 this season and will likely not require much of a raise, if any, over the $4.2 million he made with his last contract.

Jason Zucker – Zucker’s goal-scoring rebounded last season as he scored 27 goals, after a down season in 2021-22. His cap hit last season was $5.2 million and he will likely expect a raise, given that he had his strongest season since 2017-18. It would be difficult for the Caps to afford him at his current salary. Given his salary and the fact that he turns 32 midway through the season, it would be difficult to fit him on the Capitals’ roster and hard to justify paying for a long contract for a player who is over 30 and whose productivity has been inconsistent from year to year.


Other than the players discussed, the most notable unrestricted free-agent forwards include Jordan Staal, Alex Kerfoot, and Jonathan Toews. But they are either relatively old and/or would not be an upgrade.


As many pundits have remarked, this is a relatively weak crop of free-agent forwards. Any upgrade of forwards would be more likely to come through trade than via free agency.

2023 NHL Free Agents – CapFriendly – NHL Salary Caps

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in Free Agency, NHL, Players, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Current Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards – Is There A Fit With The Capitals?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Next season will be the opposite with a ton of big name free agents. Trades look to be the path forward for this offseason

  2. Anonymous says:

    Prices are inflated this year. I hope they look at the trade market or internally.

  3. DAVID WEBER says:

    Compher is the only one mentioned here I would even think about getting

    • hockeydruid says:

      He is a nice player however with only $7+ mil to work with and Fehervary and Wilson to sign where will the money come from? I doubt he will take less that what he is making now and will probably want a raise. As Jerry Maguire said “Show me the money!” as I just don’t see it unless trades or retirements happen.

      • Just another old guy says:

        easily doable whether the teams has retirees or trades away Manthony and Kuzy. Martyparty is actually quite affordable for now as he only made 832,500 last season. Even with a raise, he isn’t that expensive. I expect that if they wanted Willy to wait until after the season, he would. He wants to be here and by then Manthony will be gone anyway (saving 5.7 mil) and the cap will be more than this year.

        • hockeydruid says:

          Mathony????? Do you mean Mantha? Yes easily if they make trades or have retirements however if they do neither There will not be the money and Tom will walk to an higher bidder after the season. Remember the ball is not in the Caps court on this one as he is a UFA. I still think that Tom will want from this team a 7-8 year deal around $8 mil a season especially if he is going to be here after Ovie retires.

        • hockeydruid says:

          Would rather they go after Niko Mikkola and he might be had for $2-3.75 mil a year. And give him a 2-3 year deal.

  4. hockeydruid says:

    I assume that by saying that they have $7+milin available cap space that you are not looking at resigning Wilson or at least have not considered it. I personally think that Wilson is not going to give the Caps a discount seeing that he can walk after next season and get a big contract. SO if the Caps step up to the plate there might not be enough money to sign Fehervary without trading a player or 2 or someone retiring. This is what happens when you sign older players to lengthy and high dollar contracts.

    IF they were to resign Wilson and Fehervary gets a new contract there will be no or very little cap space. They might have to eat Manthas’ contract to get both those players signed. So trading Kuzy might be the only way to have cap space to sign anyone. Now if Backy were to retire then there would be more cap room.

    I would rather go into the season with the players we have and bring players up from Hershey while we are in this silly retool/not a rebuild mode. Wait 3 years when Ovie, Backy, Oshie and Carlson are all gone and then look at UFA’s. Until then stick with what we have and draft wisely and most of all keep checking the waiver wire for a possible diamond in the ruff.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Wilson has one more year on his current deal. If they re-sign him after July 1, his new salary will start next year. Also, the salary cap is expected to go up 4-5 million next year, which should lighten the load a bit.

      • hockeydruid says:

        Did not know it was going to be that much. though it was going to be around $1 mil. That is good news however the Caps still need to start to be more cap conscious especially now that are insisting on retooling rather than rebuilding.

  5. franky619 says:

    Unless Mac finds a way to get rid of Backstrom there’s not gonna be enough money to make meaningful change anyway. Nobody coming from Hershey’s gonna make this team better. We’ll see in the next few days if Maclellan is serious about winning now that buy out window is open.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Trade szn

  7. Prevent Defense says:

    Love that salty description by “an NHL team exec” regarding the current Free Agent collection. But it’s accurate

  8. Jrlobo says:

    Am I correct? Wilson’s new contract would not count against the cap until the 2024-2025 unless a portion is a pre-paid signing bonus?

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