The Capitals In Free Agency (Part 8)

Well a lot has happened during the first week of free agency. I’ve laid out some options that have come true with some pretty good accuracy:

  • Correctly predicted Brooks Laich’s cap hit (though it was one year longer than I forecast)
  • Correctly predicted Troy Brouwer’s contract terms
  • Within a few thousand on Jeff Halpern’s contract (and even had scenarios where he joined the team)
  • Correctly had scenarios where Semyon Varlamov was not part of the team

Just a couple of quick notes on the signings so far. Hamrlik slides right into Poti’s spot (assuming Poti is done – see below). He provides experience and some skill on the backline and can handle power play duty on the second PP unit. His contract is maybe a bit big, but fair with what players were signing for this offseason.

I don’t know much about Joel Ward, but I think he’s the type of player the Caps definitely need. Was the contract too big in terms of dollars and length for my preference? Yes, definitely. But if he is the type of guy that I’ve read about in the past week, he’ll be great on a third line. Hopefully his playoff performance from this past season catapults him toward four-straight 20+ goal seasons because the third line is going to need some scoring threats.

What now?

Well simply the Caps need to complete a contract with RFA Karl Alzner and likely clear a bit more salary cap room. Here’s some scenarios I’ve laid out that could be very likely.

First, Alzner:

Karl Alzner – 4 years/$3.25 million per year ($13 million total)
Comparable – Nicklas Hjarlmarsson just finished the first year of a similar contract last year (he is at $3.5 million, so I suppose I can go to $3.5 million here as well). Going into last year he had played one full season and had cups of coffee in two other seasons and was playing on an entry-level contract. Heading into this offseason, Alzner has played one full season and parts of two previous seasons in Washington, so the experience is almost identical. Hjarlmarsson is about the same age and on a similar team – one that is getting better and whose stars skew younger.

Now for payroll flexibility:

The first, obvious, move is to place Tom Poti on long-term injured reserve if he doesn’t flat out retire. There’s no incentive for him to retire since he’s signed for two more years so I could actually see him being on LTIR for two seasons. If he is healthy enough to play, it appears the Caps have moved on and might need to part with him. That could come either from a trade to a team with lots of payroll space. In that scenario, don’t expect much at all in return (a 7th round pick or a marginal prospect). Eric Fehr only brought back a 4th rounder and a marginal prospect. No way Poti could approach that. If Poti is healthy, he could also be stashed in Hershey. Not a glamorous move for a hard-working defenseman at the end of his career, but the Caps can’t afford him on the roster. Think of it as a Sheldon Souray or Brian Berard type move that we’ve seen in the past with other teams. That clears $2.875 million from the payroll and that plus the current cap space might be just enough to squeak Alzner onto to the team. But I think there will be at least one more deal.

And I think that Jason Chimera is the prime candidate to be traded. The Caps aren’t in as much a squeeze with respect to the cap as they were when they dealt Fehr Friday, but teams still won’t give up much for Chimera. Think a 6th round pick or so. That frees up another $1.875 million under the cap.

Making those two moves would give the Caps about $5.144 million under the cap (based on calculations using CapGeek – really if you don’t look at this site regularly you are missing out). If Alzner does sign for $3.25 million, the Caps would have $1.895 million or so available. If Chimera is gone, though, they’ll need one more player on the roster. That is likely to be Mattias Sjogren. He’s signed for $0.900 million. Add him into the payroll and you get to a payroll that is about $0.995 million under the cap. That gives them a bit of wiggle room for injury call ups or to bank space to use at the trade deadline.

In this scenario, here’s the lines I think you are looking at:

Forwards

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Semin-Johansson-Brouwer

Sjogren-Laich-Ward

Hendricks-Halpern-Beagle

King

Defense

Green-Schultz

Hamrlik-Wideman

Carlson-Alzner

Erskine

Goalies

Vokoun-Neuvirth

I think Laich slides down to center line three if they are confident in Johansson because that third line could be very strong defensively (particularly with the reports that Sjogren is solid defensively). It’s a very strong lineup and one I’d thoroughly be happy rooting for. Is it October yet?

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