As the Stanley Cup Champions cleared out their lockers on Wednesday, we began to hear hints of what lies ahead in the next several weeks as a number of players contemplate their futures. Its an ever changing story as the Capitals managers make some tough decisions about this winning mix of players. Although all of them pretty much said they want to stay – including Coach Barry Trotz – the reality is the franchise is unlikely to be able to afford all of them. They all feel like the DMV is home – they have kids and are settled into the community. General Manager Brian MacLellan (GMBM) has his work cut out for him.
The Caps are in an awful position with their tight salary cap. The team likely started looking at who they will have to let go of to keep some of their key players, like John Carlson, weeks ago. Someone we love is likely to not return next season. Lets take a look at a few of the big names that could either cost the franchise a whole lot more money, or who the Caps may let go to make room for other players to step forward.
Signing Carly is a priority in our minds. He has the tenacity as a defenseman who is also capable of playing an offensive game. On average, he has more time-on-ice then any player. He a talented player with the grit needed for special teams. However, he also wants to be paid what he is worth. He insinuated that in his closing interview when he said, “I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.” We would hate to see him go. At the same time GMBM made it clear that it is going to be difficult to pay him what he is worth.
Kempny came to the Caps with low expectations. He was great during the playoffs and showed that he has something to contribute to this team. MacLellan said wants to re-sign the defenseman, who also said he would like to stay. When the Caps talk about tenacity, they are talking about Kempny. He’s the guy that crashed into the boards during warm ups at game three, saw the doc, got cleaned up, and came back to play. He had a terrific goal in the game four, as well as an assist in games one and two.
“This is my home. I want to come back here.” We would love to see that too. He is one of the long-standing members of the family. Unfortunately, like Karl Alzner last season, we don’t see the Caps providing him with an offer. We got to know Beags in Hershey with the Bears at a time when they were winning the Calder Cup. Although it seems like he has always been on the Caps roster, he didn’t become a full-time NHL player until the 2011 season. We have come to love him in the face off circle. This season as he grew out his playoff beard, we saw a grit like we have never seen before. We think he could be a good fit Calgary or maybe the Yotes.
And of course there are the restricted free agents.
There is no fear that Willy will get a nice contract. We have heard rumors that he is the next likely captain, if and when Ovechkin moves on. At 24, the right wing has a lot to offer. He has certainly matured as a player- although we would like to see him make wiser decisions about fighting. He could get an offer between three and five years. Salary is an issue for this top-heavy team. Maybe a slight bump while they see if he is ready to be a consistent top liner.
MacLellan understands that Grubi is a Number 1 goaltender and that Grubi wants to hold that spot. He has earned it with his performance this year when he had to step in for a shaky Braden Holtby. If GMBM had his way, he said he would keep Grubauer and Holtby, but he is going to work with Grubauer to find the right fit for him. One potential option being bantered about is the New York Islanders. We hate to see him go. We waited a long time for him to move up from the Hershey Bears; however, like Carlson, he has to do what is right for his career and for his family. We think we will not be seeing him when camp begins later this summer.
Devante Smith-Pelly (DSP)
DSP is an RFA and eligible to enter into salary arbitration if he does not accept his qualifying offer. We have all heard how amazing it is that a guy who was bought out by his former team and was put on a two-way contract with the Caps when he joined them, became one of the surprise stars of the playoffs. He needs a bit more discipline in his play and if he can get that, he could be offered a spot on the roster again. We wouldn’t expect to see much more than maybe a bridge contract (short-term) and a minimal bump in salary. Or they could take advantage of his playoff presence to find a new team.
As Ovi said on Wednesday: “I can’t tell you who is going to be here and who’s not. But, you know, we gonna do, we gonna remember all the guys, all the moments together.”
Truer words never spoken about a sports team.
Explaining Free Agency: The NHL Guidelines
July 1 2018
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