The most pivotal time of the season for the Washington Capitals has arrived. It has been a season of slow starts and a startling turnaround. While the Caps and their fans are squarely focused on the present, it never hurts to look a bit to the future and see where the team and organization might be heading.
As for the present, the Caps are in control of their own destiny. After dominating their Southeast Division rivals to rise to the top of the division, the Caps now prepare to take on the best of the very tough Northeast Division with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. So far, so good as the Caps routed the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 Tuesday night to run their current winning streak to eight games.
With a four-point lead over the second-place Winnipeg Jets—with just five games remaining—the Caps look to be in good shape.
As for the future, this is an area I have started to explore already. Earlier this week, I wrote an article exploring which members of the Caps might not be with the team next season. In that article, I predicted that Michal Neuvirth, Mike Ribeiro, Tom Poti and Wojtek Wolski would not be with the Caps when the 2013-2014 season begins.
This article is then the natural follow-up to the prior article. Here, I will take a very early look at some potential free-agent targets the Caps might go after in the offseason.
For those who wish to follow along with my logic—whether you agree with me or think I am nuts—I suggest going over to CapGeek.com. This is the best site I have found for information relating to teams' salary caps, what free agents are available, whether they are restricted free agents (RFA) or unrestricted free agents (UFA) and so forth.
CapGeek also has a fun tool you can use to add upcoming free agents to your favorite team to see how their inclusion affects things like cap space.
With that as a backdrop, the Caps are expected to have $10,233,483 in cap space next season. For the purpose of this entire article, let's assume the Caps re-sign Eric Fehr, Marcus Johansson, Matt Hendricks, Karl Alzner and Tomas Kundratek. As you can see from this chart, the Caps' cap space would dip to $6,027,983.
Of course, if the Caps then go and release a few players, some cap space opens up. For instance, if the Caps were to cut or demote Jeff Schultz, then their cap space would open up to about $6,952,983. Let's say they release someone like Jason Chimera, who has not had the best of seasons. Then their cap space would go to $7,877,983.
For the sake of this article, let's operate off the assumption that the Caps will have about $6 million in cap space available to them. They would rank about 23rd in the NHL as far as available cap space is concerned. That means the Caps will have to be somewhat frugal and very selective this offseason, unless they have a few trades up their sleeves.
With all that data thrown at you, let's go and take a look at some possible free-agent targets for the Caps this offseason.