Players will come and go, decisions have to be made. Over the course of the summer, I am writing a series of spotlight pieces to highlight the players under contract, and the possible movement of the Washington Capitals.
This first piece will highlight the 2008-2009 pending unrestricted free agents (UFA). Later this week I will spotlight on the pending restricted free agents (RFA).
The Capitals wrapped up business for the season with a series of team meetings and general manager interviews. Heading into the summer, the following players are eligible for unrestricted free agency (by salary in descending fashion, all stats are regular season statistics).
NHL Roster Players:
- Sergei Fedorov, 38 years old, salary $4M, played 52 games scoring 11 goals and totalling 33 points
- Viktor Kozlov, 33 years old, salary $2.5M, played 67 games scoring 13 goals and totaling 41 points
- Donald Brashear, 36 years old, salary $1.2M, played 63 games scoring 1 goal and totaling 4 points
- Brent Johnson, 31 years old, salary $0.88M, played 21 games, 12 wins, 2.88 GAA
Depth / Role players with pending UFA status (most with two-way deals, NHL salaries are shown below):
- Quintin Laing, 29 years old, salary $0.5M
- Steffan Kronwall, 25 years old, salary $0.5M
- Graham Mink, 29 years old, salary $0.5M
- Bryan Helmer, 35 years old, salary $0.475M
- Tyler Sloan, 27 years old, salary $0.475M
- Alexandre Giroux, 27 years old, salary $0.475M
Of the players worth retaining, Fedorov should be the priority. The intelligent veteran seems willing to stick around (hopefully for a slightly reduced price). Fedorov adds the dimensions of a future hall-of-fame two-way forward, a spare defender, and an on-ice coach for the young Capitals.
Depending on the outcome of the (growing) goalie controversy, it is highly likely that Jose Theodore will still be in Washington next year. Albeit as a backup for emerging Semyon Varlamov.
This leaves Brent Johnson as the odd-man-out in net. I do not expect "Johnny" to be retained, and look for him to sign on as a relatively cheap back-up solution for a rebuilding team.
Based on the emerging talents and lower cost options on the wings, the Capitals will part ways with Viktor Kozlov this summer. "Kozzie" provided a big body and smooth hands to complement Alexander Ovechkin on the Capitals top line. However, he has become much slower and lumbering, and the Capitals will look to promote a gritty forward like Brooks Laich or Tomas Fleischmann to the top line next season.
As for Donald Brashear, he is little more than an insurance policy for superstar Ovechkin. "Brash" fit in well on the grind and checking lines, fought when he needed to, and took the rough-type of penalties.
If Washington can afford the $1M-plus cap space, they should retain the bruising forward. At least until recent draftee Stefan Della Rovere is ready to assume the role.
In regards to the minor league and depth defensemen, Tyler Sloan should return on an NHL contract. He is ready to take an everyday defense role, and replace some of the exiting (and generally ineffective) blueliners.
Bryan Helmer should also be given a contract as his depth and grit are great to have. Steffan Kronwall was a late season waiver claim who will probably walk away in the off-season.
With the depth forwards, Quintin Laing is a shot-blocking maniac, with a lot of hustle and energy. He would be a good fit as a fourth line checker, or as a depth guy to keep in the organization.
Alexandre Giroux had a great scoring touch in the AHL this season, but got very little NHL time. He may be worth a flier, but I think he will get offers from other teams as well.
The Capitals should have anywhere between $5M-$9M to spend on free agents in the coming summer, mainly depending on what Fedorov does. Look for the balance of those bucks to be spent on toughening up the blueline and seeking a net-crashing forward.
I will check in later on with an RFA wrap-up before delving into some player profiles this summer. Enjoy.