In the new cap era, general managers have an increasingly hard time retaining a roster year after year.
Over the course of the summer, I am writing a series of spotlight pieces to highlight the players under contract, those that are unrestricted or restricted free agents, and the possible movement of the Washington Capitals.
This piece will highlight the 2008-2009 pending restricted free agents (RFA). Heading into the summer, the following players are eligible for restricted free agency (by salary, in descending fashion; all stats are regular season statistics).
NHL Roster Players:
- Shaone Morrisonn, $1.975M, 72 games, 3 goals, 13 points
- Milan Jurcina, $0.912M, 79 games, 3 goals, 14 points
- Eric Fehr, $0.735M, 61 games, 12 goals, 25 points
- Boyd Gordon, $0.725M, 63 games, 5 goals, 14 points
- Jeff Schultz, $0.650M, 64 games, 1 goal, 12 points
- Chris Bourque, $0.525K, 8 games, 1 goal, 1 point
AHL and/or Depth Players:
- Sean Collins, $0.685M
- Sami Lepisto, $0.675M
- Steve Pinizzotto, $0.580M
- Darren Machesney, $0.490M
Last season defenseman Shaone Morrisonn opted for arbitration, locking the Capitals into his $1.975M salary (mainly because there were few NHL-ready options in the minors).
With his shaky play, minimal offense, and lack of hitting, the Capitals should be served to let other teams sign him away, thereby maybe getting a pick or two for Morrisonn.
Milan Jurcina, on the other hand, has more room for development. He too looked shaky at times and is prone to play soft in his zone. With some added grit and confidence, I think "Juice" could be an effective stopper on the Washington blue line. He has a hard shot, and needs to be more accurate with his point blasts.
Also on defense, Jeff Schultz has been a huge disappointment. A first-round draft pick in 2004, Schultz has really looked overmatched at times. His skating is sub-par, and he lacks any toughness at all, despite his 6'6" frame. He needs a fresh start elsewhere.
Of the RFA forwards, the Capitals will still need some cheaper role playing guys. It may be too early to give up on versatile third-liners Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr.
Based on their lack of production, both could be retained on the cheap, leaving valuable salary cap room to retain Sergei Fedorov(UFA), and possibly sign another veteran blue liner. Gordon has proved to be an effective penalty killer, and a specialty faceoff man, and worth having on the bench.
Chris Bourque, son of Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, may be a valuable trade commodity. He has time to develop, and though he is a very small forward, he has good hand skills. With the amount of depth in Hershey and beyond, the Capitals may be best served to use the young Bourque as a bargaining chip, since his price may be too steep to bear.
In regards to the other AHL-depth RFAs, Sean Collins is most likely the only one to be retained by the organization for next year. Collins is a rising defenseman, who should be NHL-ready in a season.
Sami Lepisto has been in the Capitals organization for a while, and has just not blossomed into an NHL-caliber guy. Maybe he has value to the Hershey Bears, but he'd be a minor-league contract only in my opinion.
Goaltender Darren Machesney has also been around the minors for some time. With the emergence of Michael Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov vying for time, Machesney is expendable. For next season, look for "Varly" to be with the NHL club full-time, and Neuvirth (along with prospect Dan Dunn) manning the Hershey nets.
Finally, Steve Pinizzotto was a free-agent acquisition, and is mainly a minor-league depth guy. We did not get to see his talents in Washington, and frankly, he is spare parts right now as GM George McPhee has bigger areas to address.
I'll be back in a few days with a look at the forwards currently under contract for next season. Enjoy!