4 Washington Capitals Likeliest to Be Playing Elsewhere in 2014-15
When teams fall short of expectations, personnel changes are almost always on the horizon. After a disappointing 2013-14 campaign, that is certainly the case with the Washington Capitals.
We've already seen the firings of coach Adam Oates and longtime general manager George McPhee since the end of the season, and once the playoffs come to a close, at least a handful of proven veterans will follow them out the door.
Yes, even with a new management team on the way, it's unlikely that Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Evgeny Kuznetsov or most of the team's other key players will be moved, but there remains a group of valuable contributors that will probably be donning new NHL uniforms in the fall.
Heading into what is undoubtedly the team's most important offseason in recent memory, here's a look at which current Capitals are likeliest to leave Washington this summer.
As far back as December, some—such as Yahoo! Sports' JJ Regan—suggested that the time had come for the Caps to part ways with longtime franchise cornerstone Mike Green.
There's no doubting Green's unique set of tools, as his speed, hands and shot are among the best of any blueliner in the game today. However, his lack of defensive responsibility has made him a liability far too often for Washington.
And with Carlson and Alzner firmly established as the team's top pairing, Green's $6 million salary is simply too expensive for a team in need of stability on the back end.
An unrestricted free agent next summer, Green will price himself out of Washington in a year's time anyways, so the Caps would be best off moving him at the NHL draft in order to turn their All-Star rearguard into some assets for the future.
This departure is far and away the most obvious, as Dustin Penner never really found his place in Adam Oates' lineup. As a result, his stay in Washington will prove to be a short one.
It's a shame, because Penner has the skill, size and net-front presence to make life easier for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the offensive zone.
He's done just that with stars like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the past.
But Penner, who scored just one goal and three points in 17 games with the Caps (after 32 points in 49 games with Anaheim prior to the trade), figures to be a safe bet to return to either the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks at a reduced salary.
On paper, Penner should've filled a role similar to the one held by Mike Knuble during his first two seasons in Washington, but it never worked out for the hulking power forward.
He'll be gone soon after free agents hit the market.
Prior to missing 24 games due to injury, Mikhail Grabovski's first season in Washington was well on its way to being successful one, as the speedy two-way center had 33 points in his first 49 games and boasted the best plus/minus rating of any Capitals forward.
As such, it's not unreasonable to think that the 30-year-old will attract a multiyear deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-5 million annually, which may be too pricey for the Caps' liking.
In addition, as reported by CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley, while Grabovski enjoyed his time in Washington, he's inclined to wait for a new coach and management team to be installed before signing an extension with the team.
Given that there's a very real possibility the organization will be without a new general manager until after free agency opens, it doesn't look like Grabovski will be a Capital when the puck drops on the 2014-15 season.
In an ideal world, Brooks Laich would retire at some point down the road as a member of the Washington Capitals, but after two dreadful, injury-marred seasons, that scenario is becoming less and less realistic.
A universally respected two-way forward, Laich earned his current six-year, $27 million deal (three seasons remaining) by posting at least 20 goals or 48 points in four consecutive seasons between 2007-08 and 2010-11.
Since then, his production has declined drastically.
According to CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley, the 30-year-old is hoping that his most recent surgery has solved the nagging groin injuries that forced him to suit up for just 60 games since the start of the 2012-13 season.
Can the Capitals really bank on that happening?
Laich comes with an annual hit of $4.5 million against the salary cap, and with just 19 points over his last 60 games combined with career-worst numbers on draws, the return simply isn't enough for the assistant captain.
Due to his injuries and declining offensive output, dealing Laich would be almost impossible right now, so a compliance buyout could be an option.
However, as Gormley recently discussed, Laich will have to pass a physical after failing one at the end of the season.
If he doesn't or the team opts not to request a physical, Laich will be back. If he can't stay healthy and prove that he's still capable of being a top-six forward, he won't be on the roster beyond 2014-15.
Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.