5 Players the Washington Capitals Would Make Available in an NHL Expansion Draft
The NHL hasn't held an expansion draft in more than a decade, but for fans across North America, the possibility of another one is suddenly real.
Though many sources, such as The Canadian Press (via CBC), have reported that the league remains intent on downplaying rumors of a potential four-team expansion, it would not be surprising to see a handful of new teams hitting the ice in the near future.
If that's the case, teams with considerable depth will face very difficult decisions when identifying the players that will be left unprotected in preparation for an expansion draft.
And that would certainly be the case for the Washington Capitals if the same rules used for the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft (as outlined in a recent Sporting News piece by Sean Gentille and Dimitri Filipovi) applied: "Teams were allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards, or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards."
With that in mind, here's a look at the five most valuable players the Caps would make available.
5. Philipp Grubauer
Regardless of whether the Caps were to protect one or two goaltenders, logic tells us that Philipp Grubauer would be made available.
Braden Holtby's firmly entrenched as the team's No. 1 stopper, and after having signed Justin Peters to a two-year deal in July, the young German's unlikely to get much ice in Washington's crease in 2013-14.
As a result, if Holtby proves to be an adequate starter, and Peters fills the role of backup as effectively as he did in Carolina, Grubauer would be the odd man out.
But for an expansion franchise, there's a lot to like about Grubauer's potential. As a 22-year-old, the former fourth-rounder put up a sparkling 2.38 goals against average and a .925 save percentage in 2013-14.
4. Dmitry Orlov
With 30 points in 119 NHL games to date, Dmitry Orlov has established himself as one of Washington's more promising defensive prospects.
But now that the Caps have Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson and Karl Alzner in the fold, in addition to former All-Star Mike Green, Orlov won't be protected in the event of an expansion draft.
Blessed with solid hands and confidence with the puck on his stick beyond his years, Orlov could well develop into a reliable offensive rearguard once his play in his own end develops.
However, Orlov's now one of many Capitals defensemen with the ability to jump into the rush, so he'd be deemed an expendable piece in the event of expansion.
3. Brooks Laich
This could change by the end of the season, but right now, Brooks Laich is a prime candidate to be put on the block if the team's forced to leave three or more forwards unprotected.
It'd be a bittersweet day for Washington, as Laich has been a fan favorite and team captain with the only NHL team he's known, but at a cap hit of $4.5 million a year for the next three seasons, his injury history and inability to crack the top six is problematic.
Now four seasons removed from the last of his three consecutive 20-goal seasons, Laich needs to have a big 2014-15 to validate former general manager George McPhee's decision to sign the two-way forward to a six-year, $27 million deal in 2011.
Laich has suited up for a grand total of 60 of Washington's last 137 contests, and that has to change in order for the Caps to have a viable reason to protect him.
2. Joel Ward
It may be that Ward isn't even around long enough to be left available in a potential expansion draft, as the 33-year-old forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2015.
And for the former Nashville Predator, it probably couldn't come at a better time, as Ward's coming off a career year that saw him post 24 goals and 49 points.
A member of arguably Washington's most consistent trio alongside Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, Ward has proven himself to be worth the $3 million a year he's been making, but will that continue from age 34 on?
History says no, so don't expect Washington to be offering him anything close to the four-year, $12 million pact McPhee extended to Ward in 2011.
1. Mike Green
Once considered an indispensable franchise cornerstone, Mike Green now looks like the odd man out on Washington's blue line.
It's not that Green isn't a valuable asset anymore, it's just that it's difficult to see how the gifted offensive rearguard fits into Barry Trotz's top four.
As stated before, Niskanen, Orpik, Carlson and Alzner would appear to be the logical first two pairings on the Caps depth chart, leaving Green, and his $6.08 million cap hit, bottom-pair minutes.
That's not enough for a player of Green's caliber, and though the two-time Norris Trophy finalist could be dealt before the trade deadline, he won't be protected in the event of a draft.
Salary-cap information courtesy of Spotrac.com.