Nearly two months have passed since the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, and planning for next season is already in full swing across the league. But when NHL free agency — with its bidding wars and inflated contracts — opens at noon Friday, the Capitals likely won’t make a significant addition to their roster. General Manager George McPhee, who rarely shows his hand when it comes to roster decisions or offseason targets, isn’t particularly enamored with this year’s shallow free agent pool. He believes the moves made last spring will allow Washington to avoid any hasty decisions or regrettable contracts in the free agent fray. “We made a lot of our moves in the season,” McPhee said recently, citing the trade that brought winger Martin Erat from Nashville at the deadline and contract extensions for goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman Jack Hillen. “So we wouldn’t be in a position where we would have to go out and sign free agents. It just gets too expensive, too long [contract terms], and you don’t know those players as well as you know your own players.” This particular free agent crop doesn’t boast much depth or top-end talent, even with the unexpected additions provided by compliance buyouts. It’s why Vincent Lecavalier became the most hotly pursued target once he was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Once he agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Philadelphia earlier this week, reality that this group offers few true difference-makers grew even more apparent. Washington has a little more than $8.4 million in room under the $64.3 million salary cap to spend, but restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson still need to be re-signed. Their deals are expected to absorb much of that space considering Alzner could receive in the neighborhood of $3 million annually, while Johansson will earn at least double his previous $900,000 salary. It doesn’t make an addition impossible through free agency, but it certainly would be more challenging, especially in the Capitals’ two biggest areas of need: a top-four defenseman and center depth.
Capitals expect to remain quiet in free agency
Washington Post | Jul 5