Could the Caps capitalize on cap space this summer?

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After perusing the Washington Capitals’ future salary cap commitments, one thing jumped out at me: GM George McPhee holds nearly as much power in deciding Alex Ovechkin’s legacy as Alex does himself.

Quite simply, many people judge great players by how many championships they’ve won. It’s not fair, but it happens often (just ask Charles Barkley or Jeremy Roenick). There’s a great chance that Ovechkin could raise the Cup this summer, but if not, his chances to do so later will be affected immensely by McPhee’s decisions.

Although Alex Semin’s future will be interesting to watch (sure, he extended but he only did so for next season), the biggest question is how much criminally underrated playmaker Nicklas Backstrom will cost. Ovechkin’s blazing star power overshadows Backstrom a lot like Crosby’s keeps Evgeni Malkin (relatively) under the radar. While I’m sure that Backstrom benefits hugely from lining up with Ovie, the talented Swede isn’t a slouch, either. He scored 88 points last season and already has 80 this year. Japers Rink even brought up the possibility of a Selke nomination for Backstrom, something that is almost unimaginable for either one of his talented Russian counterparts.

The question with Backstrom is: will he go for a shorter deal (and thus a bigger annual cap hit) or one of those crazy lifetime contracts? If he somehow made it to restricted free agency, another GM should throw the house at Backstrom.


Once Backstrom’s contract is settled, the Caps could have some room to add a major piece. Jose Theodore’s humorous $4.5 million cap hit will dissolve after this season and a few medium sized deals will expire as well. Washington could go after a big name veteran goalie like Marty Turco or even Evgeni Nabokov or perhaps take a crack at a top-flight defenseman. Heck, they could even go wild with offense and attempt to lure awkward assassin Patrick Marleau out of San Jose. Caps fans, consider this list your dream sheet. The Caps can then fill smaller roles with cheap veterans and their many promising prospects.

One more quick thought on the Caps’ cap: people really love to rag on Mike Green but his contract ($5.25 million annual cap hit) is a moderate steal. Considering his insane point production he’s basically a cheaper, younger Dan Boyle. Now, without further adieu, here’s a handy breakdown of next year’s situation. Keep in mind this stuff is subject to change.

2010-11 cap commitments as of today (some figures were rounded up to keep it simple):

Forwards (6 of required 12): Ovechkin (9.54); Semin (6); Knuble (2.8); Laich (2.06); Chimera (1.875); Steckel (1.1); Bradley (1)

Defense (5 of 6): Green (5.25); Poti (3.5); Erskine (1.25); Carlson (846K); Sloan (700k)

Goalies (1 of 2): Varlamov (822k)

Cap space: slightly more than $20 million
Cap space with Karl Alzner, probable call-up: about $18.3 million
Cap space with Alzner and possible call-up Michal Neuvirth: About $17.5 million

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    Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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    If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

    The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

    Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

    Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

    ” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

    That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

    Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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    Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

    The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

    The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

    The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

    Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

    With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

    Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

    You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

    Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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    Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

    It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

    Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

    One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

    This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

    Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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    The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

    They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

    Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

    Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

    Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

    Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.