Could the Caps capitalize on cap space this summer?


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

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier

Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.