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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    Preds avoid arbitration with Granberg — two years, $1.225 million

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 28:  Petter Granberg #8 of the Nashville Predators lines up for a faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche during the third  period at Bridgestone Arena on March 28, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    Nashville has retained the services of depth defenseman Petter Granberg, inking him to a two-year, two-way, $1.225 million extension ahead of his Aug. 3 arbitration hearing, per CBC.

    The contract will pay $575,000 at the NHL level in year one, and $650,000 in year two.

    Claimed off waivers from Toronto in November, Granberg appeared in 27 games for the Preds last season, scoring two points while racking up 13 PIM.

    He was a healthy scratch for all of Nashville’s playoff run.

    Looking ahead, Granberg could be in line for a bigger role with the Preds next season. He only turns 24 in August, and the team did buy out the remainder of veteran Barret Jackman’s contract in late June.

    That should open up some minutes on the back end, though Granberg will likely compete with free agent signings Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin for those depth spots.

     

    With DeKeyser locked up, Holland still has work to do in Detroit

    Ken Holland
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    There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.

    “Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”

    For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.

    Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

    If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:

    DeKeyser — Mike Green
    Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
    Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
    Xavier Ouellet

    It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.

    At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.

    Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk

    Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

    The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

    “I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

    Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

    What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

    The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

    Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

    Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

    Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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    Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

    Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

    Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.