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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    Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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    Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

    Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

    Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

    Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

    The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

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    The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

    That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

    Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

    Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call, Crosby passes Lemieux

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
    • For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

    • Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

    Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

    • The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

    • Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

    • In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

    Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

    • Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

    • Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

    Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

    • How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

    • Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

    • Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

    • Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

    • Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

    • The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

    • Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

    • Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Humboldt Broncos fundraising campaign ends with $15 million raised

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    Almost two weeks after the tragic bus crash that took the lives of 16 players and staff of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, the GoFundMe campaign to help the families of the victims and those who survived has ended after raising over $15 million.

    Sylvie Kellington, a Humboldt resident whose son played for the Broncos Bantam A team this season, started the fundraiser the night of the April 6 bus crash. Through word of mouth and the power of social media, support for the team spread and reached people all over the world. Eventually, the goal hit $4 million, but that was quickly surpassed and the total money donated skyrocketed.

    The campaign ended Wednesday night with $15,185,700 raised from over 142,000 donations.

    “We are all blown away,” Kellington told the Toronto Sun Wednesday. “I keep getting kudos for starting this page. I just want it to be clear that the people who opened their hearts with their generosity are the ones who made it successful. We are moving along one day at a time, one moment at a time. I think the outpour of support our community has received this past week is helping us and will continue to help everyone heal.”

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Earlier this week, Broncos’ President Kevin Garinger shared the next steps in the process:

    The funds donated through the GoFundMe campaign will be transferred to a newly created non-profit corporation known as “Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc.” to be allocated for their intended purpose.

    An advisory committee is being established to make a recommendation for the allocation of these funds, which will be held in trust until that allocation occurs. Once we have formalized the composition of this committee, we will provide you with an update.

    Since the accident, support has poured in for the Broncos. Teams from various leagues, including the NHL, held moments of silence in the days following the crash and made donations to the Broncos’ fund. Driver D.J. Kennington put the Broncos’ logo on his hood for a race at Bristol and will now auction it off for the team. #PutYourStickOut, an idea from a friend of TSN broadcaster Brian Munz, went viral with current and former hockey players ranging from youth to professional taking part.

    The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League resumed play eight days after the crash after a unanimous decision by the board. The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin, Saskatchewan for Game 5 of their series when the crash occurred. The league decided in the aftermath of the accident that Nipawin would play the best-of-seven Canalta Cup Final against the Estevan Bruins. The series is currently tied 2-2 with Game 5 Friday night.

    “It really is (theraputic),” said Nipawin captain Carter Doerksen. “It’s getting back to hockey and doing what we love. That’s how we deal with things.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.