With Eric Fehr an unrestricted free agent and Nicklas Backstrom’s availability for the start of the season “up in the air” after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery, the Washington Capitals’ situation at center is far from certain.
Washington has stated that Evgeny Kuznetsov will serve as the number two center and when Backstrom is healthy, he is the clear number one, but that still leaves the third line role undetermined.
“I think we’re going to let it play out,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post. “We could address it internally, the third-line center spot, and also depending on how the contract situation plays itself out, there’s a couple options in the free agency market that we see, and we’ll explore the trade market up until training camp. There might be something in that venue.”
Andre Burakovsky, 20, is among their internal options, but they also have veteran alternatives like 29-year-old Jay Beagle.
If they do decide to sign a center to help fill the void, then their options include Stephen Weiss, Matt Cullen, Derek Roy and, of course, Fehr.
Washington does have some cap considerations though. They have a little more than $10 million in space, but still have to re-sign restricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Braden Holtby, per General Fanager.
Shortly after landing one of the biggest UFA prizes in Mike Green, the Red Wings made another big move by signing Brad Richards to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
For Richards, 35, it’s his second straight one-year pact. Last year he inked with Chicago and enjoyed a good bounce-back campaign after getting bought out by the Rangers.
Richards’ regular season was solid — 12 goals and 37 points in 76 games — and he stepped up in the playoffs, emerging as a solid contributor in Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run by scoring 14 points in 23 games, averaging close to 17 minutes a night.
In Detroit, he’ll look to fill the second-line center void that Stephen Weiss was never able to fill.
The Red Wings bought out the former Panthers pivot yesterday, putting Richards in a group of centers that includes youngsters Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. Should Richards emerge as Detroit’s 2C, it’ll allow new head coach Jeff Blashill to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together on the club’s top line.
As for the team Richards left, there was some thought Chicago would have interest in retaining his services. But that possibility was ruled out yesterday when the team acquired center Artem Anisimov in the Brandon Saad trade, then inked Anisimov to a long-term extension.
Related: As Weiss struggles, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are split up
The Stephen Weiss experiment is over in Detroit. After completing just two seasons of his five-year, $24.5 million contract, the Detroit Red Wings have bought him out, per the Detroit Free Press.
At his height, Weiss enjoyed 61, 60, and 57-point campaigns over the span of a four-season stretch with the Florida Panthers from 2008-12. However, groin problems limited Weiss to just 26 contests in his first season with the Red Wings in 2013-14. To make matters worse, he only had two goals and four points when he did play.
Weiss averaged a mere 11:20 minutes per contest last season and finished with nine goals and 25 points in 52 games.
Despite his decline in the Red Wings’ depth charts, there was some debate about using Weiss to hedge their bets after Pavel Datsyuk underwent ankle surgery. However, Red Wings GM Ken Holland wants to give his younger players an opportunity.
“We want to see what (Dylan) Larkin can do,” Holland said. “Andreas Athanasiou had a good year, where is he at? We’re going with our own younger people who have put a resume together at the AHL level, and are on the verge of trying to establish themselves in the NHL. At some point in time this year, we’re hoping a lot of our young kids will be NHL players.”
Weiss’ buyout will cost Detroit roughly $10 million in cap space over the next six years. However, it will save the Red Wings about $3.8 million for each of the next two seasons compared to the full cost of his contract.