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.
After a frustrating year in which he played just 17 games, Dan Cleary will meet with Red Wings GM Ken Holland next week to decide what’s next for him in the Motor City.
It could end up being a pretty intriguing conversation, per the Free Press:
A situation that bears the handprint of former coach Mike Babcock has put the Wings in the position of being honor-bound to keep Cleary, 36, aboard, even as he is coming off a season that saw him play just 17 games, producing two points.
This debacle began two years ago. The Wings had offered Cleary a three-year, $6.25-million contract before he became unrestricted July 1. He declined. The Wings then signed Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, leaving little space under the salary cap. Then Cleary didn’t sign with anyone. September rolled around. The Flyers offered Cleary a three-year deal for $8.25 million, but Cleary then decided he wanted to stay in Detroit.
He ended up flying to Traverse City, where the Wings already had begun training camp. He met in a hangar with Holland and Babcock. Holland pointed to a near maxed-out budget. Babcock pushed hard for Cleary to be signed. What resulted was a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the understanding the Wings would take into consideration what Cleary left on the Flyers table.
After playing out that $1.75 million deal, Cleary re-signed in Detroit last summer to a one-year, $1.5 million pact.
So, essentially, the Wings are now heading into the final year of an unspoken three-year agreement that’s (sorta) aimed at repaying what Clearly left in Philly. The options for Holland, according to the Free Press, include signing Cleary to another one-year deal, then waiving him if he can’t make the team out of camp. There’s also speculation Holland could possibly offer Cleary a front-office position, though it’d be at a decidedly smaller salary than he’d get as a player.
Stephen Weiss appeared in just 52 of the Red Wings’ 82 games this season, and only two in a seven-game playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
So, not surprisingly, he’s a bit concerned about his future in Detroit.
“After the way things ended this year? No, not really,” Weiss told the Detroit Press, when asked if he thought he had a role on the team next season. “I gotta earn a spot, there’s no doubt about it.”
Signed to a lucrative five-year, $24.5 million deal in 2013, Weiss’ tenure in Detroit has been an injury-ravaged disappointment; the 32-year-old has missed 86 games to ailments (and, healthy scratches) since joining the club, tallying a mere 11 goals and 29 points.
Weiss carries the third-largest cap hit among Detroit forwards ($4.9M annually) and with some key RFAs needing new deals this summer — Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco chief among them — it’s possible Weiss’ name will come up in buyout talks. Though the financial hit would be a tough pill to swallow and carry on for a lengthy period of time (click here for more detailed analysis), it’s important to remember that, during last week’s end-of-year media availability, Wings GM Ken Holland said “money is no object” when it came to retaining the services of head coach Mike Babcock.
Does the same mantra apply to the roster? If it’s in connection with keeping Babcock, one would have to think yes.