Free agents ‘going for max dollars’ will ‘hinder our ability to compete,’ says Caps GM

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Washington GM Brian MacLellan has a busy summer ahead.

Veterans Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross are all unrestricted come July 1, while young building blocks like Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby are all pending RFAs in need of new deals.

And this is probably why, during Monday’s end-of-year media availability, MacLellan not-so-subtly hinted that some players might need to take haircuts to stay in D.C.

“I think it’s important for players that they realize we’ve had a successful team,” MacLellan said, per the Washington Post. “If they believe we have a good chance moving forward to win a championship, they recognize that going for max dollars — which you could make the choice to do in certain situations — that it would hinder our ability to compete going forward.”

Johansson, Kutznetsov and Holtby will all be re-signed while Gleason and Glencross are likely done. Beagle and Fehr both sound like priorities, with MacLellan saying Beagle will “be an easier one to sign, I hope.”

Which leaves Green and Ward.

MacLellan’s “max dollars” reference is likely to those two, both of whom could generate significant interest on the open market. Green, who turns 30 in October, is no longer the Norris finalist of five years ago but still a quality offensive d-man; his 45 points this year put him 19th among all NHL blueliners and he remains one of the league’s better table-setters on the power play.

Green’s coming off a deal that paid $6.08M annually and, while it might be tough to get that much this time around, he’s still in the running for a nice payday. On a UFA d-man market that projects to be thin, Green — who’s also a coveted right-hand shot — could make a lot of cash, though he’s on record saying “it’s not about the money,” adding he’d like to remain a Capital “until the day I die or retire.”

“It’s probably going to be a little complicated,” MacLellan said of future Green negotiations. “There’s a lot of moving parts around that. The best thing I think we can do is keep in communication, tell him what we’re thinking, and he can tell us what he’s thinking.

“If it works out, that’d be great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

We wrote about Ward’s future last week, after he said he’d “love” to stay in Washington. The 34-year-old just wrapped the last of a four-year, $12 million deal and was full value for his $3M cap hit over the final two seasons. He scored a career-high 24 goals in 2013-14 and potted 19 this year, punctuated by yet another stellar playoff run.

Like Green, Ward could benefit from a relatively weak free agent class. There aren’t many goalscoring wingers available, and very few with Ward’s penchant for scoring in the postseason (Los Angeles’ Justin Williams, another pending UFA, would probably be in a similar scenario to Ward.)

And like with Green, MacLellan is hopeful Ward will be swayed by the positive vibes developed this year under Barry Trotz. You know, the whole we’re-building-something-here-so-take-less-money-to-stay approach.

“In the exit interviews you hear a lot of language of ‘this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing, this is the best team we’ve had, this is the most success we’ve experienced,'” MacLellan explained. “A lot of positive comments, so I’m assuming they all want to come back.”