But now this is where the contract situations get a bit interesting. As we look at the unrestricted free agents, there are quite a few different variables that could come into play with each free agent.
For the first time in a while, I think the Capitals are better off just re-signing virtually every player they used for the entire season. Virtually every player we could potentially re-sign is a better option/fit than any upcoming free agent this offseason. The upcoming free agents list is a little weak this year.
Unfortunately, I highly doubt the Capitals manage to re-sign every player.
If the restricted free agents end up signing with the Caps for the terms I predicted, the Capitals will have about $10.48 million in cap space for the remaining open spots on their roster (this is assuming the cap ceiling is going to be at $72 million, which could obviously change come July 1).
Now remember, I assumed every player would sign a contract, and which was more than just about every contract I settled with in that RFA post. So, in my opinion, that $10.48 million is essentially the worst case scenario as far as cap space. I'd like to think that's an accurate prediction, but take it for what it's worth, it's just my guesstimate. Feel free to point and laugh at me when it ends up being a vastly different number.
In total, the Capitals have 17 total upcoming unrestricted free agents within the system. Of those 17, four played for the Capitals for the entire season, two for a chunk, two played a decent amount in the past and a couple others were on the roster for a handful of days.
Let's take a look at each upcoming unrestricted free agents situation, and whether or not the Caps would re-sign them, and at what cost.
Mike Green has had a really fun career in Washington. He had quite a few remarkable offensive season, scoring 31 goals in the 2008-09 season and recording 76 points in the 2009-10 season. He's had a few critical goals in critical moments, earning the nickname Game Over for ending games in overtime seemingly every time he had the opportunity to do so.
Green's probably never going to score 30 goals ever game. He probably won't even score 20 goals ever again. He's never going to get 70 points, and he probably won't even get 60 in a season. But what can't be denied is that Green still possesses an offensive touch that few defensemen have.
Green finished with 10 goals and 35 assists on the season, finishing seventh in the league among players that played at least 10 games in points per 60 minutes of play at even strength five on five with 1.29. He always seems to be able to find the open man, knows exactly when to step up and take a shot, and is always dangerous when he's on the ice.
|Photo By Bridget Samuels|
Green wants to stay in Washington, and Washington would love to have Green back, but it just doesn't seem likely. With already $20,016,666 in cap space already allocated to the blue line, there just simply isn't any room to add Green back at the terms he would like to see, unless he takes a pay cut.
Green's last contract was a three-year, $18.25 million deal that started in the 2012-13 season. Now, Green may not be worth $6 million per year anymore. In fact, no third line defenseman should be worth that much. But, we can all agree that Green is much, much better than your typical third line defenseman, and if it wasn't for such a deep group of right-handed defensemen in John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, Green could have quite easily played top four minutes.
Green could go ahead and talk about how he wants to play for the Capitals, but he'd be nuts to sign with Washington. I mean, after what we have seen in virtually every offseason, why wouldn't every free agent at least test the waters during free agency? We've seen Tanner Glass get a three-year, $4.35 million contract from the New York Rangers, Dave Bolland get a five-year, $27.5 million from the Florida Panthers and *cough* *cough* Brooks Orpik get a five-year, $27.5 million contract just last offseason! We aren't even talking about the grandaddy of them all in the seven-year $36.75 million contract the Toronto Maple Leafs gave to David Clarkson! You think guys like Mike Green wouldn't want to at least try to cash in on that consistent overpay?
This is Green's moment to cash in on the big bucks. He's 29-years-old, and he could quite easily fetch $5-6.5 million per year for a long extended period of time. A team like the Detroit Red Wings have been itching for a right-handed defenseman for years. Other teams have money to spend. The Caps don't.
Maybe the money isn't important to Green. Maybe he really, really, really wants to stay. Maybe he likes the area. Maybe he doesn't want to leave his friends and teammates. Maybe his wife, Courtney Parrie wants to stay in the DC area more than anything. Hey, you think she doesn't have a say? You are obviously wrong if you think she doesn't, and history would tend to disagree with you.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not 100 percent counting Mike Green out. Maybe he's perfectly fine with accepting he is now a third pairing defenseman for a good team, and he believes it is only fair that he is paid as such. I find it highly unlikely he'd be willing to accept a contract that is around 50 percent of what he could fetch from other teams, but I guess crazier things have happened.
Contract I'd Like to See: Sigh.....two years, $3.5 million per year (only two years because I highly doubt he'd take a longterm deal that saw his income drop by nearly 50 percent), plus his own personal masseuse, butler, maid and whatever other perk he would like that doesn't count against the cap.
Much like Green, Joel Ward could cash in this offseason. Over the past two seasons, Ward has been nothing short of excellent, especially when you consider he is basically a third line player with a scoring touch. Ward finished with 19 goals and 34 points this season, a slight decrease in production from last season, when he finished with a career high in both goals (24) and points (49).
Ward was utilized as a first line right wing during the playoffs, and it appeared to work. Ward finished his playoffs with three goals and six assists, making him the co-leader on the team in points during the playoffs alongside Alex Ovechkin.
Also, much like Green, Ward would like to stay in Washington. Unlike Green, it is a little bit easier to fit in a guy like Ward. We simply don't have the forward depth to allow guys like Ward to walk away, so a contract for a third line guy, with first line potential that can play in virtually any game situation and can be counted on for big time plays only makes sense.
Ward came from the Nashville Predators four years ago when he signed a four year, $12 million contract. He could very well get a similar contract, despite being 34-years-old. What makes him different from your average 34-year-old player? Ward made his NHL debut at 26, and has shown no sign of wear and tear on that big ass.
Ward is a quite guy, but when he does speak, he is always full of wise cracks and hilarious quotes. He's a good guy to have on your team, and it's quite obvious that the guys in the locker room love having him around.
Ward has a lot of familiarity with Barry Trotz, finishing up his fourth season under the Capitals first-year coach. Trotz seems to know exactly how to get the best out of Ward, and the winger is playing his best hockey at the tail end of his career.
The Caps would be crazy not to try to sign him, but, again, much like Green, Ward would also be crazy not to at least test free agency. Ward is at the top of many lists of upcoming free agent forwards, and at 34, this could very well be his last big contract. But the difference between he and Green is that the Caps should be willing to give Ward want he wants as far as a contract goes. So if he's satisfied with the number, we should expect to see 42 back in a red sweater next season.
Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $3.5 million per year.
In my opinion, this was one of Eric Fehr's most complete seasons as a Washington Capital. Sure, he didn't set a career high in goals or points, but he got pretty close. His career high came in the high octane offensive years of the Capitals during the 2009-10 season when he finished with 21 goals and 39 points. This year, Fehr had 19 goals and 33 points, playing primarily as a third line center responsible for defensive hockey.
Fehr really stepped up this year. The Capitals had a pretty odd situation when it came to centers on the team, and Fehr was cast in as a candidate for the third line position. He did well, buddying up with Ward and giving the Caps that offensive punch on the third line.
|Photo By Bridget Samuels|
Giving a contract to a player that could potentially be injured often is obviously a bit risky, but Fehr has proven to be a very valuable player when he's on the ice. He's also not going to come at too high of a price, and the Caps surely would like him back.
Fehr is going to turn 30 at the beginning of the season. I would have to imagine at this point in his career, Fehr would be more eager to sign a longer-term contract than a short-term. In fact, Fehr hasn't received a contract from the Capitals that was at least three-years since his three-year entry level contract, consistently playing on just a two-year or one-year deal. Fehr isn't going to warrant too much money...and even though Fehr would probably like a three or four year deal, another two year deal is in the best interest for Washington.
Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $2.25 million per year. I'd give him three if that was the deal breaker.
Jay Beagle had a surprisingly good year, setting career highs in both goals and assists with 10 apiece. I don't know where he found that offensive flair, but what I do know is that we are probably not going to see Beagle score off of 11.9 percent of his total shots ever again, meaning I highly doubt we ever see 10 goals out of Beagle ever again.
I of course hope I'm wrong, and Beagle continues to kick butt on the fourth line. He is pretty much the golden standard of fourth line centers at this point in his career, playing a defensive role while finishing with positive possession numbers. On top of that, Beagle is a man possessed when it comes to the face off dot. In fact, Beagle is still leading the league in face off percentage (of players who took at least 15 face offs) during the playoffs, winning 120 of his 188 face off attempts, good for 63.8 percent. That was only slightly better than his regular season percentage of 56.5.
That's pretty much what Beagle brings to the table. He's a defensive-minded guy who can kill penalties and win you some face offs.
This should be a pretty easy signing for the Capitals. Of the upcoming free agents, this is far and away the easiest signing. It shouldn't cost the Capitals too much, and whatever the term may be, the Caps will more than likely be satisfied with Beagles production.
Contract I'd Like to See: Two years, $1.8 million per year
Curtis Glencross/Tim Gleason
I decided to lump these two together because they are essentially in the same boat. And that boat is drifting incredibly far from Washington.
I made it quite clear that I was originally upset with the trade for Curtis Glencross, as I simply saw no reason to force a third line player to play top six minutes. I simply do not want to live in a world where a team sends a second and a third round pick in exchange for a player who will end up being healthy scratched during the playoffs. Yet this is the world I live in. Glencross needs to leave.
I was relatively indifferent during the Tim Gleason trade. In fact, I'm like 40 percent sure I had zero reaction at all to the trade. I simply shrugged and moved on with my day. We essentially moved a fourth round pick that we previously received from the Arizona Coyotes for a guy who appeared to be very slow and rode the bench in critical game situations. As I grow older and older, I fail to see the point in trade deadline acquisitions. I won't be too terribly shocked if no one decides to sign Gleason ever again, but he should be satisfied to know that the Toronto Maple leafs will pay him will make $4.5 million over the next three years regardless of whether he plays hockey or not. That's right, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who literally need to suit up virtually anyone that wants to play hockey for them, would rather pay a man $4.5 million to not play for them than actually pay them to play. This is the situation Gleason is in.
Other Upcoming UFAs
You probably forgot that Aaron Volpatti was even in the Capitals organization at all anymore. Believe it or not, he actually is, and I can guarantee you he won't be come next year. John Erskine is also set to become a free agent this year. His health has become a concern and we simply have better options than him at this point. I have my doubts a team will sign Erskine, but if he's healthy and he wants to play, I really hope a team signs him. He served the Caps well, and I will never in my entire life forget this fight. There are two guys that are in really interesting free agent positions for the Capitals, and that's Cameron Schilling and Tomas Kundratek. Both become UFA-VI's this offseason (definition of that here). I like both of these guys, especially Schilling, but I have to imagine that both these guys would like to look to see if they can get some professional ice time elsewhere, because it doesn't look like they will crack this NHL lineup any time soon, and if they both truly believe they can play in the NHL, then they should look elsewhere for the sake of their careers. The same goes with Steve Oleksy, who is loved by virtually everyone within the Caps fan base, but simply won't ever see consistent time in a red uniform. Much like Schilling and Kundratek, Oleksy could potentially find himself with a better opportunity on a different roster. Casey Wellman and Chris Connor find themselves in similar situations. Wellman played in a handful of games last season, and Connor found himself in the lineup this season. Neither of these guys are consistent NHL players, but both served the Hershey Bears well. I'm especially a fan of Connor, and hopefully both of these guys decide to stick within the organization. Kris Newbury, Jon Landry, Tim Kennedy and Mike Moore will also become become free agents.
So....if you add up all of the ideal contracts I came up with for both the RFAs and the UFAs, the Capitals are about $1.3 million over the cap using a $72 million cap ceiling. Now, obviously these are just my predictions, and a ton of different variables could be added between now and July 1, but the only way the Capitals could keep every player on the roster is if two things happened: 1) The RFAs stay on the team after accepting a qualifying offer and 2) Mike Green takes a pay cut.
Do you think that happens?
Yeah, me neither.