The NHL season is slowly drawing nearer and that means the Capitals are going to have to find a solution to their salary cap problem.
Over the summer, general manager Brian MacLellan made tough calls to trade away Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky and also to let Brett Connolly leave in free agency all because the team was hard up against the salary cap. Despite those moves and the retirement of Brooks Orpik, Washington still finds itself a little more than $1.3 million over.
Shedding salary is not a problem. Trying to find a way to shed salary and not weaken the team, however, is more difficult. That is the task before MacLellan as the Caps hope to compete for their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
MacLellan has done a masterful job of saving money while still upgrading the roster this offseason, but he still has $1.3 million left to cut. He made tough moves on offense and defense. Now, it may be time to cut costs between the pipes. No, I am not talking about Braden Holtby. I am talking about replacing Pheonix Copley with Vitek Vanecek.
Copley won 16 games in 27 games last season. Replacing him with an unproven rookie is a big risk. I thought we were trying to shed salary while not weakening the roster?
Well, let’s consider the alternatives to getting under the cap.
A trade is possible, but unlikely given that every general manager in the league knows the team is over the cap. Opposing general managers are not going to do the Caps any favors so already you have lost some leverage.
Washington currently has 14 forwards on the roster and seven defensemen. That gives the team two extra forwards and one extra defenseman. One other issue is trying to keep one extra at each position. This is necessary in case of injury. The problem that gives you when figuring out the cap is that if you try to trade a player like Christian Djoos, for example, you are not simply taking his full salary off the board. You are taking away his salary and adding whoever replaces him.