This offseason is a classic good news/bad news scenario for the Capitals. On the one hand, none of Washington's core guys (Ovechkin, Backstom, Semin, Green, Laich) are free agents
and they can't help but get younger because three of their four oldest players seem to be on the way out (Fedorov, 39, Brashear, 37, and Kozlov, 34, and if only Nylander, 36, could join them). But on the other hand, they suddenly need two top six forwards and their contract situation makes it difficult to upgrade the defense, an obvious Achilles against Pittsburgh.
Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Shaone Morrisonn, Brent Johnson, Donald Brashear
Feds and Kozlov (and possibly Brashear) are headed to the KHL. Perhaps it's for the best – Fedorov could easily have stretched his decision on playing this season into January much like Mats Sundin or Brett Favre in the past year. In November Fedorov was dominant at both ends and delivered the biggest play of the season with his game seven winner against the Rangers. But it's easier to replace those guys with the power forwards this team needs than it would be to replace Fleishmann or Clark, since Feds, Kozlov, and Brashear open up nearly $8 million in salary cap space.
Morrisonn is the most likely defenseman to be moved in order to create a roster spot for Alzner due to his projected salary (I'd say around $2.4 million) for next season, as opposed to Jurcina or Schultz. An offer sheet to Jurcina could change this, but my best guess is the Morrisonn gets moved during the draft for a 3rd or a 4th. There's no room for Johnson with Varlamov and Theodore under contract, and Washington would like to clear a path for Neuvirth as well.
Milan Jurcina, Jeff Schultz, Eric Fehr
If I decide to do a most improved Capital award, Jurcina would be in the running. Through 25 games Jurcina had a goal and two assists, -5. From then on in 68 games he had four goals, nine assists, and was +12 including the playoffs. If Washington was dead set on upgrading their defense he'd be the guy they'd be replacing (since he's a restricted free agent), but I expect him to either sign a one year deal or go to arbitration. An offer sheet is a possibility, but they're pretty uncommon for supporting cast type guys. A long term extension is also possibile, but unlikely since he's still developing as a player. Schultz and Fehr have showed just enough for the Caps to hold on to them without worrying about anyone coming in with an offer sheet.
Possible free agent targets
Mike Knuble, Todd Bertuzzi, John Madden, Keith Tkachuk, Jere Lehtinen, Bill Guerin
This list is completely speculative, although among these guys the Caps have previously been rumored to be interested in Guerin and Tkachuk. I'm going for two way forwards with size and some warts so they can comfortably fit under the cap with short term deals here. Knuble is the only quasi big ticket guy on my list, and everyone but he and Madden will likely receive one year deals.
About the Author
Written by Ryan Cleaver
Ryan Cleaver was born in Björk’s house in Iceland and grew up on Easter Island, where his parents were giant stone heads. He has the ability to fire beams of tacos out of his hands and he can turn his legs into tigers. On Sundays, Ryan enjoys reading Family Circus and traveling through time. His favorite color is greenish-transparent and his favorite movie is the one you just watched.