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The Caps and the cap

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So the news broke yesterday that the salary cap will rise to $56.7 million next season (which means the floor is higher than the ceiling was coming out of the lockout, a scary thought for U.S.-based small markets). It means that, for the teams with owners willing to spend it, there is more cash to be tossed around. With that in mind, here is a quick glance at where the Caps are right now with each player signed and their expected cap number (in millions) for this season.

 

*Expected cap number with bonuses added in

 

FORWARDS

 

Alex Ovechkin, 9.538

Michael Nylander, 4.875

Alexander Semin, 4.600

Chris Clark, 2.633

Viktor Kozlov, 2.500

Nicklas Backstrom, 2.400*

Donald Brashear, 1.200

Matt Bradley, 1.000

Tomas Fleischmann, .725

Chris Bourque, .633

David Steckel, .512

Quintin Laing, .487

Ben Clymer, .250

 

Total = 31.353

 

DEFENSEMEN

 

Tom Poti, 3.500

Brian Pothier, 2.500

Karl Alzner, 1.675*

Milan Jurcina, .881

Jeff Schultz, .750

Sami Lepisto, .700

John Erskine, .537

 

Total = 10.543

 

GOALTENDERS

 

Brent Johnson, .812

Daren Machesney, .493

 

Total = 1.305

 

TEAM TOTAL = 43.201

 

That is a full roster of players under contract. Now, obviously these are not the 21 guys the Caps are going to war with in October. So let’s re-work this with what the roster might actually look like on opening night. The Caps can carry 23 players, but because of the pending cap crunch don’t be shocked if they only carry 21 or 22. This is important for a couple of reasons.

 

One, unless another move is made Alzner or Lepisto and possibly both are not making the team (if Green and Morrisonn are re-signed, of course). George McPhee said at the draft that he only wants to carry seven defensemen this season. With Green and Mo, there are nine under contract with Alzner and Lepisto being the two that don’t have to clear waivers. If Pothier can’t play, then they are down to eight. Obviously if Alzner is as advertised, the Caps could make room for him by cutting/trading Jurcina or Erskine, but that’s an extra million bucks they might not want to spend.

 

Two, someone (or two if everybody comes back) in the forward ranks isn’t making the team either. Candidates would include Laing (will he clear waivers after last season?), Fehr (unlikely, but doesn’t have to go through waivers), Fleischmann (don’t think the Caps want to cut bait with him months after giving him a two-year deal) and maybe even Steckel (if Fedorov re-signs they will have a glut of centers, he would more likely be traded than put through waivers/sent down) or Gordon if the Caps don’t like his new salary.

 

Also remember the salaries count against the cap on a day-by-day basis, so the longer the Caps can go with only 20 or 21 guys on the roster, the more room that might leave for a trade deadline addition.

 

Here is what the 23-man roster could like (but again, I don’t expect the Caps to carry 23 guys). And because it is fun to do, let’s speculate on the salaries of the free agents.

 

FORWARDS

 

Alex Ovechkin, 9.538

Michael Nylander, 4.875

Alexander Semin, 4.600

Chris Clark, 2.633

SERGEI FEDEROV, 2.500

Viktor Kozlov, 2.500

Nicklas Backstrom, 2.400*

BROOKS LAICH, 1.750

Donald Brashear, 1.200

Matt Bradley, 1.000

ERIC FEHR, .985

BOYD GORDON, .875

Tomas Fleischmann, .725

David Steckel, .512

Ben Clymer, .250

 

New total = 36.343

 

DEFENSEMEN

 

MIKE GREEN, 5.250 (more on him in an upcoming post)

Tom Poti, 3.500

Brian Pothier, 2.500

SHAONE MORRISONN, 1.750

Karl Alzner, 1.675*

Jeff Schultz, .750

John Erskine, .537 (I think Jurcina is the odd man out in this scenario, unless there is an injury or Alzner isn’t ready)

 

New total = 15.962

 

GOALTENDERS

 

CRISTOBAL HUET, 5.750

Brent Johnson, .812

 

New total = 6.562

 

NEW TEAM TOTAL = 58.867

 

Obviously, that is too much. Subtracting Pothier’s salary and putting Jurcina’s back in gets that figure down to about $57.3 million. Shedding one more forward does the trick of getting down to the cap, and there is some cushion involved for teams with the rookie bonuses. The point of this whole exercise is, the Caps could be a lot closer to the ceiling than some people might have expected. Obviously, I might be a bit high with some of these estimated salaries (although an offer sheet might make the guess on Green too low). I think the moral of the story is if Green and Huet end up combining to cost $11 million-plus, then Fedorov might not be a luxury this team can afford unless he or a couple of the other RFAs are willing to take a little less than what I have guessed here.

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