The Washington Times - May 18, 2009, 02:41PM

The Washington Capitals spent this entire season very close to the ceiling of the NHL’s $56.7 million salary cap. There is no official word on what that number is going to be for next season, but it is safe to say there isn’t likely to be another huge jump like the previous three offseasons.

Given that the Caps were one win from the NHL’s final four, it does make some sense that players on the team were lobbying for GM George McPhee to bring everyone back for another go round. But that’s just not likely to be financially possible, and if McPhee wants to make any out-of-house improvements, he’s going to have to shed some high-priced guys.

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If anyone didn’t think the Caps need to unload a player or two (i.e. Jose Theodore or Michael Nylander), here’s what the Caps’ roster looks like right now (cap figures are for next season, or last season if said player is UFA/RFA):

FORWARDS

Alex Ovechkin, $9,538,462

Michael Nylander, $4,875,000

Alexander Semin, $ 4,600,000

Chris Clark, $2,633,333

Nicklas Backstrom, $2,400,000*

Brooks Laich, $2,066,667

Matt Bradley, $1,000,000

Tomas Fleischmann, $725,000

David Steckel, $725,000

Keith Aucoin, $487,500

Total = $29,050,962

UFA

Sergei Fedorov, $4,000,000

Viktor Kozlov, $2,500,000

Donald Brashear, $1,200,000

RFA

Eric Fehr, $735,000

Boyd Gordon, $725,000

Chris Bourque, $625,000

DEFENSEMEN

Mike Green, $5,250,000

Tom Poti, $3,500,000

Brian Pothier, $2,500,000

Karl Alzner, $1,675,000*

John Erskine, $1,250,000

Total = $14,175,000

RFA

Shaone Morrisonn, $1,975,000

Milan Jurcina, $881,000

Jeff Schultz, $750,000

GOALTENDERS

Jose Theodore, $4,500,000

Simeon Varlamov, $850,000

Total = $5,350,000

UFA

Brent Johnson, $812,500

TEAM TOTAL = $48,575,962

*Expected cap number with bonuses added in

SKINNY: That’s all but about $8 million of last year’s cap total used up on 17 players (without knowing Varlamov’s exact bonuses). If the Caps are confident in Alzner, would they walk away from another hefty arbitration award for Morrisonn? How big of a pay cut would Fedorov accept to come back? Can the Caps afford to pay Kozlov $2.5 million for his 12-15 goals?

Quite frankly, the Caps got lucky this year when Brian Pothier wasn’t ready for the first 3/4 of the season (at least with having to juggle the salary cap). Without removing Nylander or Theodore’s contracts, McPhee might not have much wiggle room to improve his club. Sure, there are some guys in the minors who could help, but are any of the forwards going to be upgrades or even equal to Kozlov or Fedorov? Is Alzner or Sami Lepisto (remember him?) or John Carlson as good or better than Morrisonn right now?

Yep, this should be a pretty interesting summer in CapsLand.

UPDATE: I did somehow forget Brooks Laich yesterday (he was a pending RFA last summer and I missed him when I went through the new contracts that were handed out — inexcusable). The totals have been corrected.