In the Washington Capitals’ dressing room yesterday, one player was moaning about the crowded conditions.
“How come we still have 35 guys on the roster?” he asked. Told the actual figure was 27, he replied, “That’s still way too many. Don’t they know the season’s starting?”
The deadline to get down to the 23-man roster limit is 3 p.m. today, and the Caps have said they probably will push that deadline. It is assumed the front office is poring through the list of players cut from other teams, hoping to pluck an inexpensive gem culled because the player was beaten out for a spot or because of salary cap limitations.
Washington certainly has room under its salary cap to add players, but does the team want to? To add a player now means someone who has gone through three weeks of training camp must be cut or sent to the minors if he is eligible.
And that might be another reason the Caps are holding off as long as possible in submitting their final roster. The belief may be that if they wait until the deadline, they may be able to slip a player through waivers who otherwise might be claimed.
Two goalies, 10 defensemen and 15 forwards practiced for 90 minutes yesterday. At least four of them will be on another roster by this evening. Under the new CBA, players must receive 24 hours’ notice before being waived, so any players being waived probably have received word.
“When is it going to be done?” coach Glen Hanlon asked rhetorically. “I don’t know. And I hope you can tell by these answers that I’m not in control.”
One player who won’t have to worry about relocating is right wing-center Petr Sykora, who arrived Friday from the Czech Republic and played in the club’s final exhibition Sunday night. He has a spot on the roster locked up based on the reputation he earned while playing in the Czech Superleague.
Hanlon said he put Sykora on the roster to introduce him to the Caps’ systems — not as an evaluation.
“I didn’t evaluate anything, honestly, because it wouldn’t be fair to anybody,” Hanlon said. “We know where he’s playing, we know what he can do and we know what we expect him to do. He’s going to be on the power play. We know what kind of forward he is, that he has a good shot, that he scored 26 goals [last season] and tied for the league lead. We expect him to score goals here by shooting, finding holes, getting open.”
Sykora said he had problems getting out of his native country. His team, Pardubice, did not want to lose one of its best players, and his departure was delayed because the Czechs had not signed the new transfer agreement. Once that was cleared up, the team demanded Sykora repay salary from last May, a matter he said is still up in the air.
Sykora has been skating on the right side with Jeff Friesen on the left and Andrew Cassels centering. All three are new to the Caps this season.