Following Milan Jurcina's arbitration decision, the Washington Capitals appear to be up against the salary cap and are in line to enter training camp with a crowded blue line.
Jurcina was given a one-year contract worth $1.375 million, and the Caps officially signed him Friday. Since the arbitrator awarded less than $1.57 million - the number where, under the collective bargaining agreement, a team can walk away from the contract - it became a binding contract.
"There was no discretion as to the term," said Allan Walsh, Jurcina's agent. "We're pleased with the result."
Caps general manager George McPhee declined comment through a team spokesman.
Jurcina made $912,500 last season, when he played in 79 regular-season games, recorded 14 points (second-most on the team among defensemen) and has a plus-1 rating.
Jurcina's contract puts the Caps roughly $2.1 million over the cap if the team goes into the season without making a move and carries the full allotment of 23 players. But with 10 defensemen under contract who have NHL experience, Brian Pothier said Thursday that he didn't envy the positions of McPhee and others in the front office.
"That's a lot of [defensemen]," Pothier said. "Obviously, there's gonna be some disappointed people come training camp, and that's a juggling act that they have to do to try to keep everybody happy."
Still, a glut of defensemen is a good problem to have. Because of injuries, the Caps dressed 13 defensemen in the regular season and eight in the playoffs last year.
And the Caps have 2008 first-round pick John Carlson, who finished second in points among Ontario Hockey League defensemen last season with 76. Carlson also played with the American Hockey League champion Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup playoffs.
"You got all these kids who can play the game, so it's nice to have that depth," Pothier said.
Jurcina's arbitration hearing, which occurred Tuesday in Toronto, apparently did not include the nastiness that reportedly was part of last year's meeting with defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. He was awarded $1.975 million even after the Globe and Mail of Toronto reported the Caps called him "one-dimensional" in a contentious hearing.
Agents and representatives of the league and players association are barred from discussing specifics of hearings, but Walsh said Tuesday that both sides handled Jurcina's case professionally.
"There was some strong advocating by both sides," he said. "And I don't believe anybody came out from the hearing feeling anybody delivered any low blows."