The Washington Capitals used their newfound financial flexibility on Day One of the post-Michael Nylander era to add their most expensive prospect from the minor leagues.
As for using any material outside the organization to make alterations to the roster, well, that might not be next on the agenda. The Caps were atop the NHL standings after practice Monday in Arlington, and their general manager and coach said they’re not in any hurry to go hunting for new players.
“I don’t know if it changes anything from before,” general manager George McPhee said. “There are a lot of ways to work with the cap, and if you really want to do some things you can. There’s more flexibility in the cap than we were led to believe early on. I don’t know how much it changes things - we’re not going to do anything right now anyway. We like our team, and we like the way we are playing.”
Added coach Bruce Boudreau: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve had three mediocre games, but at this stage today we’re still No. 1 in the league. It is not like, ‘Oh, OK I’ve got some money for Christmas, so I’m going to go out and buy everything.’ That’s not the case. We’re very happy with the team we have.”
Shedding Nylander’s $4.875 million cap hit does open up more options for McPhee and the Caps. His loan to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League gave the team an extra spot on the 23-man roster, and 2007 first-round pick Karl Alzner was tabbed to fill it.
Alzner, who played 30 games for the Caps last season and five earlier this year, can make up to $1.675 million this season with incentives. While the Caps have been carrying eight defensemen, their close proximity to the salary cap ceiling at $56.8 million made it problematic to keep Alzner up without trading or waiving another roster player.
Now Alzner might have a chance to prove he is ready for the NHL on a full-time basis.
“It sucks things happened the way they did happen, and a lot of people had to wait for things to go on, but I’m happy something did work out because now I can just focus on doing my best, and hopefully my best will be enough,” Alzner said. “[If I get sent down] it will be my fault. That is the way I like it - to have everything in my hands. I pride myself on playing a consistent game. … Hopefully I can help out and make an impact.”
McPhee didn’t want to disclose many of the details about the months-long Nylander saga. He did say the 37-year-old Swedish center was told after last season that the team would pursue an alternative place of employment for Nylander.
There were “different issues that came up that we didn’t expect,” McPhee said. He was adamant that the issues between the organization and Nylander were about his style of play not meshing with Boudreau’s system and no other off-the-ice incidents.
“The way our team developed, he just wasn’t a good fit. There’s not much you can do - that happens in this business,” McPhee said. “You make the best decisions you can and hope they work out. There were three deals done that day - [Viktor] Kozlov and [Tom] Poti and Nylander. Two of the three worked very well, and the third - maybe there is still a chance, but sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want.”
Notes - The Caps also recalled center Kyle Wilson to replace demoted center Mathieu Perreault. Wilson will likely make his NHL debut Tuesday night in Denver. …
Boyd Gordon (back) skated with the team for the first time in weeks. He said his injury is a lower-back muscle problem, and the gritty center has a new preparation routine to combat it.
Semyon Varlamov (groin) did not skate with the team, as Boudreau had targeted last week. The coach said he is going on this road trip and is expected to be on the ice Tuesday morning at Pepsi Center.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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