The Washington Capitals made their first personnel move in a year and a half yesterday, acquiring right wing Chris Clark from Calgary for a conditional draft pick.
“He’s just a hard-working player who will provide some experience and the right attitude and style of play for this team,” said general manager George McPhee.
The move was announced late in the day while much of the rest of the NHL was engaged in what one observer described as “panic buying” during the early days of free agency for restricted and unrestricted players. Washington was one of only four teams that had not dipped into free agency as of early last night.
“We’ve been involved and we’ve made offers that made sense to us for the present and the future, but this market is really overpriced,” McPhee said. “It’s like jumping into the stock market at its peak — it’s the wrong time to do it.”
An example of the way salaries have escalated in many cases instead of decreasing is forward-defenseman Andre Roy, just signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh. Roy, an enforcer who will be responsible for protecting a bevy of new Penguins, made $825,000 during 2003-04 with Tampa Bay but will make $1 million for each of three seasons with his new team.
“We think teams are going to regret many of these signings,” McPhee said. “We’re one week into the new CBA, and we already have some teams in [salary] cap trouble. We’ve had teams calling and offering us players, but we think the market will continue to get better.”
One school of thought believes some teams currently holding onto players may have to dump them later to get under the $39 million cap, and that’s when they become affordable.
Clark, a Connecticut native who spent four seasons at Clarkson College in upstate New York, was taken in the third round by the Flames in 1994. He had 10 goals and 25 points while appearing in all 82 of Calgary’s games during 2003-04 and had three goals and six points in 26 playoff games as Calgary lost to Tampa Bay in the seven-game Stanley Cup finals.