- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Capitals have had a productive offseason — hiring a new coach in Todd Reirden, re-signing defensemen John Carlson and Michal Kempny and bringing back winger Devante Smith-Pelly.

The one major item left on the team’s to-do list? Locking up Tom Wilson.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old restricted free agent did not file for salary arbitration before the league’s 5 p.m. deadline, meaning the Capitals and Wilson are still negotiating.

“It’s a big priority,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Tom’s a big part of our team, a big part of what we got going and our playoff success. So, he’s No. 1 right now.”

MacLellan said the Capitals would like to sign Wilson to a long-term extension. Last summer, Washington took a similar approach with defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who agreed to a six-year, $30.6 million deal.

Wilson made $2 million during the 2017-18 season, and is in line for a sizable raise after his best year to date.

Initially a power fourth-line forward to begin his career, Wilson spent the majority of the season alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov on the first line. He finished with a career-high 14 goals and 21 assists.

In the playoffs, Wilson scored five goals and had 10 assists. But he was also dealt a three-game suspension for a head hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese.

Wilson has a storied reputation for making questionable hits, though he has sought to clean up that area of his game as his career has progressed.

“I’d prefer to keep him around for as long as we can,” MacLellan said.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have until 5 p.m. Friday to request arbitration with Wilson.

An arbitration meeting takes place sometime between July 20-Aug. 4 and a decision has to be made within 48 hours after it takes place. This year, 44 players filed for arbitration.

If the Capitals elect for an arbitrator, Wilson and the Capitals can keep negotiating until the official ruling.

The Capitals have $8.2 million left in salary cap space.

Besides Wilson, the Capitals could look to add a veteran defenseman. Washington shed Brooks Orpik’s $5.5 million salary by trading the 37-year-old and goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche on June 23.

The deal helped free up room to re-sign Carlson to an eight-year,$64 million deal, but created a hole on the Capitals’ third defensive pairing. Shortly after the trade, the Avalanche bought out Orpik, and MacLellan said the Capitals are open to bringing the veteran back.

“We’re talking with Brooks,” MacLellan said. “He’s making some decisions himself, and hopefully we might be able to work it out.”

Jonas Siegenthaler, 2016 first-rounder Lucas Johansen and restricted free agent Madison Bowey are possible candidates to fill Orpik’s spot on the blue line, if the Capitals choose to go in-house. Bowey also is still unsigned.  

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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