- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2018

The party hasn’t stopped for the Washington Capitals.

On Saturday alone: the Stanley Cup champions took the trophy to Nationals Park. Star Alex Ovechkin threw out the first pitch — on two tries. Ovechkin and teammates swam in a fountain near Georgetown.

Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky got tattoos.

The team hung out with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at Cafe Milano.

Oh, and there was drinking, so much drinking.

The Capitals are relishing their first-ever championship, and their fun doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

On Monday, Ovechkin and goaltender Braden Holtby will be on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The team’s victory parade along Constitution Avenue is on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The situation makes coach Barry Trotz’s expiring contract seem like an afterthought.

“I’m not in any state to talk,” Trotz said about a new deal. “I always talked about having really good clarity and calm and all that. I don’t have a lot of clarity right now. That’s self-inflicted.”

But once the celebrations die down, the Capitals will have to address Trotz and the rest of their free agents.

This summer, the Capitals have 10 players set to hit free agency, not counting those stuck in the minors. Defenseman John Carlson leads the pack of the team’s five unrestricted free agents, while winger Tom Wilson headlines the five restricted.

And like last offseason, money could be a problem.

The Capitals have just $11.2 million in projected cap space, though that number will increase if the NHL raises its salary cap from $75 million.

Carlson’s next contract is likely to land in the $7-8 million per year range after the defenseman had an elite season, leading his position in points. The 28-year-old will be the top defenseman on the market.

“It depends on how much money he wants,” MacLellan said in April. “It’s going to be a trade-off on, do we want to create some space or what the salary level we’re willing to go to and he’s willing to accept.”

Washington would also like to bring back defenseman Michal Kempny, but it’s unclear if the team can afford him after the 27-year-old’s solid postseason. Kempny, at $900,000, was a bargain for the Capitals, who traded for him in February.

Of the Capitals’ other three unrestricted free agents — Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek and Jay Beagle — losing Beagle, a longtime veteran, would be the most costly subtraction. But the Capitals might not have the room and they could always replace him with Chandler Stephenson or Travis Boyd, two younger options.

For the restricted group, Wilson will likely see a significant raise from his $2 million salary. Last year, Burakovsky, an RFA, saw his pay jump from $894,167 to $3 million on a two-year deal.

Winger Devante Smith-Pelly, too, should see a pay increase after a strong postseason where he scored seven goals. Smith-Pelly made just $650,000 last year and is an RFA.

Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer, meanwhile, is a likely trade candidate — given Holtby’s status as starter and the Capitals’ need to create space for Carlson.

As for Trotz, the salary cap doesn’t apply to coaches, so that won’t be a problem. Trotz made $1.5 million last year and can rightly expect to be rewarded after winning the Cup. Toronto’s Mike Babcock, the highest-paid coach in the league, makes $6.25 million.

On May 25, MacLellan said Trotz was “probably going to benefit” from the Capitals’ postseason run.

The New York Islanders are the lone team in NHL with a head-coaching vacancy, and they could be competitors for Trotz.

But asked if he wanted to remain with Washington, Trotz said after winning the Cup, “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.”

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

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