Friday, January 11, 2008

Looking Ahead To The Offseason

No, I'm not writing this year's campaign off even though the playoffs are unlikely; since the Caps don't have another game until Sunday afternoon, I'd thought I'd take a look at the Caps roster/salary cap situation heading into the offseason to help kill some time.

Since the beginning of this season, General Manager George McPhee has taken Alexander Semin and A.O. off of this upcoming summer's RFA market. McPhee bought some of A.O.'s UFA years but Semin's extension was for only two years and he'll be in his last year as an RFA when his contract expires in 2010.

However, there are other RFA's that the Caps will need to deal with in the upcoming offseason. Eric Fehr, Brooks "and Dunn" Laich, Boyd Gordon, Tomas Fleischmann, Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrrissonnn, and Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green. Only Jim Traficant's illegitimate son will be in line for a major raise. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Fleischmann be invited to tryout without a contract again in training camp and Eminger could very well not get a qualifying offer and be allowed to walk away as a UFA.

As for the UFA's we'll be dealing with Mr. Donald Brashear, Matt "Omar" Bradley, Quintin Laing, Frederic Cassivi, and Olie Kolzig. Now Mr. Brashear and Laing are likely candidates to stay but I doubt that they'll see anything other than minimal raises (though Laing should insist that they have a picture of him to put on the videoboard). Bradley could be an odd man out but would only get a minimal raise should the Caps decide to keep him. Cassivi is likely to be squeezed out of Hershey by incoming Michal Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov and end up elsewhere.

Kolzig however is the interesting case. What if any raise do the Caps give him and how long of a contract? Kolzig is over 35 so his contract is going to stick on our salary cap no matter what happens unless we trade him. Kolzig currently occupies $5.45 million of cap space. This is the only team Kolzig has played for in the NHL and I don't think he'd be willing to move but I can't see him agreeing to much of a salary cut. Kolzig might be willing to agree to one year contracts but any bonuses we offer Kolzig that he earns will count against the cap in the year after. It will be negotiating Kolzig and Green new contracts that will prove McPhee's mettle and could make or break his tenure in Washington.

Now I'm sure you're worried about the salary cap over all for next season. After all, with A.O. now occupying $9.538 of cap space, how will the Caps fit all these guys under the limit? Well, as I pointed out in my plea to Henrik Lundqvist, the Caps have plenty of room. The situation laid out at the bottom assumed that A.O. would get a $10 million cap number (which he didn't, hometown discount). So the Caps have an extra $400K of space to work with in addition to the space they already have. Don't listen to the folks who are saying that the Caps won't be able to add talent to the roster this summer. There was a reason why Ted Leonsis and George McPhee left so much room under the cap.

As for summer 2009 well; only Milan Jurcina and Jeff "Sergeant" Schultz are RFA's and at this point in time, neither will be breaking the bank. Though if they improve, they should bring a good enough return in a trade that the Caps won't mind making so they can get Karl Alzner onto the NHL roster. The UFA's are Viktor Kozlov, Matt "Princess" Pettinger, David "Bolt Cutter" Steckel, John "Coach's Pet"Erskine Bowles, and Brent Johnson. Some of those players will be let go/replaced and those that stay won't be getting large raises. Throw in Ben "What A" Clymer's contract running out (though I could easily see him being bought out this summer and hanging onto our cap at half price for the next two seasons) and again, there's room to offer guys raises and make smart offseason acquisitions.

Those once again folks, let's applaud Ted Leonsis and George McPhee for setting this team up in such good position. Don't listen to the doomsayers complaining that A.O. made a huge mistake taking the contract from the Caps that he did. We've still got over $13 million in cap space to play with, that should be plenty of $$$$$ to make this team better.

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