By JP Finlay
While most Washington Capitals' fans focus on the upcoming Game 7 against the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Caps face some tough questions this offseason. Many key players are slated to become unrestricted free agents, perhaps none more vexing than enigmatic right wing Alex Semin.
The website Capgeek.com calculated salary cap figures for all 30 NHL teams to determine what teams will have the highest payroll on the books for 2012-2013 before free agency hits. Though Washington had the second-highest payroll in the NHL this season at more than 66 million, some of the team's biggest names are scheduled for free agency when this year's playoff run ends.
For 2012-2013, Capgeek predicts the Caps to come in with the 16th highest payroll at 45 million, with the cap set at 64.3 million. Besides Semin's 6.7 million contract coming off the books, the Caps also have expiring contracts for veterans Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman totaling another 6 million. Veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun has a 1.5 million contract coming off the books, a deal that looks particularly expendable with the incredible play of rookie goalie Braden Holtby.
Combined with the contract of restricted free agent Mike Green at 5.2 million potentially rolling off the Caps' ledger, and other smaller expiring contracts from players like Jeff Halpern, Keith Aucoin and Dany Sabourin, projections show the Caps will have more than 19 million in cap room this summer.
John Carlson will also be a restricted free agent after the season, though his current contract accounts for less than 1 million of payroll. Holtby is scheduled to make 637,777 next year.
None of the eight teams with the highest payrolls for next season are still playing this year, including the No. 1 highest payroll team Philadelphia or No. 2 Pittsburgh. Projections show the Flyers have 61 million on the books for next season while the Penguins come in at almost 60 million.
The third highest payroll team, the Boston Bruins, lost to Washington in the first round of the playoffs, while the second-round opponent Rangers come in with the 10th highest payroll for next season at almost 48 million.