OK, enough of all the legal jargon that got in the way of talking hockey the past three months.
Let’s try answering the questions you really have about the Capitals and the 2012-13 season. [By the way, can’t we just call it the 2013 season?]
Let’s get started:
Which Capitals have arrived in camp? As of Wednesday, the count was up to 12 with forwards Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer [there’s your opening-night first line], Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, defensemen Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Jack Hillen, and goaltender Braden Hotlby.
Which Capitals have not yet arrived? Forwards Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Joey Crabb and Wojtek Wolski, defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti and goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
Who’s injured? Center Nicklas Backstrom is back from Russia but is being examined in Michigan for what is believed to be a head or neck injury, while defenseman Dmitry Orlov is sidelined by an apparent concussion sustained in the Dec. 6 AHL Showcase game at Verizon Center. Caps general manager George McPhee said Orlov is working out again and feeling better but he has not skated since his injury and is “probably not” going to be available for the start of the regular season.
What’s up with Tom Poti? Believe it or not, the 35-year-old defenseman wants a shot at making the Caps’ opening night roster. Groin issues and a broken pelvis have kept Poti from playing hockey since Jan. 12, 2011, but he plans on showing up at Kettler this week. Poti has one year and $2.875 million left on his contract with the Caps. If he passes his physical and makes the roster that salary would count against the $70.2 million salary cap. “It’s good for him that he put all of the work in,” said McPhee. “I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play. If he can that’d be great. I think it’s a bit of a longshot, but if he can play that’d be terrific. We wouldn’t have any cap issues, so it would be fine. We could do it.” McPhee said he could send Poti to Hershey if he’s healthy enough to play.
Where do the Caps stand with the salary cap? They’re actually in good shape this year and next. Even with Poti counting against the cap – if he’s placed on long-term injury he comes off – the Caps are at $63.6 million, well below the $70.2 million cap. When the cap falls to $64.3 million next season, the Caps will enter the offseason with 12 players signed, totaling $44.8 million. That leaves them $19.5 million to sign 11 players. The most notable free agents on the Caps roster next summer will be UFA Mike Ribeiro [$5 million], UFA Wojtek Wolski [$600,000], UFA Matt Hendricks [$825,000], UFA Joey Crabb [$950,000], RFA Marcus Johansson [$900,000], RFA Karl Alzner [$1.285 million], RFA Braden Holtby [$637,777] and RFA Michal Neuvirth [$1.15 million].
When will the Caps open training camp? Right now, it looks like Sunday.
Will there be any preseasn games? According to McPhee, no.
When will the Caps open the regular season? We’re still awaiting the NHL schedule, but Jan. 19 in Tampa appears likely with the home opener tentatively slated for Tuesday, Jan. 22.
What’s up with amnesty buyouts? Each NHL team will be permitted a total of two compliance buyouts that can be used after this season or after the 2013-14 season. Teams have the option of buying out one player this summer and one player next summer; or two this summer and none after the 2013-14 season; or none this summer and two after the 2013-14 season.
Is there anything else I need to know? Well, if you’re into players’ physical appearances you must know that Mathieu Perreault has the longest hair in camp, followed by John Carlson and Mike Green. John Erskine is sporting a playoff beard worthy of the Stanley Cup Finals and, yes, newly engaged Alex Ovechkin’s hair is growing back after becoming a “soldier for the NHLPA” back in September.