According to capgeek.com, the Capitals rank 21st in the NHL with a 2013-14 payroll of $58.6 million -- $5.66 million below the new salary cap of $64.3 million.
Only the Islanders, Panthers, Senators, Sabres, Avalanche, Blues, Devils, Flames and Coyotes have committed less money for next season.
That, of course, is about to change. With the Caps and restricted Marcus Johansson still trying to hammer out a contract extension, that $5.66 million cushion undoubtedly will shrink to somewhere in the $3 million range.
And if you believe that an unrestricted free agent’s value drops with every passing day he remains unsigned, the Caps are beginning to look like a team that can afford second-line center Mikhail Grabovski.
But will they elect to go that route, even if it’s for one year?
It at least seems plausible.
Make no mistake. Grabovski is not this summer’s Wojtek Wolski, who was desperate to sign with any NHL team last season and failed to prove he belongs.
Because he was a compliance buyout by the Maple Leafs, Grabovski will be paid $14.3 million over the next eight years. So he’s not seeking a home-run contract.
And while he wouldn’t put up the kind of offensive numbers Mike Ribeiro produced last season – Grabovski had just 9 goals and 7 assists in 48 games with the Leafs last season compared to Ribeiro’s 13 goals and 36 assists with the Caps – he is a strong two-way player who could flourish under Adam Oates.
In theory, Grabovski could serve as the perfect bridge between Ribeiro and Russian phenom Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is expected to join the Capitals late next season or for the start of 2014-15.
Question is, would Grabovski consider a one-year, $3 million contract with the Caps if he believes he won’t be around beyond next season?
Perhaps not right now. But if Grabovski is still without an NHL team three weeks from now, he and the Caps might be a lot more interested in striking a deal that benefits both parties.