Will the Caps dive into today's free-agent pool?

Will the Caps dive into today's free-agent pool?
July 5, 2013, 8:45 am
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Do the Caps have a plan?

Some teams, like the Philadelphia Flyers, will spend every penny available to them under the NHL’s new $64.3 million salary cap.

Others, like the New York Islanders, will struggle to spend up to the new $44 million salary floor.

And then there are the Capitals.

With today’s free-agent season ready to open at noon, the Caps find themselves roughly $8.5 million under the cap, but don’t expect general manager George McPhee to empty his wallet on David Clarkson, Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, Stephen Weiss or Jaromir Jagr.

“I think we’re in good shape,” McPhee said at last weekend’s NHL draft. “We’re going to use guys from our own system.

“I don’t think we have to go outside the system a whole lot. We have some young guys like [defenseman Dmitry] Orlov we have to take a look at. We have to decide on [right wing Tom] Wilson.  I think we’re a pretty solid team. We’ll see if anything else develops.”

Before diving into the free agent pool the Caps must first consider how much it will take to re-sign restricted free agents Karl Alzner, who earned $1.27 million last season, and Marcus Johansson, who made $900,000.

Assuming Alzner signs for roughly $3 million a season and Johansson signs for $2 million – give or take $500,000 on each contract – that leaves the Caps with about $3.5 million of free-agent money.

Not much when it comes to buying high-end talent.

“It just gets too expensive, too long, and you don’t know those players as well as you know your own players,” McPhee said of the free-agent pool

Some of that talent has been snatched up this week, with Danny Briere agreeing to a two-year, $4 million contract with the Canadiens and Vinny Lecavalier gong to Philly for five years and $22.5 million.

Ironically, Mike Ribeiro is still among the players available heading into the noon start of free agency. Ribeiro rejected a three-year, $14 million offer from the Caps back in March but his market value appears to be rising after seeing the dollars spent on Lecavalier and Briere.

While fans would like to see the Caps improve their depth on the blue line by acquiring a solid No. 4 defenseman, the organization is hoping that one of their young prospects – Orlov, Nate Schmidt, Cameron Schilling or Patrick Wey – battles John Erskine for that spot.

Still, the list of depth defensemen expected to available at noon today is long and includes:

Tom Gilbert, Minnesota

Carlo Colaiacovo, Detroit

Steve Montador, Chicago

Tomas Kaberle, Montreal

Mike Komisarik, Tororonto

Andrew Ference, Boston

Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles

Ryan Whitney, Edmonton

Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey

Ron Hainsey, Winnipeg

Toni Lydman , Anahaeim

Douglas Murray, Pittsurgh

Michal Roszival, Chicago

As for free-agent centers, today’s list is expected to include:

Mike Ribeiro, Washington

Tyler Bozak, Toronto

Derek Roy, Vancouver

Saku Koivu, Anaheim

Matt Cullen,Minnesota

Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto

If the Caps are interested in moving backup goalie Michal Neuvirth and replacing him with a veteran free agent, they have these options:  

Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia

Evgeni Nabokov, NY Islanders

Ray Emery, Chicago

Jose Theodore, Florida

For those of you who think the Caps could use some extra sand paper in their lineup, here’s another list:

David Clarkson, New Jersey

Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh

Ryan Clowe, NY Rangers

Now it’s your turn. Join the conversation below: