Latta impresses at Caps Development Camp
With Wednesday’s signing of defenseman Karl Alzner to a four-year, $11.2 million contract extension, the Capitals now have 20 players under contract with roughly $5.6 million in caps space.
Negotiations with restricted free agent Marcus Johansson appear to be moving toward a conclusion, which could result in a $1.7 million per season payday for the 22-year-old forward.
In theory, that would leave the Capitals about $3.9 million in cap space, a luxury they have not had in recent seasons.
But instead of opening his wallet and dropping $3 million on the best free agent remaining in a weak market – Mikhail Grabovski, Jaromir Jagr, Brad Boyes, et al – Caps general manager George McPhee seems to be taking a more cautious approach this summer.
“It’s never a bad thing to have,” McPhee said of his team’s cap space. “We don’t know what develops, but it’s nice to have some flexibility to do things if we have to.”
Some fans may argue that by doing nothing in the free agent market the Caps have weakened themselves in the Eastern Conference, while teams like the Flyers, Bruins, Penguins and Hurricanes have gotten stronger.
McPhee seems to think that by waiting, he might be better able to address the Capitals’ needs when they become more apparent in training camp or at the start of the regular season.
“As that first day [of free agency] goes by, you get more [agents] calling, trying to sell their players,” McPhee said. “Then it sort of dies off.
“I don’t know how much [negotiating] is going on, but in some respects agents might be better off to wait until training camp to do deals or early in the season. Because right now there’s not a lot of [cap] room and you get going in the season and teams realize they have a hole that hasn’t been able to be filled. Then you talk to players like that.”
Right now, the Caps’ holes appear to be at left wing, where their depth chart has Johansson, Marty Erat, Eric Fehr and Aaron Volpatti, and at left defense, where they have Alzner, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov.
McPhee appears willing to wait to see how forwards like Tom Wilson and Michael Latta and defensemen like Orlov and Nate Schmidt look at training camp before seeking free-agent replacements.
In that respect, he feels the Caps have an advantage over the teams up against the cap.
“Everybody’s had to cut back this year and it hasn’t been easy for a lot of clubs and there’s not a lot of liquidity out there right now,” he said. “I’d like to think we’ve managed the cap pretty well over the years and we’re in pretty good shape right now. We have a full roster and we have a little room.”