Here’s how cheap owner Ted Leonsis is right now: He’s got a $60 million hockey team here in town. The salary cap for next season has been set at $56 million, but there’s no penalty for being over the cap by 10 percent in the summer so long as a team is under it a week before the start of the season. The Caps most definitely are over the cap right now.
At least they are saving money in net; after the Caps acquired Cristobal Huet from Montreal this past February they had nearly $10 million worth of backstoppers on the payroll — it’ll be a little over $5 million this season.
Nine defensemen are on the books right now, but Brian Pothier’s $2.5 million is almost certain to come off, and General Manager George McPhee this summer has indicated that he won’t carry more than seven defenders. So two salaries are being lopped off from the blueline. And if Bruce Boudreau opts to keep 13 forwards out of camp, another salary would be sheared off from among the forward ranks.
The Caps bought ought Ben Clymer this summer, but that means they take a modest salary hit for him this season and next.
In the weeks ahead, McPhee must decide between two courses of action in plotting to get under the cap: (1) shear off enough to just get to $56 million, or (2) move bodies, or salaries, enough to afford himself some maneuverability during the season to address injuries that may arrive. Really the only way to achieve the second strategy is to move a large salary.
How would you rate McPhee’s roster and salary management this summer? He had a large number of new contracts to negotiate, and he had unexpected breakout seasons from the likes of Mike Green and Brooks Laich driving up his payroll. He also may not have anticipated Sergei Fedorov making the impact he did in just a couple of months’ time, making a new deal for him a wise idea. Lastly, he endured player agent mischief from Cristobal Huet’s representative. When all was said and done, he managed to ink every player he wanted from last season, save Huet, and do so before August 1. How many GMs can make that claim?