The Washington Capitals are fresh off the first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history, but before long they’ll need to start dealing with pressing offseason issues. Though John Carlson is at the top of that chart, there are several other key players headed for unrestricted free agency. One of those players is Jay Beagle, who while not an offensive force was a huge faceoff man and defensive presence for the Capitals throughout the playoffs. Beagle made his intentions clear today to media including Tarik El-Bashir of NBC Sports, saying that he wanted to return and calling Washington “home.”
Beagle, 32, registered 22 points in 79 games this season but won a career-high 58.5% of his faceoffs and logged more than two and a half minutes of short-handed ice time on a nightly basis. Those numbers easily led all Capitals forwards, and he improved to better than 60% on the draw in his 23 playoff contests. With the firepower that the team has up front in players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov, they could afford to have a defensive specialist like Beagle further down in the lineup.
Whether they can afford him going forward though is another question. Beagle is coming off the final season of a three-year deal that paid him $1.75MM annually, and with the Capitals trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the roster in order to retain John Carlson this summer, Beagle may have to take a pay cut to stay with the club. Paying a fourth-line center more than $2MM seems out of the question for the Capitals going forward, a total he could likely secure on the open market after his successful playoff run.
Washington heads into the offseason with somewhere around $16MM in cap space depending on where the upper-limit lands, but with new contracts needed for Tom Wilson, Philipp Grubauer, Devante Smith-Pelly and other restricted free agents, as well as a likely $7-8MM price tag on Carlson there isn’t much left in the vault. Even if Grubauer is moved to another team as GM Brian MacLellan hinted at today, the team still has a cap crunch coming and hard decisions to make. Beagle may want to stick around, but there might not be enough money to go around.