The Washington Capitals currently project to be only slightly over the $81.5MM salary cap with a 23-man roster, meaning they could place a couple of players on waivers before the start of the season to become compliant. The team has been right up against the cap ceiling for a few years and have been forced to carry fewer than the maximum 23 players for various stretches. That might not be the answer this time around though, as GM Brian MacLellan explained to Tom Gulitti of NHL.com:
I think we’ll probably have to move someone. Injuries and all the stuff that happens in training camp and exhibition season probably dictates it a little bit, but we’re going to be patient. We’re not in a rush. We’ll wait and let it play itself out.
When MacLellan says “move someone,” he means a trade that would open up some cap space for the Capitals, though it’s not clear who he is considering at this time. The team had to watch Brett Connolly leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer after he priced himself out of their market with a 22-goal season, but brought in names like Richard Panik, Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway to provide some more bottom-six depth. The team also traded away Andre Burakovsky since his $3MM qualifying offer was going to be too expensive for them, which leaves few obvious choices as players to trade after training camp.
After scoring just 13 goals last season some may point to Lars Eller and his $3.5MM cap hit for the next four years as a candidate to move, but the Capitals have relied heavily on the center to support the more offensive play styles of Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Depth down the middle has been a strength for the Capitals over the last several seasons, and moving Eller would open up quite a few questions heading into the season.
Perhaps a move from defense could be made, if the team believes that Christian Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler can both play full-time roles on the blueline this season and contribute more than they have. Radko Gudas was acquired in a previous trade but has just one year remaining on his current deal. That deal costs the Capitals just $2.345MM against the cap however after the Philadelphia Flyers agreed to retain a portion of it, making Gudas very reasonably priced for the impact he can make.
That may be why MacLellan is preaching patience when it comes to the trade, not sure himself who he would move if he was forced into it. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in training camp for the Capitals, and whether or not it does “play itself out.”