Breaking down the Capitals’ unrestricted free agents

May 21, 2013

Last week when asked how much change the roster needed heading into next season, General Manager George McPhee replied “not a whole lot” and reiterated his confidence in the Capitals’ style of play. There will always be some tinkering in any offseason, though, as teams negotiate with their own free agents.

Of the players who saw regular time on the Capitals’ roster this year, five are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 5. What follows is a look at each of those players and a look at whether they fit into Washington’s plan heading into 2013-14.

A quick note: Players’ salaries, not their salary-cap hits, were included for offseason purposes. All salary numbers are from Capgeek.


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Mike Ribeiro
2012-13 salary: $5 million | Age: 33
2012-13 regular season NHL stats: 48 GP, 13G, 36A, -4 | Playoffs: 7 GP, 1G, 1A, -2.

The Capitals’ need for a second-line center to stabilize the lineup at present and Ribeiro’s suitability for that role are both undeniable. But the veteran center’s demand of a four- or five-year deal is inherently at odds with McPhee’s track record of rarely signing players in their 30s to contracts longer than two years.

Ribeiro gave Washington the skilled, playmaking center it had lacked since Sergei Fedorov left, but whether the opposing sides will find a middle ground – a lower cap hit that makes a lengthy deal more palatable and possible given the salary cap constraints or perhaps even a shorter term – is impossible to predict.

Should the Caps re-sign him? Share your thoughts here.


(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Matt Hendricks
2012-13 salary: $800,000 | Age: 31 (Turns 32 on June 17)
2012-13 regular season NHL stats: 48GP, 5G, 3A, -6 | Playoffs: 7 GP, 0G, 0A, -2.

As Karl Alzner put it, the Minnesota native is “the type of guy that every guy, every team wants to have”. But will that demand and Hendricks’s opportunity for a potentially significant raise put him out the Capitals reach?

Hendricks established himself in the NHL during his three years in Washington, during which he would do whatever necessary to contribute — drop the gloves, kill penalties, paralyze opposing goaltenders in shootouts or perform spot duty on the top line, all in addition to serving as the type of glue that keeps a dressing room together. While he and the Capitals could come to terms on an extension, salary cap constraints may limit what they’re willing to offer him.

For all of Hendricks’s on-ice contributions, one can’t help but wonder how the off-ice chemistry and mood of the room might change if he left.

Should the Caps re-sign him? Share your thoughts here.


(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Joey Crabb
2012-13 salary: $950,000 | Age: 30
2012-13 regular season NHL stats: 26 GP, 2G, 0A, -1 | Playoffs: 0 GP.

Crabb was a regular part of the fourth line and fit well as a unit with Hendricks and Jay Beagle, but when the Capitals needed roster space to bring Mike Green off injured reserve back in mid-March, he was waived and spent the rest of the season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. He recorded six goals and six assists in 12 AHL regular season games then added five more goals in five Calder Cup playoff games.

Whether Crabb fits as an NHL regular with the Capitals is far from certain. If Hendricks doesn’t return there will be room on the roster for another bottom-six forward, but it seems unlikely that Crabb would receive another one-way contract from Washington.


(Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Tom Poti
2012-13 salary: $2.75 million | Age: 36
2012-13 regular season NHL stats: 16 GP, 0 G, 2 A, -2 | Playoffs: 0 GP.

While his return to the NHL after missing over two years with fractured pelvis and lingering groin problems was nothing short of stunning, Poti never solidified a place in the lineup as additional injuries cropped up. By the time he fully recovered from torn rib cartilage in his back in late March, the Capitals were rolling without him in the mix.

Poti made it clear in a phone interview last week that he hopes to continue his NHL career but it won’t be in Washington. After six years under contract with the Capitals, it is time to move on. Poti appeared in 230 games for Washington, dating back to the 2007-08 season, recording 11 goals and 64 assists.


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Wojtek Wolski
2012-13 salary: $600,000 | Age: 27
2012-13 regular season NHL stats: 27 GP, 4G, 5A, +1 | Playoffs: 0 GP.

Back in July when the Capitals signed Wolski to a one-year deal, the winger acknowledged he was at a “crossroads” in his career. Rather than re-establish himself as an NHL commodity, Wolski struggled in Washington – his fifth team in the past four seasons. Oates asked him to become a more well-rounded and defensively responsible player in addition to providing offensive spark, as the first-year coach did with the entire roster, but ultimately Wolski’s most consistent place was on the scratches list.

It was always unlikely Wolski would return, but on Monday it became official when the winger agreed to play for the KHL’s Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod.

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Katie Carrera · May 21, 2013

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