The home stretch of the preseason begins Wednesday night as the Capitals host the Nashville Predators in the first of three remaining exhibition contests and the team has about six days to make its final roster decisions.
Both General Manager George McPhee and Coach Adam Oates spoke to reporters at length Tuesday, here are some noteworthy items to consider while guessing the opening-day line combinations and roster makeup.
The Wilson question. To keep Tom Wilson, the Capitals would need to shed the salary of at least one player, McPhee confirmed. Where the salary cap maneuvering gets interesting with Wilson is his contract has three components, his base salary, a signing bonus and performance bonuses.
McPhee said Tuesday he believed Wilson’s base cap hit equates to roughly $837,000. The bonuses, which count against the salary cap, are eligible to be deferred should the team need the extra wiggle room to be in compliance. The Capitals have $665,705 in space under the salary cap according to Capgeek and moving or demoting one of the extra forwards seems to be the most logical fit at this point to accommodate Wilson should he make the team.
Trade talk picking up. With less than a week to go before the NHL season opens, teams are beginning to determine if they want to make a late addition of any sort.
“I had a couple calls [Tuesday] already and we’re just starting to pick up to see what teams are looking to do,” McPhee said. “We’ll see what happens over the next few days. I don’t know that we’ll actually make a trade, we’ll see. There are different ways to do things with the cap and with your roster that you’re not going to lose anybody you don’t want to lose.”
It’s worth noting here that up to $925,000 of any player’s contract can be effectively buried in the minors without it counting against the NHL team’s salary cap. That would allow the Capitals to take money off the salary cap and potentially still maintain the rights to a player, assuming they cleared waivers on the way to the AHL.
Don’t expect a dry run. Oates said he doesn’t believe the Capitals will have their complete opening night roster on the ice for one of the three final preseason games. Many veterans will get at least one of the remaining three games off, so it would be difficult to accommodate those preferences and put the full group on the ice.
That said, there should be plenty that allows for roster predictions.
“I think the last three games, especially the back-to-back, you’re going to see a lot of our lineup for sure,” Oates said. “I’m going to make sure everybody’s going for opening night.”
A breakout year for Brouwer. Oates was asked which player he believed would have a strong, breakout year for the Capitals and singled out winger Troy Brouwer. He’s expected to slot into the lineup as second line right wing and Oates has made it clear he will count on Brouwer to contribute consistent offense throughout the season.
“Hopefully a lot of guys have good years. I expect Troy Brouwer to probably set new totals for himself. I think statistically he probably had a breakout year last year and I expect the same from Troy this year,” Oates said. “Last year we started to ask things from him that he’d never been asked for before and this is the first year where he drives to the rink every night and the coach expects him to get one and one. To me as a player that’s the ultimate compliment. I count on you, I’m going to play you a lot and I expect production.”