The Capitals placed defenseman Tomas Kundratek on waivers Wednesday, with the intent of assigning him to the AHL’s Hershey Bears if he clears at noon on Thursday.
“We’ve got a lot of guys. Obviously it’s a salary cap era, so there are factors involved,” Coach Adam Oates said. “Talked to him this morning, he’s a good hockey player. If he gets picked up, I hope he does well. If he doesn’t, I hope we see him again.”
Kundratek’s departure removes his $550,000 salary cap hit from the Capitals cap equation, giving them a little more room to maneuver with now $1,215,705 in space, according to Capgeek, before accounting for the possibility of adding Tom Wilson or any other prospect.
It also leaves the Capitals with 10 defensemen still in camp, including right-handed shots Mike Green, John Carlson, Steve Oleksy, Tyson Strachan and camp standout Connor Carrick. The left-handed blueliners remaining are Karl Alzner, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Dmitry Orlov and Michal Cajkovsky.
Washington’s top two pairs are set based on Oates’s previous comments throughout training camp, with the expected combination of Alzner, Green, Erskine and Carlson. The third pairing and any extra defensemen are less certain, though, and Oates hasn’t expanded when asked about his preferences to round out the blue line.
Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy finished last season as the third pairing and that place appears theirs to lose, but how the Capitals ultimately configure the bottom half of the defense remains to be determined. Among the players who could still contend for a spot, Orlov and Strachan both have NHL experience, and on Tuesday General Manager George McPhee said the team is also considering whether Carrick could start the year in Washington.
“He’s had an outstanding camp. He’s been really, really good,” McPhee said of Carrick. “Very smart, very intelligent player. Poised, zips the puck around, finds people, plays hard. He’s a really good player.”
>> Brooks Laich (hip flexor) did not skate this morning and isn’t expected to face the Predators.
>> Michal Neuvirth is slated to play the full game tonight, with Philipp Grubauer as his backup.
>> The lines were a bit jumbled this morning, but the experiment of Martin Erat at center will definitely begin against Nashville. He’ll be flanked by Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer. The top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin will also suit up for tonight’s tilt. I’ll post the full lines after warmups.
>> There has yet to be a determination on whether Alex Ovechkin will make the trip to Greece to carry the Olympic torch this weekend. Ovechkin is still optimistic he will be able to take part in the ceremony, but is waiting for the details to be finalized. The Capitals, who say they are hoping for a decision Thursday, are prepared for Ovechkin to make the trip if things do come together in time.