“Especially this year teams are more forthcoming on what they want to do,” McPhee said. “ ‘Here are the guys I’m looking to move, here’s what I’m looking to keep.’ Years ago people weren’t that open about that, but now they have to get the guys that they want to move out there.”
The Capitals have more than $58 million committed to 19 players for next season, according to Capgeek.com, leaving approximately $6 million in space under the new salary cap. It’s not a terribly restrictive amount, but it might be a tight squeeze to address several needs — even if McPhee manages to accommodate Jeff Schultz’s trade request or opts to buy out the defenseman in order to shed his $2.75 million salary cap hit.
Restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson, both due raises from their previous salaries of $1.27 million and $900,000, respectively, are expected to be re-signed. But once they are, how much room will remain to address other areas is uncertain.
If the Capitals don’t intend to bring back Ribeiro, an impending unrestricted free agent who filled the team’s persistent hole at second-line center but turned down its initial contract offer of three years and $14 million, they could use more depth down the middle. A trade could be the best option if McPhee isn’t sold on spending to land free agents Lecavalier, Briere or Stephen Weiss.
Then there’s the issue of bolstering the defense. While John Erskine had a renaissance year in 2013, his performance dropped off noticeably in the postseason. Washington could use a steady, left-handed top-four defenseman — Ference would be a possible fit — to play alongside Carlson.
The potential for moves at the draft is largely why the Capitals have been quiet thus far and why McPhee hasn’t assessed the probability of either Ribeiro or Matt Hendricks returning to Washington. He’s keeping his options open.
“I don’t like to do too many things before we go to the draft because you want to maintain some flexibility and know everything that’s out there,” McPhee said. “I wouldn’t want to get locked in to too many things before the draft. We’ll see how things go there and what route we take after that.”
Capitals notes: Washington holds picks in the first (23rd overall), second (53rd), third (84th), fourth (114th), fifth (127th and 144th), sixth (174th) and seventh (204th) rounds.