Over the past week, the Washington Capitals signed five new players to their roster for the upcoming season but exceeded the NHL’s $64.3 million salary cap in the process. So in an effort to clear space, the Capitals on Friday traded right wing Eric Fehr to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick and prospect Danick Paquette.
Fehr, a first-round draft pick in 2003, spent the past three full seasons in Washington but was limited in each of those years by repeat shoulder injuries. The Winkler, Manitoba, native recorded 10 goals and 20 points in 52 games for the Capitals in 2010-11 and is recovering from offseason surgery on his right shoulder.
“I thought things were going pretty well there,” Fehr told reporters on a conference call. “But around the draft time and free agent signings, [Washington was] bringing in a few right wingers. I was just starting to think about different possibilities and what could happen. Obviously with the trade today, it was a big shock to me, but at the same time I’m still excited and I’m willing to move forward here.”
By trading Fehr, 25, the Capitals shed $2.2 million in salary for next season. It was a move that in all estimation was necessary for Washington, which pushed itself over the salary cap by signing Jeff Halpern , Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Roman Hamrlik and goaltender Tomas Vokoun since the start of free agency on July 1.
NHL teams are allowed to surpass the salary cap by up to 10 percent during the summer and only must comply with the limit by the start of the next regular season. Even with that wiggle room, though, the Capitals have at least one remaining player to sign in restricted free agent defenseman Karl Alzner.
After trading Fehr, Washington is roughly $400,000 under the cap ceiling, based on calculations by Capgeek.com. If the roster remains the same and defenseman Tom Poti, who has yet to recover from a serious groin injury, starts the 2011-12 campaign on long-term injury, Washington would have roughly $3.2 million in space with which to sign Alzner.
Alzner’s agent, J.P. Barry, said Friday that even through continued conversations and “good negotiations” with Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman in the past two weeks, “we just disagree where Karl’s value is.” Barry said that Alzner has not received any offer sheets from other teams, which Washington would be able to match or receive compensation should the 22-year-old sign elsewhere.
“We’ve been trying for a long time to work on a two-year deal, with value based on what Karl’s arbitration would come in at,” said Barry, who added that a longer-term deal was not discussed with Washington. “We’ve just been unable to bridge the gap at this stage.”
Alzner, who will have arbitration rights next summer assuming he plays 10 NHL games in the upcoming season, is now a week away from the July 15 deadline to accept the qualifying offer tendered to him by Washington. Alzner’s qualifying offer, according to Capgeek.com, is a one-way deal worth $826,875.
“That’s a decision we’ll have to look at, too,” Barry said. “That way Karl can go back to playing and it’s something we can revisit and figure out beginning in January [of 2012].”
While having Alzner sign at his qualifying offer rate for a year would be a bargain for the Capitals, he would certainly be looking at a sizable raise in his next contract. After trading Fehr, Washington has much greater flexibility with which to sign Alzner, or make additional moves.
“We have a surplus of right wingers and we decided to move one to build upon our draft pick stock for the 2012 Draft,” General Manager George McPhee said in a statement about the trade. “Eric Fehr is a first-class person. We thank him for his contributions to the Washington Capitals and wish him well.”
Capitals note: According to the Washington Times, Tyler Sloan was bought out of his contract because the defenseman had asked for a trade and the Capitals couldn’t complete a deal.