As the Caps cruise towards the playoffs, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Brooks Laich and his contract situation. I feel that we’re headed on a course where this is the last time we’ll see him in a Caps uniform.

As the article I linked to above states, Brooks is a solid, versatile two-way player entering his athletic prime. He is almost universally beloved in the community for his activism in replacing flat tires after playoff defeats, and also prized by the ladies because he’s handsome. He’s entering his prime at 28, and his leadership qualities will be highly sought after this offseason by teams at the bottom of the table, or teams that are just on the precipice of becoming something special.

The concept of “loyalty” in sports is much ballyhooed upon by various writers who can’t believe a guy would actually take more money (gasp!) to join a losing program than take less money to stay with a winning one. I’m sure Brooks Laich feels that winning is important, but on the other hand, he’s only got a very, very small window of time to make as much money as he can before his body can no longer perform at a level commensurate with competing in the NHL.

I understand these things about Laich, and I wish things were different. I wish he could stay forever, because as with a lot of these players, I’ve watched him grow up right in front of me. I watched him as a part of the terrible teams right out of the lockout, I watched him in his first playoff series against the Flyers, and I watched him become one of the biggest ambassadors for hockey in this area. Things aren’t like the old days, where stipulations like the reserve clause bounded players to teams essentially for life (and it’s a good thing those days are gone).

As much as I love the guy and what he’s done here, the Caps can’t make a bad move and overpay him. There are way too many good young kids (like Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson and what seems to be about a dozen different goalies) that will need to be paid in the next few years as their entry-level deals expire. If Laich departs, the organization will find a way to replace him (perhaps with a guy like Cody Eakin). This is precisely why any fan who thinks they could be a GM is fooling themselves. There’s no way we could separate our hearts from what needs to be done in the best interests of the organization.

Here’s the bottom line. If Laich gets 4 million a year, I’ll be happy. If he gets 4.5 million a year, I’ll be a bit concerned, but still okay. If he gets 5 million-plus, or (God forbid), what the Oilers gave Shawn Horcoff, then I’ll gladly light my torch and storm the castle.