Under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, if earned performance bonuses push a team past the salary cap’s upper limit for a season, the amount of excess bonus will be carried over as a penalty, counting against the team’s salary cap payroll the next year.

According to CapGeek, the Capitals are carrying an approximate bonus overage of $350,000 from the 2010-11 season on their cap payroll, and that sum plays a roll in how much wiggle room the team has to make moves.

With that overage in consideration, Washington’s salary cap cushion created by Tom Poti being on the long-term injury list is $867,229, based on the calculations at CapGeek.

When players are placed on LTI it allows teams to exceed the upper limit — $63,950,000 this year — of the salary cap in the amount of the injured player’s salary, and that is where the Capitals’ extra room comes from.

The limited space for the Capitals to make roster moves and still be in compliance with the salary cap may be part of the reason why they did not recall a defenseman last weekend. While $867,229 in space would allow for the addition of a player, the options are limited and it would create even more of a squeeze against the salary cap.

Dmitry Orlov’s NHL salary is $900,000 and thus there wouldn’t be the room to recall him without another corresponding roster move. Meanwhile, other possibilities like Patrick McNeill and Sean Collins each have NHL salaries of $525,000.

It’s possible that the Capitals opted to minimize that strain on salary cap space and that is part of the reason why they went for the short-term fix with Brooks Laich on defense against the Devils this past Saturday. General Manager George McPhee declined to speak with reporters Thursday in Winnipeg, where he met the team after attending a meeting of the league’s general managers earlier this week in Toronto.