With four days to go before the NHL draft and nine until the start of free agency on July 5, the Capitals have yet to make any significant roster moves or re-sign any of their prominent free agents.
That’s in part because of General Manager George McPhee’s preference to keep his options open as the trade market heats up around the draft and start of free agency. When he met with reporters Monday, McPhee didn’t provide an update on where the Capitals stand with regard to bringing back either Mike Ribeiro or Matt Hendricks, who are both set to become unrestricted free agents, other than to say he would “know more after the draft.”
“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 Monday. “I wouldn’t want to get locked into too many things before the draft. We’ll see how things go there and what route we take after that.”
McPhee has made draft-day trades each of the past five years. Three of those deals brought players into the fold who were on Washington’s roster last season – Mike Ribeiro (2012), Troy Brouwer (2011) and John Carlson (2008). It wouldn’t be surprising to see the trend continue this year, given the shallow free agent market and the need for many teams to try and adjust their roster under the decreasing salary cap.
As the salary cap lowers to $64.3 million for next season, some teams are forced to be more creative than others when it comes to organizing a full lineup. There’s been speculation that those pressures could lead to more restricted free agents receiving offer sheets, which is when a team signs an RFA from another organization. When a player signs an offer sheet with a new club, the original team has the right to match the offer and keep the player or let them depart and receive draft pick compensation for the loss.
The Capitals are expected to re-sign their two key RFAs, defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Marcus Johansson. On Monday, McPhee made it clear that if either were to sign an offer sheet with another team the Capitals would match.
“We would always match,” McPhee said. “We’re not going to allow other clubs to determine who’s in our lineup or who’s not in our lineup. We would match and adjust in another way.”
While signing players to offer sheets is rather rare, it’s happened twice in the past year. Last July, Philadelphia signed defenseman Shea Weber to an offer sheet worth 14-year, $110 million that the Predators matched. Then in February, Calgary signed forward Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million offer sheet that the Avalanche matched.
“Some teams might do it. Teams get desperate sometimes and do that sort of thing. It almost never works but some teams might do it this year,” McPhee said. “We’ve never done it. I just think if you’re drafting and developing well enough you don’t have to do it. Most of the clubs that do that sort of thing are a little desperate.
“You have three or four desperate clubs every summer, but we’ve never done it and I don’t anticipate doing it because it seldom works,” McPhee added. “Just drives up costs. It’s not our style, hasn’t been.”
>> The Capitals announced a minor move Wednesday, re-signing AHL tough guy Joel Rechlicz to a one-year, two-way contract. Rechlicz, 26, recorded 154 penalty minutes in 40 American Hockey League games last season with Portland (36 games) and Hershey (4).