The Capitals moved closer to setting their opening night lineup, pairing down their roster by four on Sunday.
Washington released defensemen Dmitry Orlov, Michal Cajkovsky and forward Dane Byers from its training camp roster and all three will report to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Tough guy Joel Rechlicz was placed on waivers and will be assigned to Hershey if he clears at noon Monday.
Those moves leave the Capitals with 24 players and one more cut to make before the NHL’s 5 p.m. deadline Monday. What’s left is a good indication of the roster heading into the season opener assuming the team wants to carry seven defensemen.
That’s how many blue-liners remain: the six players who finished the season last year with Washington and prospect Connor Carrick. The Illinois native has been the surprise of the preseason as in a little less than three weeks he went from expecting to head back to the OHL to a likely pick to be in Chicago for the regular season opener on Tuesday.
Carrick, 19, impressed with poise, strong skating and decision-making skills over the course of five preseason appearances. Although Sunday’s moves seem to indicate that Carrick will remain with the Capitals for at least a while longer, he can be assigned to the AHL without having to pass through waivers should they want him to develop there at some point. Washington still has the option to send Carrick back to juniors.
But if the Capitals are keeping Carrick in the mix, one has to imagine it’s to see if he can continue making strides as the intensity picks up in the regular season, not to sit in the press box as a healthy scratch.
Up front, Washington has 15 forwards, including prospects Tom Wilson and Michael Latta. A gritty center who will likely serve a fourth-line role in the NHL, Latta earned praise from General Manager George McPhee but could be assigned to the AHL without having to clear waivers.
Coach Adam Oates has said on record multiple times that keeping Wilson, 19, with the Capitals would be beneficial for both the team and player. The key here is fitting Wilson under the salary cap.
Wilson carries a relatively sizable cap hit but the Capitals are able to defer any performance bonuses he would attain to next year. Wilson’s cap hit this season is $894,200 excluding those bonuses.
McPhee pegged Wilson’s cap hit (sans performance bonuses) at $837,000 when discussing the winger’s future earlier this week. To bring him aboard McPhee acknowledged the Capitals would “probably have to move one player” in order to fit Wilson on the roster. What that corresponding move would be is uncertain.