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Capitals rank among top free agent spenders this offseason

In his first season atop the front office, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan sped into free agency, foot on the pedal. “Busy day?” someone asked after two Washington moves rippled throughout the league. “Busy two months,” MacLellan replied.

But everything culminated last Tuesday, when the Capitals parlayed roughly $12 million in cap space into two defensemen and a backup goaltender, with $1.1 million left to spare, according to CapGeek. Ownership permitted MacLellan to approach spending to the extent of the salary cap, set at $69 million. He happily obliged, and now Washington ranks third in the NHL in payroll, its highest since ranking second in 2011-12.

Per CapGeek, 150 unrestricted free agents have been signed this offseason as of Sunday (79 since July 1, the first date of free agency) totaling $1,685,387,500 in total value ($561.55 million since July 1). And because Washington’s two acquisitions – former Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen – raised eyebrows for both their length and value, UFA trackers from both CapGeek and TSN can be used to see how the Capitals rank in spending this offseason.

“I think we had some needs, and we addressed them,” MacLellan said. “We had cap room. Ownership gave the green light to get to the cap, and we spent the money where we felt we needed to spend it the most.”

(All data was pulled Sunday at 3 p.m. It included signings since the season ended, not just since July 1, and guaranteed only NHL contracts counting against the cap, not two-way or deals for players projected by CapGeek to not make the NHL roster.)

>> No team spent more total money than the Capitals, who flirted with the $70 million barrier spread across three signings. The smallest came first: a two-year deal with goaltender Justin Peters worth slightly under $2 million. Then Washington announced a $27.5 million, five-year deal for Orpik. The night ended with Niskanen coming along for seven years, $40.25 million.

Just three teams eclipsed $60 million in total salaries: Washington, Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning handed out 15 total years worth $64.85 million while the Panthers signed 18 total years at $60.4 million.

>> The Capitals had the highest years-per-deal average, at 4.67. Just 10 deals of five years or more were handed out this offseason, and two-thirds of Washington’s haul fell into this category. The Lightning were the only other team with multiple contracts of at least five years (Ryan Callahan at six years, $34.8 million and Anton Stralman at five years, $22.5 million).

>> Washington was the only team with multiple deals among the top 10 in average value per season. Niskanen ($5.75 million) and Orpik ($5.5 million) ranked sixth and eighth, respectively. However, they were first and sixth, respectively, in total contract value, and first and second in both cap hit and total contract value among defensemen.

>> Florida attained $17.3 million of cap value for the upcoming season via free agency, the highest one-year average of any NHL team. The Capitals finished sixth in this category behind New Jersey ($18.26 million), Florida, New York Islanders ($15.587 million), Buffalo ($14.875 million) and Edmonton ($12.8 million).

>> The Panthers also signed players to more years (18) than any other team. Both the Islanders and Lightning handed out 15 years in their various deals. The Capitals and Kings tied for fourth at 14.

>> The least active team? Columbus, which extended goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a one-year, $600,000 deal June 23. The Blue Jackets also re-signed Frederic St-Denis to a one-year, two-way deal worth $550,000.

>> A list of how much every team spent, for how many total years those contracts were signed, and the 2014-15 cap hit for those new contracts.

Anaheim: $13.75 million, five years, $4 million.

Buffalo: $46.375 million, 12 years, $14.875 million.

Calgary: $27.8 million, nine years, $11,116,167.

Carolina: $13.65 million, six years, $7,983,333.

Chicago: $2.65 million, two years, $2.65 million.

Columbus: $600,000, one year, $600,000.

Dallas: $16.075 million, seven years, $6.825 million.

Detroit: $10.35 million, three years, $6.1 million.

Edmonton: $43.8 million, 12 years, $12.8 million.

Florida: $60.4 million, 18 years, $17.3 million.

Los Angeles: $46.6 million, 14 years, $8.85 million.

Minnesota: $19.5 million, three years, $6.5 million.

Montreal: $25.45 million, seven years, $11.15 million.

NY Islanders: $57.95 million, 15 years, $15.587 million.

NY Rangers: $19.4 million, 12 years, $9.9 million.

Nashville: $3.95 million, three years, $3.225 million.

New Jersey: $38.225 million, 11 years, $18.262 million.

Ottawa: $18 million, five years, $7 million.

Philadelphia: $34.25 million, nine years, $9.25 million.

Phoenix: $4.1 million, four years, $1.9 m million.

Pittsburgh: $7.9 million, five years, $7.9 million

San Jose: $6.35 million, five years, $3.55 million.

St. Louis: $35.5 million, seven years, $9.5 million.

Tampa Bay: $64.85 million, 15 years, $9.95 million.

Toronto: $22.3 million, eight years, $7.45 million.

Vancouver: $28 million, five years, $11.6 million.

Washington: $69.65 million, 14 years, $12.2 million.

Winnipeg: $13.3 million, seven years, $4.9 million.