There’s been some question of if unsigned free agents named to World Cup teams, like Orlov, will play at the international tournament in Toronto. Orlov was named to Russia’s initial roster in March, along with fellow Washington players Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and he intends to honor his commitment “no matter what,” Gandler said.
According to TSN, unsigned restricted free agents will be insured at the World Cup, which is put on by the NHL and the NHLPA.
Orlov is the lone Capitals player still unsigned for next season, and while his contract talks have seemingly dragged, he’s one of a handful of high-profile restricted free agents still without a contract, a list that also includes Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Orlov did not elect for arbitration, and the team did not either, so there’s no imminent deadline for negotiations other than training camp. The most likely reason Orlov’s camp didn’t file for arbitration is concern that his case wouldn’t have been looked at favorably by an arbitrator and the outcome would’ve been a reduction in salary. Avoiding arbitration also helps to avoid hurt feelings during arguments about a player’s worth.
Expect Orlov to get a bridge deal with a one- or two-year term. Gandler has declined to comment on negotiations beyond saying that both sides are talking and it’s a normal process. With Washington re-signing Marcus Johansson to a three-year, $13.75 million deal with an average annual value of $4.583 million, there’s limited salary cap space left for Orlov. According to generalfanager.com, the Capitals have $3.45 million left in salary cap space, but that can’t all be dedicated to Orlov, as Washington will need at least $875,000 for a 14th forward and roster flexibility.
That leaves the Capitals with about $2.6 million for Orlov. Before the 2014-15 season, Orlov signed a two-year deal worth $2 million a year, but he made $2.25 million last season, so Washington has room for only a modest increase in salary. Orlov missed the entire 2014-15 season, and despite some inconsistent play, he was a key cog in an oft-injured defense last season, one of three blue-liners to play in all 82 games. He scored eight goals with 21 assists, and General Manager Brian MacLellan envisions Orlov occupying a top-four role on Washington’s defense in the future.
Orlov’s qualifying offer expired on July 15, and that just means the Capitals are no longer bound to matching last year’s $2.25 million salary, but they still retain the negotiating rights to him. Because Orlov’s birthday is after June 30, his unrestricted free agency years won’t start until 2019-20, so even if Washington signed him to a two-year deal, he’d still be a restricted free agent at its conclusion.
While his NHL options are fairly limited without arbitration, Orlov does have one other outlet open to him. The Kontinental Hockey League’s CSKA Moscow owns Orlov’s KHL rights, and CSKA General Manager Sergei Fedorov was recently asked about Orlov playing for the team. He told Russian media that while he’d like to sign Orlov to a contract, it’s Orlov’s intention to continue playing in the NHL.