“Of course, every player wants to have contract and every player wants to know where he going to play after World Cup,” Orlov said. “But right now, I focus on World Cup and we’ll see how it goes.”
The threat of injury while still unsigned for next season made competing in the World Cup a risk for Orlov, despite being insured through the NHL and NHLPA. The Capitals open training camp on Sept. 23, and Orlov is expected to miss the start of that while competing with Team Russia.
Asked if he was still confident that he would re-sign with Washington, Orlov said he didn’t know.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I was five years in this organization, and everything was good, you know?”
Orlov’s NHL options are fairly limited as a restricted free agent who didn’t elect for arbitration with the Capitals retaining his negotiating rights. But 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 has been repeatedly asked about Orlov playing for the team next season. Fedorov told Russian media that he’s communicated with Orlov’s agent and would like to sign Orlov to a contract, even if it were for just one year, but he’s also said it’s Orlov’s intention to continue playing in the NHL.
“You know, I play five years in USA, so of course, I like it here,” Orlov said. “And I would like to stay there, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen. We’ll see.”
If Orlov and the Capitals do negotiate a deal, and it’s expected they will, Orlov will likely get a bridge deal with a one- or two-year term. His agent, Mark 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 earlier this summer, 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.
This leaves the Capitals with about $2.6 million for Orlov. Before the 2014-15 season, Orlov signed a two-year deal and made $2.25 million last season. He missed the entire 2014-15 season, and despite some inconsistent play, wound up a key cog in an oft-injured defense last season, one of three blue-liners to play in all 82 games. Orlov scored eight goals with 21 assists, and Coach Barry Trotz said recently that he envisions Orlov moving into a top-four role on the defense with more minutes against tougher competition.
“I envision him playing with a [Matt] Niskanen or a [John] Carlson, probably more prime minutes against more guys and try to even our defense out a little bit in terms of the minutes,” Trotz said last month. “It’s a great opportunity for him; he’s at the right age where he can really contribute. We look for his contributions on the power play, the penalty kill, playing in sort of that top-four pairing on a regular basis. I just think it’s right for him.
“I just think it’s timing, dollars, length, that’ll be probably more for [General Manager Brian MacLellan]. But we’re pretty excited with our team, which will help Orly develop. I think he wants to be in his career where he’s an up-and-coming young player who’s going to get great opportunity here with a good team.”
Orlov said Trotz and Todd Reirden, the Capitals’ associate coach who works primarily with the defensemen, called him several times this summer.
“We talked about next season, but we’ll see how it goes,” Orlov said.