Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov is reportedly in contract talks with CSKA Moscow of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Orlov is a pending restricted free agent this summer, meaning Washington owns his NHL negotiating rights.
Orlov, 25, scored six goals and 33 points in 82 games with the Capitals this season, and after establishing himself in the team’s top four on the blue line, he’s expected to receive a substantial raise on the one-year, $2.57 million deal Washington signed him to last summer. One possible comparable is the seven-year contract annually worth $4.5 million Nikita Zaitsev recently got with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Considering how much money Orlov stands to make in the NHL with his next contract and his top role on the team, it seems unlikely that talks with CSKA Moscow, especially this early in the offseason, will lead to much more. CSKA owns Orlov’s KHL rights.
Orlov had some discussions with CSKA Moscow last summer when his contract negotiations with Washington stretched until the week of training camp. The dispute wasn’t over finances but over Orlov’s role on the team, and the Capitals reassured him he’d have an opportunity for more responsibility. He rebuffed the KHL offer to sign a one-year deal with Washington, and on a pairing with Matt Niskanen, Orlov thrived with his ice time going up by more than three minutes per game from the previous season as he averaged 19:32 per night.
He and Niskanen are expected to remain a pairing next season and could consistently receive top minutes with the most challenging defensive assignments. After a series of bridge deals, Orlov could also be in line to receive a more longer-term contract.
The NHL also offers Orlov more stability than the KHL, as the league recently disbanded Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Orlov’s hometown team, and there are reported debts to players over $17 million. Several teams are late with salaries with some players waiting six months for payment.
When the NHL announced it wouldn’t be participating in the upcoming Winter Olympics, some believed Russians in contract years would leave for the KHL for the opportunity to represent their country in PyeongChang. But in conversations around the league, concern for that has dissipated, as evidenced by forwards Vadim Shipachyov and defenseman Victor Antipin recently signing NHL contracts.
Orlov is one of six restricted free agents on the Capitals’ roster, and he’s not the only one expected to attract KHL attention. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov could also field KHL offers, but both he and Orlov are expected to be back in Washington next season.