The Washington Capitals re-signed depth forward Chandler Stephenson to a one-year, $1.05 million deal, a person with the knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.
The team avoided arbitration with Stephenson — his hearing was scheduled for Aug. 1 — but with the roster now filled out and every restricted free agent under contract, the Capitals are more than $1.3 million over the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap ceiling.
CapFriendly.com was the first to report the news.
Stephenson had five goals and six assists in 64 games last season, playing mostly in a fourth-line role with penalty killing responsibilities. Considering Washington’s salary cap constraints and the signings of wingers Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic — which were made in part because of management’s dissatisfaction with its fourth line last year — it’s unclear whether Stephenson will have a place in the lineup this season.
Stephenson’s new deal comes on the heels of an arbitrator awarding defenseman Christian Djoos a one-year, $1.25 million contract Wednesday. The Capitals are allowed to exceed the salary cap’s upper limit by 10 percent until final rostersare set on Oct. 2, so there’s no immediate rush to make a corresponding move to clear space. Their options to do so include making a trade, or just simply waiving players who spent all of last season in the NHL, such as Stephenson and/or forward Travis Boyd.
Stephenson was the Capitals’ final restricted free agent left unsigned and was a versatile piece of their 2018 Stanley Cup run, when he had two goals and five assists in 24 playoff games. Stephenson will be a restricted free agent when this contract is completed, meaning Washington will still own his negotiating rights.
He was also the Capitals’ final arbitration-eligible case, meaning the organization will have the opportunity to buy out any player with a salary cap hit of at least $3,455,438 in three days, but Washington is unlikely to do that.
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