Kuznetsov will eat up $7,632,258 in cap space, with the four days he missed essentially saving the team $168,000, according to CapFriendly. However, the organization still needed $669,661 of space to activate Kuznetsov, which is why the Caps placed Boyd, who has an $800,000 cap hit, on waivers.
But Boyd won’t clear waivers or get claimed by another team until noon Monday and his cap hit remains on the books until then, so the team reassigned Siegenthaler to Hershey, according to the AHL transactions list. Siegenthaler isn’t physically going to Hershey, but since he doesn’t have to be exposed to waivers, the team can use his absence to free up the missing cap space — he has a salary cap hit of $714,166 — until Monday, when Boyd comes off the roster. At that point, Siegenthaler will be recalled, and he’s expected to play Tuesday night against the visiting Dallas Stars.
“Obviously, there are lots of cap-related decisions from our end,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said Saturday night after the team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. “They are going to be difficult ones. We just prolonged, for three games, some stuff that was coming down the road for us. That’s kind of the world we’ve been living in, trying to figure out what works best for us and how we can do the best thing for our organization.”
The return of Kuznetsov as the second-line center Tuesday will send Lars Eller back to the third line and knock Chandler Stephenson out of his current spot. Stephenson could fight for a spot on the fourth line, but that has been the Capitals’ most consistent trio in the past few games, with Nic Dowd centering Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway recorded his first goal with the Capitals on Saturday night, and Leipsic posted his first point — an assist on Hathaway’s goal.
For Stephenson, Sunday’s roster moves offer some relief. He was considered the odd man out at the start of training camp after the team brought in three bottom-six forwards, and his salary cap hit of $1.05 million appeared too high for a team facing financial constraints. However, his strong play in training camp put him ahead of Boyd for the third-line center role while Kuznetsov served his suspension.
“He knew the challenge coming into it and, like I said, the players would make the decisions for me,” Reirden said of Stephenson last week. “And in this case, he did with his play.”
Stephenson started to truly make a case to stay on the roster in the team’s preseason meeting with the Hurricanes, tallying two primary assists in a 4-3 win. Over four exhibition games, Stephenson recorded one goal and three assists. He didn’t tally a point in the Capitals’ first three regular season games, averaging 13:23 of ice time and putting in time on the penalty kill.
“I tried to do everything I could, and I mean, I want to be here,” Stephenson said after the preseason contest against Carolina. “Washington is the only place that I know. It’s an awesome group of guys and nothing but the upmost respect for every single one of them, so it’s obviously the place that I want to be.”
Waiving Boyd is the latest in a series of tough roster calls the Capitals have had to make over the past week. They also reassigned defenseman Christian Djoos and goaltender Pheonix Copley, both of whom were with the team all of last season, to Hershey because of the salary cap crunch. The move to send Fehervary down was not performance-related; Reirden and General Manager Brian MacLellan have been impressed with the young defenseman’s play through three games. Fehervary ($805,833) carried the highest cap hit among him, Siegenthaler and Tyler Lewington ($675,000).
However, with defenseman Michal Kempny expected to return to the lineup in the near future after recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered in April, it appears Fehervary would no longer have a regular spot in the lineup. The Capitals want to give Fehervary a chance to play on a consistent basis, and sending him to Hershey gives him that opportunity.