In the 96 hours since the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to FINALLY claim their first Stanley Cup championship in their 44 year history, the team and its fanbase have been holding a non-stop party. We’ve seen captain Alex Ovechkin and his teammates literally take over the streets in Washington D.C. during their weekend long bender, but with the season now officially over its back to business for general manager Brian MacLellan.
While MacLellan won’t have to do as much heavy lifting as he did last offseason when he was forced to wave goodbye to defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner after negotiating a monster contract with T.J. Oshie, MacLellan does have to strike a new deal with pending free-agent John Carlson. Carlson, of course, led the NHL in scoring by a defenseman in 2017-18 and is in line to get a sizeable raise from his $4 million annual salary the past six seasons.
In addition to Carlson, MacLellan has to negotiate new deals with forwards Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman Michal Kempny. He also has to make a determination on goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Does he remain with the organization or does he get his shot as a starter with another NHL club?
The key to all of this, according to The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton, could come by way of a buy out for veteran Brooks Orpik.
What MacLellan can control, though, is what his roster looks like next season, and it might be best for Washington if it doesn’t include Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit.
The 37 year old Orpik has one year left on a deal that pays him $5.5 annually. If the MacLellan decides to cut ties with Orpik a year early, he’ll save his team approximately $3 million in 2018-19, but he’ll be hit with a $1.5 million hit in 2019-20.
No doubt that Orpik played a part in the team’s Cup run this season, but is it worth keeping him for another season if it comes at the expense of someone like Carlson, Wilson or Smith-Pelly? Likely not.
As it currently stands MacLellan has roughly $11 million to sign all the above mentioned players… an addition $3 million could go a loooong way towards keeping the band together for another run.