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Capitals could be hard-pressed to find roster help in free agent, trade markets

May 19th, 2017 at 12:51 PM
Aggregated By Sports Media 101

Patrick Eaves figures to be one of the more attractive names in a thin free-agent class. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

After every season since he became the Capitals’ general manager, Brian MacLellan has made a summer wishlist of sorts. Through either trade or free agency, he’s acquired players to improve Washington’s roster and address the team’s most pressing needs. But as MacLellan identifies the Capitals’ potential holes entering next season, he might find that the best available players to fill them are already in his organization.

On one hand, that is an optimistic outlook for the Capitals’ roster concerns. On the other, it speaks unkindly of a lackluster free agent class and trade options that may either be unpalatable or unobtainable for Washington. And it also shows that the Capitals free agents will be some of the most sought after on the market.

What follows is the third and final installment in a three-part series looking at the offseason ahead for the Capitals. The Washington Post is examining the organization’s summer plans, including how the expansion draft will affect the team, what will happen to the players from this past season and now, what external solutions could aid the Capitals in the season to come.

After expected free-agent departures, Washington could have an opening in the top-six forward corps and also be in the market for a third-pairing defenseman. The Capitals could fill those vacancies with prospects, but MacLellan has made at least one marquee move per summer and with some roster turnover expected after another disappointing playoff run, it’s worth exploring some options that may be available to MacLellan through free agency or trade.

Free agent forwards

The Capitals’ top unrestricted free-agent priority should be re-signing right winger T.J. Oshie, who had a career year with 33 goals in 68 games. After the season, Oshie expressed his interest in re-signing, but if he hit the open market, he would be one of the top forwards available this summer. Whether with the Capitals or another team, Oshie, 30, is due a significant raise on the $4.5 million salary he made last year.

Last summer, 28-year-old right wing Kyle Okposo signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres, and he was coming off a 22-goal season. David Backes was 32 when he signed his five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins, and his last 30-plus-goal season was in 2010-11.

With salary cap constraints expected because some of Washington’s restricted free agents will command new deals with more money, it’s unclear how much term and average annual value the team will be comfortable handing to Oshie. He’s been a perfect fit on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who experimented with nine different wingers …

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Tags: NHL, Washington Capitals

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