With training camp set to begin in about three weeks, the Capitals and restricted free agent Dmitry Orlov still have not agreed on contract extension.
But it also sounds as though it’s a matter of when, not if, a deal gets done, based on comments from Coach Barry Trotz on Tuesday.
“I think, obviously, [GM Brian MacLellan] is talking with Orlov’s agent all the time,” Trotz said at KCI. “Orly has got a great opportunity here.”
Trotz also reiterated that he sees big things for Orlov in 2016-17, perhaps even a steady spot in the top-4.
“I envision him playing with a [Matt] Niskanen or a [John] Carlson, probably more prime minutes as we try even out our defense a little bit in terms of [workload],” Trotz added. “It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s at the right age where he can really contribute. We’ll look for his contributions on the power play, the penalty kill, playing in that top-4 on a pretty regular basis. I just think it’s right for him.”
So what’s the holdup?
“It’s probably just timing, dollars, length,” Trotz said. “He’s right where he wants to be in his career, where he’s an up-and-coming player who is going to get a great opportunity here with a good team.”
Orlov, 25, earned $2.25 million last season while counting $2 million against the salary cap. The Capitals have $3.45 million in cap space available but cannot commit all of that to Orlov, a young player with big upside but an unproven track record.
Trotz said he intends to seek out Orlov soon. The two will cross paths next month when Team Canada faces Russia in a pre-tournament game in Pittsburgh.
“He’s playing at the World Cup [and] that level will be very, very high,” Trotz said. “I think it’s great experience for him. I think it will make him better and it will make us better.”
Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden, who oversees the defensemen in Washington, echoed Trotz’s sentiments about Orlov’s ceiling.
“I think we’re just touching the surface with this player,” Reirden said. “Him going through the World Cup experience will be outstanding for him, as well. …I’ve been in contact with him a few times this summer, just getting him in a really good spot mentally to come in and have a huge year for us. I think his opportunity is in his hands.”
Reirden said finding the right partner for Orlov will be critical. He also said eliminating the game-altering mistake—at exactly the wrong moment—figures to rank among Orlov’s top priorities.
“In terms of areas of improvement for him, it’s still eliminating the big errors in his game at crucial times,” Reirden said. "We need to continue to force him to make the right decisions at the right times. In terms of his risk-reward, he does really have the ability to swing a game offensively for us.”
Orlov had a career-high eight goals and 29 points in 82 games last season.
MORE CAPITALS: ALEX OVECHKIN TIES THE KNOT
Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden has been promoted to associate coach, the team announced Monday.
Reirden, 45, will run Washington's training camp next month while head coach Barry Trotz works as an assistant for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
Reirden, who is entering his third season on the Capitals' bench, was a finalist for the head coaching position in Calgary earlier this summer. He was also considered for the New Jersey vacancy the year before. In coaching circles, Reirden is considered a future bench boss and the question is when, not if, he’ll get that opportunity.
Reirden oversees the Capitals’ defensemen, who overcame a host of injuries last season, and a power play that ranked fifth in 2015-16.
Reirden and Trotz will speak to reporters on Tuesday.
RELATED: ALEX OVECHKIN TIES THE KNOT
It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
How they did last season: 48-26-8 (104 points), 2nd in the Metropolitan, 2nd in the Eastern Conference. They went the distance beating the Rangers, Caps, Lightning and Sharks to win the Stanley Cup.
Notable acquisitions: D Stuart Percy
Notable departures: D Ben Lovejoy; G Jeff Zatkoff
When they will play the Caps: Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh; Nov. 16 in Washington; Jan. 11 in Washington; Jan. 16 in Pittsburgh
RELATED: ALEX OVECHKIN TIES THE KNOT
Analysis: The Pittsburgh Penguins took a very different approach to the offseason than what we see from teams like the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks dismantle their roster every offseason to avoid cap trouble and keep the core intact. The Penguins, however, elected to keep the roster largely together after winning the Stanley Cup and will feature essentially the exact same lineup this season.
There’s no question this team has a roster capable of being among the top in the league because they did it just last year, but we should not automatically expect the Penguins to look like the same team they were in the playoffs through an 82-game season.
Head coach Mike Sullivan faces a different challenge as he will coach the team through an entire season, unlike last year in which he took over in December for the fired Mike Johnston. Those are two very different scenarios. Sullivan's success last year does not guarantee success as the new full-time coach, just ask Dan Bylsma who also led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup after taking over midseason.
The biggest question for the Penguins is in net. Despite how well the young Matt Murray played in the playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury also returns. How will the team divide the starts? Who will be the team’s No. 1? With the expansion draft looming, the Penguins must get rid of Fleury before June 21 because of his no-movement clause, otherwise they would be obligated to protect him from the draft thus exposing the 22-year-old Murray. They won't do that. Sometime between
The question of whether Fleury will be traded is something that will hang over the team’s head throughout the entire season.
Season prediction: The Penguins have more questions than you would expect for a defending champ returning essentially the same roster. Can Sullivan find the same success through a full season? Will the situation in net become a distraction? Will the rest of the NHL figure the Penguins out?
There’s a reason no team has won the Stanley Cup twice in a row since 1997 and 1998. The stars have to align perfectly and every other team in the league is gunning for you. Plus, the playoffs are physically and mentally exhausting which makes this the wrong year for the World Cup of Hockey which will give Pittsburgh's top players even less time to recover.
Having said all of that, I don’t see this team taking a step back and if they do, it will be a small one. Few teams can come close to the scoring depth this team boasts and, even some members of the supporting cast are due for a dropoff in production (Matt Cullen), scoring goals won’t be a problem for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins don’t just have a roster tailored for success, they have a roster that multiple general managers have tried replicating this summer. If Pittsburgh does run out of gas, it will come in the postseason. Until then, the Penguins will find themselves among the top teams in the conference and poised for a title defense come April.
2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS