Now that Vinny Lecavalier has flown to Philadelphia to begin the final five years of his NHL career …
And now that Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis have agreed to stay in Pittsburgh for what could be the rest of their careers …
And now that the Devils have acquired the heir-apparent to Marty Brodeur in Cory Schneider …
What might the Caps do when the NHL free agent bell rings at noon on Friday in an effort to keep up with their new division rivals?
It all depends on what they’re willing to spend.
Center Mike Ribeiro, who was a perfect fit on the Caps’ second line last season with 49 points in 48 games, appears to be ready to test the free agent market and after seeing what the Flyers are giving Lecavalier -- $22.5 million over five years – he’s in line to get a similar reward from another NHL team.
If Ribeiro heads elsewhere, that leaves a free-agent pool of centers that is expected to include Danny Briere, Stephen Weiss, Tyler Bozak and Derek Roy. Here’s a quick look at those four options:
Danny Briere, 35
Contract status: Briere is being bought out of the final two years of his contract, earning $3.33 million over the next four years.
Positives: Briere is a clutch performer in the playoffs, provides solid leadership on and off the ice and is hungry to prove he still has 25 goals in him to help a Cup contender.
Negatives: Briere was sidelined 14 games with a concussion last season and was a defensive liability at minus-13.
Stephen Weiss, 30
Contract status: An unrestricted free agent, Weiss earned $4.1 million with the Florida Panthers last season in the final year of a six-year, $18.6 million contract.
Positives: Weiss is a crafty center who can give you 20-25 goals and 30-40 assists. He also is young enough to be productive for another four years.
Negatives: Weiss missed the final 26 games of the season with a wrist injury and is smallish at 5-11, 190 pounds. He’s not as good with the puck at Ribeiro but would be a solid replacement. His contract demands would be a big obstacle.
Tyler Bozak, 27
Contract status: An unrestricted free agent, Bozak made $1.4 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second year of a two-year, $3 million contract.
Positives: At 6-1, 195 pounds, Bozak is a strong presence down the middle and still has 20-goal, 30-assist potential.
Negatives: Bozak is reportedly seeking an eight-year deal worth about $35 million from the Maple Leafs, which takes him well out of the Caps’ range.
Derek Roy, 30
Contract status: An unrestricted free agent, Roy made $5.5 million with the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks last season in the final year of a six-year, $24 million contract signed with Buffalo.
Positives: In his best years in Buffalo Roy was scoring between 25 and 30 goals and averaging 40-45 assists with the Sabres. His production has dropped since then but at his age there should still be some offense.
Negatives: Roy bounced from Dallas to Vancouver last season and managed seven goals and 21 assists. He could definitely benefit from a full season with one set of linemates.