Near the end of his news conference on Tuesday, after fortifying his blue line with the signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, and adding to his goal crease with the addition of Justin Peters, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan was asked if he thought the Caps have enough depth at the forward position.
“I do,” he responded. “We’re real deep on the right side. We’re still going to look to see if we can add something up the middle. The left side’s pretty good also.
“I think our forwards have always been good. It’d be great to add another center. It there’s opportunity out there, we’ll pursue it.”
The Capitals made an effort to re-sign center Mikhail Grabovski, but when the price became too prohibitive – his agent is believed to be seeking five years at $5 million per season – MacLellan said the Caps decided the money was better spent on two defensemen than one.
“It was a high number and I think probably today is the day it comes down,” MacLellan said on Tuesday.
Grabovski managed to get a four-year, $20 million contract from the New York Islanders, so his persistence paid off.
“At some point we had to make the decision of whether we wanted to go for two defensemen or one defenseman," MacLellan said, "and we made the decision for two.”
For what it’s worth, Orpik’s five-year deal starts at $6.5 million in Year 1, then dips to $5.5 million in Years 2, 3 and 4, before falling to $4.5 million in 2018-19 when Orpik turns 38.
Niskanen’s seven-year deal is set at $5.75 million for each of its seven years. Neither is believed to include a no-movement clause.
With $1.1 million in cap space the Caps still have some room to sign a free-agent center, but unless they plan on adding a fourth-liner like Michal Handzus or an enforcer like Zenon Konopka, they’re more likely to seek depth down the middle through a trade.
While speaking to reporters at the NHL draft on Saturday Caps coach Barry Trotz said he thinks teams will wait until the free agent buzz settles sometime around July 6 before tweaking their rosters with trades.
There are a handful of centers who will be unrestricted free agents next summer that could interest the Capitals, including 31-year-old Antoine Vermette [$3.75 million], who recorded 24 goals and 45 points last season for the Arizona Coyotes; 34-year-old Mike Fisher [$4.2 million], who recorded 20 goals and 49 points last season for Trotz’ Nashville Predators; and St. Louis Blues 29-year-old agitator Maxim Lapierre [$1.1 million], who managed 9 goals, 15 points and 78 penalty minutes last season.
As for trade assets, the Caps now have a few extra defensemen to shop around, starting with Mike Green, although his one-year, $6.25 million salary may be a bit restrictive. Dmitry Orlov [2 years, $4 million] John Erskine [1 year, $1.962 million] and Jack Hillen [1 year, $700,000] all could be dangled in an attempt to land a center who can take some pressure off Nicklas Backstrom.
If you could pay a reasonable price, what centers would you be interested in acquiring? Or do you think the Caps have a greater need at left wing? Join the conversation below.