This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our last Twitter poll, the Metropolitan Division lost out and will be our final three articles to round out the 31-team Cap Compliance series.
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Capitals currently have 11 forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender under contract for next season at a price tag of $71,080,128. With a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $10,419,872 in cap space and seven spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: The team could certainly get away with offering Siegenthaler a qualifying offer since he doesn't have arbitration rights, however, after he notched nine points in 64 games this season while averaging 15:44 of ice time, it would be in the Caps best interest to give him a longer-term deal. It shouldn't break the bank and a three-year, $4.5 million deal should be agreeable to both sides. The same can probably be said of Boyd, though he logged significantly fewer games (24). Bringing him under contract for just $875,000 for two years should bolster the bottom-six depth for the organization.
Kyle Riley: Boyd went from 53 games played with the Caps in 2018-19 to just 24 this season, totaling eight goals and 30 points over that span, so he shouldn't be expecting a big payday. However, he is arbitration eligible, so I think handing him a two-year, $1.8 million contract would be a wise move for Washington so the team can avoid the possibility of an independent arbitrator awarding him more on a one-year deal. Siegenthaler grew into a steady bottom-pairing defender this season, notching nine points while averaaging 15:45 of ice time in 64 appearances. Still, he isn't arbitration eligible, so I think the Caps should simply hand him his QO and match any potential offer that comes in from a third party.
Unrestricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: If Kovalchuk is willing to agree to another veteran minimum contract, it could be a good fit to bring him back for another kick at the can, especially if he shows he still has something left in the tank during the postseason. At max, Washington should offer him a one-year, $900,000 deal or otherwise let him find a new place to call home. On the blue line, the team needs to add something, even if Martin Fehervary is NHL ready, and a quality third-pairing defenseman would make sense. Still, Dillon and Gudas are both heading into the back halves of their careers and don't offer much in terms of offensive upside. One player worth considering here would be Carson Soucy who offers more in terms of long-term scoring potential and could come in significantly cheaper at around $1 million AAV. This would leave the Capitals with a little over $4 million to try and come to terms with Holtby. He finally got a Stanley Cup ring but is coming off the worst season of his career with a .897 save percentage and 3.11 GAA. If the two sides can't make it work, there is no reason for the team to bend over backwards to get Holtby under contract with Ilya Samsonov waiting in the wings. Still, this is a club in win-now mode and it would be better off with Holtby between the pipes.
Kyle Riley: Kovalchuk will likely be looking for a somewhat substantial raise this offseason, and I don't see the Caps giving him one, so he'll likely be playing elsewhere next year. Between Gudas and Dillon, Dillon is pretty clearly the superior option, and he'll be looking for a pretty substantial raise on a multi-year deal after picking up 14 points while averaging 19:27 of ice time as a top-four defender for Washington this year. I wouldn't hesitate to ink him to a three-year, $9 million contract and let Gudas walk. Despite his struggles this year, Holtby will still be looking for a long-term deal with an AAV in the range of $7-8 million this offseason, so he's a luxury the Capitals simply can't afford, especially with Ilya Samsonov seemingly ready to take over as the team's No. 1 netminder.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
Tyler Lewington ($675,000)
AJ Scholz: Lewington is a capable player that adds some organizational depth but he isn't going to break into the NHL as a full-time player. As such, he should be offered a two-way deal with a modest uptick ($750,000), though he shouldn't expect anything more than that.
Kyle Riley: As AJ said, Lewington is a player that can be called up as a depth option in a pinch, but he'll never be a full-time NHLer. I agree, a two-way deal around $750,000 should do the trick to retain the 2013 seventh-rounder.
AJ Scholz: As I said above, Washington is clearly better with Holtby as an option in the crease yet it doesn't make sense to go above and beyond just to make it happen. Having said that, if the organization is looking for moves to make, it could consider trying to offload Lars Eller and his $3.5 million cap hit. He likely would have hit the 40-point mark for the first time in his career were it not for the league going on hiatus, which means his value on the market has never been higher. As an alternative, in terms of return, the Capitals could try and find a trade partner that is willing to send back a top-4 blueliner in order to resolve that issue rather than trying to bank funds for re-upping Holtby.
Kyle Riley: After adding Pheonix Copley to serve as Samsonov's backup and a young blueliner to serve as the team's seventh defenseman, with the deals I outlined above, the Capitals would still have just under $4 million left to fill out the final two forward spots on their roster. That's more than enough to add a quality bottom-sixer in free agency while promoting one of the organization's youngsters at forward to round out the club's depth up front.