Majority of Capitals’ Current Defensemen are Pending Free Agents

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Washington Capitals have not made any trades this season. So let’s look at what General Manager Brian MacLellan has to work with and what he might focus on during the offseason. 

The Capitals are set in goal for at least two more years, and the All-Star Weekend’s signings bring the future forward total to nine. There is only one current Washington defender signed past the end of this season: John Carlson. MacLellan will have around $17.8 million in cap space to finish next year’s roster, according to PuckPedia.

Two of the Capitals’ defensemen will be restricted free agents this summer: Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. They are also the team’s only blueliners younger than 30.

Fehervary has nearly ten times the amount of experience as Alexeyev: 126 NHL games compared to only 13. He played six games in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season, then played 79 of 82 regular season games last season. In 41 appearances so far this season, he has four goals and six assists. He is seven points away from matching last season’s total.

All but one of Alexeyev’s 13 NHL appearances have been during this season. He has been scratched more often than he has played this year because the Capitals cannot send him to the AHL without placing him on waivers. Instead of running the risk of another team claiming the 6’4″ defender, the team has kept him around to get experience primarily through practices.

The rest of the Capitals’ blueliners will be eligible to field offers from any team this summer. The team’s oldest defenseman, 35-year-old Matt Irwin, could even choose to retire after 11 seasons if he doesn’t get an offer to his liking.

Dmitry Orlov has the highest cap hit at $5.1 million. Orlov has been with Washington his whole career and is the only defenseman besides Carlson remaining from the 2018 Stanley Cup-winning roster. Nick Jensen’s present salary is half of Orlov’s. Jensen will have a career year heading into free agency; he has matched his career-high of 21 points set last season.

Two players with a current cap below $1 million may see significant raises in free agency due to their play this season. 

Trevor van Riemsdyk, making $950,000 this year, recently set a new personal best when he scored his sixth goal of the season on January 31. He is only three points away from tying his 17 points from last year. He regularly skates between 18 and 20 minutes per game and is part of the Capitals’ penalty kill.

Erik Gustafsson is having his best season since 2019-20 when he was with Chicago. He is the Capitals’ fifth leading points scorer thanks to his 22 assists, tied for third in that category with Alex Ovechkin. He performed strongly in December, ending the month with six goals and 14 points in 14 games. He scored three of those goals on December 17 for his first NHL hat trick. Gustafsson has filled Carlson’s spot on the power play following Carlson’s injury.

MacLellan could still make trades that change the contract situation, but as it stands now, the Capitals should be most concerned about their future on defense. Only two prospect defenders will still be signed after this summer, and Washington wants to continue developing them in the system.

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