Washington Capitals Offseason: Examining the Top 5 Worst Contracts
The motto of any front office is “our strategy is to spend money on the right player at the right price.” Obviously, no front office will have a perfect record but some are certainly better than most.
Over the next month, Stars and Sticks is going to look at the five best contracts on the Washington Capitals and the five worst. Hey, it’s the offseason and NHL ’14 isn’t out yet! Nothing like reconstructing our own team to get us depressed/ pumped for the upcoming season.
We’re going to start with the bad first and save the best for last. Just because we have been disappointed in George McPhee lately doesn’t mean everything he touches crumbles into dust. In fact, some of his recent contracts have actually been pretty good.
#5 Joel Ward
Now we love Joel Ward as a player but not for $3 mil a year for the next two years. George McPhee signed Ward off a phenomenal playoff performance and admitted outright that he overpaid by 15%.
Now that over-payment works out to a market value deal of $2.6 mil per year. Now 400k a season isn’t that much for Uncle Ted’s checkbook but the real pain point is in the salary cap.
If Ward is slotted in at $2.6, no one is calling for him to be amnestied this offseason and Ward looks like a fantastic value on the third line. That 400k of cap room could have made a huge difference in cap flexibility and that is where the tragedy is.
The Capitals, via CapGeek, have the most expensive forward corps of players in the NHL ($3.4 mil per player). Now there are two major downsides to this sobering fact.
First, the Caps are spending too much for poor quality. If you check the Capitals depth compared to an elite team, there is a shocking lack of skill. Only Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom would be considered sure-fire top six players on any of the Stanley Cup contenders.
Joel Ward is a microcosm for the entire forward corps of the Caps. There aren’t very many vastly terrible contracts but there are many marginal over-pays. Every dollar counts in the new NHL and the Capitals have wasted too many of them.
The second downside is that due to the front office spending so much on our forwards, our defense is the eighth lowest in the league. Now while spending is not indicative of quality (our forwards demonstrate that), it would help to be able to shell out the big bucks for another top four defenseman.
The Washington Capitals have not made a significant investment in their defense corps other than Mike Green, hardly a defensive defenseman. We must point out that two of George McPhee’s crowning achievements, was locking up John Carlson and Karl Alzner on the cheap. This does contribute to our lower defense average but our bottom three defenseman are the biggest reason for our low spending (and thus are also are biggest problem).
For too long, the priority of these savings has been misguided. The best place to find value is bottom six wingers not your bottom three defensemen. Defense wins championships and the Capitals defense is a huge reason for their playoff flame-outs in recent seasons.
Joel Ward is a perfect example of the failures in the front office. Third line wingers are a dime a dozen and those resources could have been better utilized to solidify the defensive depth that the Capitals so sorely lack.
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