Two of the three remaining Washington Capitals restricted free agents: Christian Djoos and Chandler Stephenson both filed for arbitration over the weekend.
What this means is both players and the Washington Capitals can each propose a salary for the ensuing season and if there’s no agreement a hearing will be conducted. A neutral third party can then set the player’s salary.
Cases take place in late July or early August but both the team and player can negotiate leading up to the court date. The hope for both parties is that there’s an agreement to a new contract and no hearing necessary.
The arbitrator has 48 hours to make the salary decision and the team has the right to either accept or decline (via Jamie Fitzpatrick/liveaboutdotcom). If the Capitals choose to decline either Christian Djoos or Chandler Stephenson’s contract proposals, they can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
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In a report from Isabelle Khurshudyan from The Washington Post, both players have hearing dates. Djoos’ hearing will take place on July 22, a Monday just less than two weeks from now. Stephenson’s will take place on August 1. Khurshudyan also noted in the tweet that, “Most RFA negotiations don’t get to that point.”
Per CapFriendly, the Capitals have just $4,285,706. Hope for an agreement of $2-million each next season for Djoos and Stephenson? Easier said than done. Jakub Vrana, another RFA who isn’t eligible for arbitration till next season, is due for a raise as well.
That’s what makes this process all the more complicated. Vrana had his best season last year and he has nowhere to go but up. A long-term deal would’ve been great for him but with the tight cap space it’s looking more likely the Capitals can only sign him to a short-term, bridge deal.
Djoos made $650,000 in each of his last two seasons in Washington. The Capitals extended a qualifying offer worth $715,000. Djoos and his agent Jason Davidson filed for arbitration to make a case for better pay or maybe even an extension of multiple years (via Brian McNally/NBC Sports Washington).
Djoos wasn’t the same last season as he was in 2017-18 but a big part of it was due to a thigh injury that he suffered in early-December and the injury was diagnosed as Compartment Syndrome. He finished the season after he returned to the ice in February and was hardly out there on the ice during the playoffs.
Stephenson may likely be on his way out after the Capitals added Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic to improve their fourth line. But there will likely be a competition there. Nic Dowd will be locked in at center. Leipsic will likely be locked in at the left wing. The starting right wing spot for Opening Night could come down to training camp competition between Hathaway and Travis Boyd.
Stephenson struggled last season on the fourth line. Like Djoos, Stephenson made $650,000 each of his last two seasons and the Capitals made a $715,000 qualifying offer. From his numbers dropping to being shuffled in and out of the lineup in the homestretch of the regular season, it is likely Stephenson will ultimately walk to find a better role elsewhere.
While things have slowed down this NHL offseason, this storyline is looming over Washington like the raincloud on Monday that caused massive floods throughout the city.