Washington Capitals: Breaking down salary cap space after the expansion draft

Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Washington Capitals lost Vitek Vanecek to the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft. They didn’t get fleeced but it is not looking good heading into the NHL offseason when the rosters unfreeze at 1 p.m. today. Who knows what happens from that point? What we do know now is that General Manager Brian MacLellan will be extremely busy in the weeks ahead.

The Caps headed into the expansion draft with just nine million in cap space. Vanecek’s loss only accounts for just barely over 700K so that’s not a lot of money to work with and now the Caps have to add a goaltender to the equation to backup Ilya Samsonov.

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The Vanecek selection cleared $716,667 off the books. That’s it. Nothing more. All signs are now pointing to a trade. That’s the only way to shed salary to give Ovechkin the contract he deserves. The Caps are now in a tough spot and it’s important that they get this right.

This isn’t about trading Evgeny Kuznetsov either because even if the Caps did that may not be enough. They may have to trade away someone who they thought they were going to initially lose to Seattle. Someone like Brenden Dillon with a $3.9 million cap hit, Justin Schultz ($4 million) or even Nick Jensen ($2.5 million) or Dmitry Orlov ($5.1 million) would have to get moved. Not because they were bad but because of the business side of things.

Whatever happens it is a chess match for Brian MacLellan to figure out. The Kraken made things 10 times more complicated. What could the Caps do at net minder? Could Henrik Lundqvist make a triumphant return? Vanecek will be missed and it really stinks that we lost him but at the same time you could only protect one goalie and that’s part of the rules.

The Caps will have $9,735,407 in cap space in which to work with when the rosters unfreeze at 1 p.m. today. In a perfect world they would just get everything over with now with the Ovechkin contract and the Kuznetsov trade and the defensive shakeup that’s coming. There are prospects on the blue line that would be ready to step into NHL action if the Caps were to trade any of their defensemen.

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Whatever happens one thing is guaranteed, things are about to really heat up. Welcome to the offseason.