Photo: Bruce Bennett
A few weeks ago, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that if Caps’ defenseman Brooks Orpik had a season-ending lower-body injury, General Manager Brian MacLellan would be interested in acquiring pending-UFA Dustin Byfuglien from the Winnipeg Jets. The 6’5″, 260-lbs. defenseman won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 and has been named to three all-star teams.
With Brooks Orpik’s health situation uncertain, a couple of sources indicated to check Washington’s interest in Dustin Byfuglien. There’s logic to this, as their cap hits are within $300,000 of each other. Can you imagine the Capitals with him? Anyways, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen. Word is Orpik’s injury is not season-ending. If he was gone until the playoffs (e.g. Patrick Kane last year), I could see Washington trying.
While Orpik has no timeline for returning, he has begun skating in the last week, seeming to indicate that he may return soon.
Orpik skated today for the second time this week but still no timeframe, Trotz said.
— Katie Brown (@katiebhockey) January 13, 2016
But that rumor is not dead yet. Friedman went on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 on Monday morning and revealed that he still thinks a Byfuglien-to-the-Caps deal could happen.
“Oh, I think they’re all in. They’ve pushed their chips on the table and they said, ‘Okay, we’re in.’
[ . . . ]
“I reported a few weeks ago that if Orpik had been out they might have taken a run at Byfuglien. I still think it’s possible, depending on what happens with Byfuglien in Winnipeg, that they could be a target for him.
“I think Washington is definitely in on adding. I don’t think they have a lot to add, mind you. I know they were looking for a center even before Jay Beagle got hurt. They have Mike Richards in there now. He just played his first games. I’m curious to see where that’s going to go. So I don’t know if they’re still looking for centers, depending on how Richards plays, but I do think that Washington is all in. They will be looking to add, and they should because they’re good enough.”
It would be complicated for the Caps to swing that deal. As General Fanager shows, assuming Orpik is not lost for the season, the Caps would have to get really creative to fit in Byfuglien’s $5.2 million cap hit.
One way the Caps could free up some cap space would be to trade veteran Brooks Laich, whose playing time stands to be even further diminished with the addition of Mike Richards. Laich’s cap hit is $4.5 million through 2016-17. Considering Laich’s fourth-line role, the Caps would almost certainly have to retain some of that salary in order to move him.
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