8:30pm Update: The Caps just traded for Tyler Graovac to give themselves more flexibility ahead of the expansion draft.
Original story: Several weeks ago, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said that he generally knew who the Caps were going to protect for the upcoming expansion draft. The club would protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender.
The Washington Capitals’ senior writer, Mike Vogel, published an article that gave insight into what he believes is the team’s thinking as they prepare for the expansion draft.
While Vogel doesn’t expect any surprises, he did report an interesting nuance that could cause the Caps to expose both bottom-six centers, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle.
Vogel expects things to proceed as expected on defense and in goal.
The Caps will almost certainly protect 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby and defensemen Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov. $5.5 million veteran Brooks Orpik and talented restricted free agent Nate Schmidt will be exposed.
At forward, things get a little hairy. “It’s easy to project,” Vogel says, that the Caps will protect Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Tom Wilson.
The decision-making lies at the seventh forward spot. The team must expose at least two forwards who are under contract for 2017-18 and who played at least 40 NHL games last season or 70 NHL games over the last two seasons.
Restricted free agent Brett Connolly meets the games played requirement, but has not signed for the upcoming season. So unless the Capitals get Connolly under contract this week, the Caps are in a position where they must expose both their third and fourth line centers, Eller and Beagle.
Between now and Saturday, when the team must submit their official list, the Caps can make one of three decisions as laid out by Vogel.
1) Sign Connolly and expose any two of him, Beagle and Eller.
2) Expose Eller and Beagle as outlined above, and use their seventh protected forward slot on RFA Connolly.
3) Make a minor trade with one of the other 29 established teams that has an extra forward or two on hand that meets the exposure requirements.
Eller is arguably the most valuable player among the three forwards considered though he is in the last year of a four-year $14 million contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Connolly, who scored a career-high 15 goals last season, is also a valuable asset, as he is likely to sign a contract that will provide good value for a third-line scoring winger.
Read Vogel’s full article here.
Headline photo: Elsa/Justin K. Aller
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