Tyson Strachan didn’t make the team; will Tom Wilson? (Photo credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)
With the deadline to submit opening-day rosters approaching at 5:00 PM Tuesday, the Washington Capitals moved towards finalizing their 23-player roster with a flurry of moves on Sunday.
The Caps assigned defensemen Michal Cajkovsky, Dmitry Orlov, and Tyson Strachan (who cleared waivers at noon) and forward Dane Byers to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. They have also placed forward Joel Rechlicz on waivers. Today was the final day players could be put on waivers before rosters must be set, meaning the Caps won’t be able to demote any more players who have those rights.
That leaves Washington with 21 players on the roster (13 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders) and three prospects trying to crack the lineup: Connor Carrick, Tom Wilson, and Michael Latta.
Carrick is a frontrunner for one of the two spots. The Caps’ fifth-round selection at the 2012 Draft, Carrick had a great camp and is the only waiver-exempt defenseman left on the roster. With just seven blueliners still in DC, it looks like the Caps defense is all but set at this point. Carrick, a right-handed shot, is likely to battle Steve Oleksy for a sweater in his hometown on Tuesday.
Latta, quietly, had a strong camp as well. The Caps could use a player with his physical presence, but who can still chip in offensively on the fourth line. He plays a competent defense.
Wilson brings an unmatched physicality to the roster, as well as a rapidly developing offensive ability. In the preaseason, he had chances almost in every game and scored three goals. Wilson seems to have outgrown the juniors and, considering that once you send him to juniors he cannot be recalled until the OHL season is over, head coach Adam Oates and general manager George McPhee seem to want an regular-season audition at least.
What’s making this whole situation tricky is the salary cap: with a 21-man roster, they are approximately $1.2 million under the cap. Any 23-man roster involving Wilson will push them above the salary limit (though they always can start a season with 22 men on the active roster).
Brooks Laich is still technically injured, meaning there’s always a chance to place him on long-term injury reserve and push the salary cap a little higher. That’s unlikely, however, considering Oates’ statements that Laich will play in the season opener and the fact that NHL CBA has a mechanism of independent evaluation of player if league finds the placing on LTIR suspicious. It’d also prohibit Laich from playing for the latter of next 10 games and next 24 days.
That means Caps have three options:
- Give the remaining spots to Carrick/Latta. CapGeek’s information on Carrick’s contract is likely incomplete. If he has any performance bonuses in his contract like almost all entry-level players do, the Caps will be able to use bonus cushion to fit in both Carrick and Latta (but not Wilson).
- Make a trade. McPhee has recently told the media the trade talks around the league have picked up.
- Roll with a 22-man roster for now. If Caps want to give Wilson a regular season audition, they can push the decision making to a further point in the season by sending both Carrick and Latta to Hershey. McPhee has said he expects to start with a full squad, but he may be forced to do otherwise.