With the start of free agency having come and gone, it appears the Washington Capitals are standing pat — for now.
Joel Edmundson was the team’s first addition, acquiring the 30-year-old defenseman via trade with Montreal. The team then took a gamble by signing 34-year-old Max Pacioretty — recovering from his second Achilles’ tear — in hopes of improving the team’s goal scoring.
Entering the offseason with limited money to spend, the team now has an estimated $3.5 million in remaining cap space, according to CapFriendly — apparently earmarked for the return of restricted free agent Martin Fehervary.
Despite the team’s two additions focusing on short-term success, they have made one of the league’s oldest teams even older. But the front office is still eyeing deals to acquire players in the 25 to 30 age range, however difficult they may be to come across.
“We’ll continue to look for opportunities,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Sunday. “If that age group player is available in a trade, we’ll pursue it.”
Alex DeBrincat could fall into that category. He’s a restricted free agent and does not intend to re-sign long-term in Ottawa, making him a prime trade candidate this offseason.
Could the Capitals make a serious run at DeBrincat? Well, that’s where things get complicated.
His age is the first big plus for the Capitals, whose roster currently features six players aged 33 or above. And with questions surrounding the team’s identity after Alex Ovechkin retires, the addition of DeBrincat would go a long way toward establishing the Capitals’ future.
DeBrincat would also represent an improvement in the top six for the Capitals, which MacLellan emphasized as a priority this offseason. He tallied a fourth-best 66 points — 27 goals, 39 assists — for the Senators last season, and has two seasons of 75 or more points during his six-year career.
DeBrincat, who has a $9 million qualifying offer from the Senators, would have to be acquired via trade, but the necessary extension seems to be out of the realm of the Capitals’ financial possibilities — barring any deals to unload the contracts of Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov and retaining as little cap as possible.
The Capitals would have Mantha’s contract coming off the books next season, as well as the fact that Pacioretty will be a free agent — providing just a little more flexibility in the future. But that doesn’t impact the team’s flexibility now, which is a major hurdle to clear.
If dealt, DeBrincat would have until Dec. 1 to sign an extension and be able to play this season, effectively setting a deadline for Washington (or anyone) to take a stab at a deal.