July 1 is the first day of free agency. What this means is that starting at noon, all the players without a current contract (or qualifying offer in the case of restricted free agents) are fair game to sign with whatever team they want. This year's potential big names are Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, while young defenseman Justin Schultz gave us an early taste of the games to be played before signing with Edmonton. So what does this mean for McPhee and the Capitals organization? If you believe what he says: A) Not much at all and B) You must be a recent fan.
By position, here is where Washington's roster stands as of this moment, with cap hits in parentheses. Although all of the team's restricted free agents were extended qualifying offers, none of them have accepted and thus are not included.:
LW: Ovechkin ($9,538,462), Chimera ($1.75 mil)
RW: Brouwer ($2.35 mil), Ward ($3.0 mil)
C: Backstrom ($6.7 mil), Laich ($4.5 mil), Ribeiro ($5.0 mil), Johansson ($900k), Hendricks ($825k)
D: Alzner ($1.285 mil), Hamrlik (#3.5 mil), Orlov ($900k), Schultz ($2.75 mil), Erskine ($1.5 mil), Poti ($2.875 mil)
G: Holtby ($637,777), Neuvirth ($1.15 mil)
For those not willing to do the math, this leaves Washington with about $20.8 million to work with until they hit the new salary cap of $70.3 million. These numbers are of course subject to the new CBA, whenever that gets signed, but for now we work with the numbers we've got. That free space has to go toward signing the RFAs (whose qualifying offers currently come in at just under $8 million, and that number can be expected to go up) as well as any UFAs.
It's certainly worth noting that while Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson are both technically centers, they are often called to play on the wing. It is the general consensus that Johansson will play on the wing this year, while Laich's role may be a little murkier due to the emergence and relatively strong play of Mathieu Perreault, one of the team's RFAs. Speaking of RFAs, they are as follows: Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, Mike Green, and John Carlson. The latter three are expected to re-sign and stay with the team, while Perreault may or may not be long for DC depending on other moves. What is obvious, though, is that there are some gaps at wing. Even if Laich, Johansson, and Hendricks play on wing, that leaves a hole on the top-6 forwards, and possibly a bottom-6 role as well if MP85 moves after all. Matias Sjogren still has a shot to make the roster, while Stanislav Galiev is a dark horse candidate to skip the AHL and go straight to the NHL. Long story short? Expect a move, either to sign one of the top available scoring forwards, like my personal favorite (of who is left) P.A. Parenteau, or via trade. Many out there are expecting McPhee to make a play for a top-4 defenseman, but there is little indication that is either a reality or a necessity. Personally, I would be shocked if the Caps added another defenseman, and actually expect one or more to be moved in a trade for a top forward or in a salary dump *cough*Erskine*cough* to make room for a free agent. That said, Sheldon Souray and Matt Carle are possibilities to rock the red in 2012.
Then again, McPhee really could just stand pat, resign all the RFAs, call up Sjogren, and call it a day. I don't even think that is a bad idea, personally. It would leave a ton of salary cap room in case things don't pan out and a trade or signing needs to be made later on in the season.
Game on, folks.