I really hate that I'm doing this today. But I need to take my mind off last night. And thinking about next year and winning the whole damn thing the year after IT HAS TO BE THIS YEAR is making me feel marginally better. So this is what I've got; a projected salary cap of $76 million, FA's out the jackwagon, and a lot of tough decisions for GMBM. If I were in his shoes:
Center - I'm not defending my position again on why you don't trade Backstrom, Ovechkin, Holtby, Kuzy, Carlson and the rest of your top 50 talent because they keep losing to other top 50 talent. So I'll start by saying that Backstrom and his $6.7M is staying because duh! As an RFA, Kuzy probably needs to be tendered in the 5.7M range. Can't let him go after the season he had. Eller's 3.5M is ghastly. Don't think he's worth that and honestly have no great attachment to him. I'd cut him and take a run at someone like Sam Gagner or Martin Hanzal. Or... maybe... at the quest of weakening our enemy... Nick Bonino. Winnik also can ply his trade elsewhere.
Left Wing - Ovechkin stays. So does Burky. He's earned a 1-way deal, but I'd put him about 2/3 of Kuzy's total. MoJo's career campaign has him worth the 4.6M that I thought he wasn't last season, so kudos to him. Adding to that position would be nice, but the only real attractive option to me is still the guy I wanted last year, Thomas Vanek. $2M should be able to get him here.
Right Wing - You still have Wilson at $2M and Beagle at $1.75M. The #1 priority this offseason is re-signing T.J. Oshie. I'm going to set his number at 5.75M, but I might be willing to go as high as $6.5M. The hardest decision this offseason, in my opinion is Justin Williams. He's a valuable asset, no question, but he's 35. Do you try to get younger? Is his 24/24/48 line easily replaceable? Is there a more attractive option out there? My conclusion; there really isn't. But I'd like to see if he'd take a discount to come back and free up some cap money. He's made over $40M in his career. He knows how close this team is and how good a chance he has to win another ring here. I say try for 2.5M. Brett Connolly is an RFA. If he wants to stay for 1M, great.
Defense - Carlson and his $4M stays, as outlined before. Niskanen stays, unfortunately in the minds of some because I don't you're going to be able to unload his contract and Orpik's, so go with the younger guy. Shattenkirk obviously goes as well. Alzner... man that's a toughie. Up there with Williams. I hate to say it, but I don't think you give him much of a raise. If he isn't willing to stay for $3M, adios, because you have to have money to sign Orlov & Schmidt. Those two guys are going to cost you in the $4.5-5M neighborhood (combined), plus you've still got Chorney and Hershey talent to bring up. I’m not sure a relatively cheap acquisition like Kyle Quincey or Matt Hunwick is going to help our problems.
Goalie - I think we might have one angry Holtbeast next year. He got his money last year and earned it and earned it again this year... until the playoffs. There was no more demonstrably furious guy on the ice after Game 7. He knows this postseason is on him. After seeing his GAA drop in his first four playoff appearances by .54, .36, .51, and .48 when compared to the regular season, this year his GAA rose in the playoffs by .40. And if you'd've told me he was getting pulled from a game, I'd say that would be a series we wouldn't win. And we didn't. The perhaps controversial move is letting Grubauer go. The reason? You acquired Pheonix Copley as part of the Shattenkirk trade. And you better sure as hell not make that a total disaster. He's played very well in Hershey, bump him up for about $1.3M and give up a chance against the big boys.
Total: That puts you at $70.65M with about 5.35M left over to bring up some youngsters on minimal 2-way deals. I know it doesn't sound like there are major sweeping changes that hyper-reactive message boards usually like, but you’re committing career suicide as a GM if you trade away Dan Marino. You ride your thoroughbreds until they die. Even if he only scores 30-40 goals a season from now on, that kind of production is so difficult to replace.
Training Camp Roster - 2017
LW – Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johannson, Andre Burakovsky, Thomas Vanek, Jakub Vrana, Chris Bourque
C – Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Sam Gagner, Jay Beagle, Travis Boyd, Chandler Stevenson
RW – T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, Stanislav Galiev, Paul Carey
D – John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, Taylor Chorney, Christian Djoos, Aaron Ness
G – Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley