The Washington Capitals have been far busier than anyone expected on the first day of NHL free agency, signing Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern while trading away Semyon Varlamov. Combine that with the recent re-signing of Brooks Laich, and there isn't a lot of cap room left. Specifically, the Capitals have just over $2 million remaining, according to CapGeek, and that figure is really more like $1.4 million because Braden Holtby, who makes $633,777, is likely going to be the backup goalie.
That's not a lot of space, and it's particularly important because the Capitals still have some key pieces left to sign. The total does not include blossoming young defensemen Karl Alzner, who is a restricted free agent and is exactly the kind of player the Capitals cannot let go. It only includes Neuvirth and Holtby in net, and they may need a veteran backup as well. It also doesn't include new winger Troy Brouwer, whom the Capitals acquired for their 2011 NHL Draft first-round pick. It obviously doesn't include free agents Jason Arnott, Marco Strum, Scott Hannan and Matt Bradley, all of whom are surely gone at this point.
This means that we should probably expect George McPhee to clear some salary with some trades. Someone is going to have to go. Perhaps it's Tom Poti, who has been injured and may not be able to play again. Poti has two years left on his contract, with a $2.875 million cap hit. Perhaps it's Eric Fehr, who has one year left with a $2.2 million cap hit. Perhaps it's someone bigger, like Alexander Semin or Mike Green. Semin has one year left at $6.7 million, while Green also has one year left at $5.25 million. If either gets dealt, it will mean the "Young Guns" will have officially split up.
So what does McPhee do? It will be very interesting to see. Clearly, the Capitals are indeed preparing to make some big roster changes.