Shortly after the relatively uneventful first round of the NHL draft concluded Friday, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed the current state of contract negotiations with pending unrestricted free agent Mikhail Grabovski.
"I think the money is a little bit prohibitive right now," MacLellan said. "We need to address some areas financially."
MacLellan reiterated Friday that his offseason priorities are to bolster the Capitals' defensive depth and find an experienced backup goaltender. The NHL and NHLPA announced prior to the draft that the upper limit of next season's salary cap will be $69 million, which leaves Washington with roughly $12.8 million in available space.
Speculation indicates that Grabovski, who finished with 35 points in 58 games last season, is in search of a multi-year contract worth around $5 million annually. That could be similar to the five-year, $27.5 million contract that was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Capitals last August.
If the financial gulf between the Capitals and Grabovski is too wide to overcome, then Washington will once again have a void at second-line center. MacLellan is prepared to fill it in-house, most likely with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson or Brooks Laich.
The 30-year-old forward's agent, Gary Greenstin, attended the first round and spoke to MacLellan twice in an attempt to inch closer to an agreement that was suitable for both parties.
'We're trying to get to a comfortable number that we can work with," MacLellan said.
With Washington's preparations for the draft overlapping with the free agent interview period that opened Wednsday and runs through Monday, MacLellan admitted that he has only spoken to one free-agent-to-be, though more are planned.
"The next couple days are critical. We have a couple free agents we've targeted and we're going to pursue them," he said. "Hopefully, we get one, maybe two."
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