NHL free agency is a lot like Christmas: It comes once a year on the same date and people do plenty of window shopping, salivating over what new toys that they will get to play with.
If that is indeed your mindset and you happen to be a fan of the Washington Capitals, then you have had a pretty lousy Christmas in July.
Since free agency opened Sunday at noon, the Caps have signed one player that will make their roster next season: forward/energy guy Joey Crabb. If General Manager George McPhee's comments Monday are any indication, then that is all Washington will bring in during this summer's free agency period.
"I don't expect to do anything here," McPhee said at an impromptu press conference at Kettler Capitals Iceplex (where the once-melted ice was being refrozen). "I don't see a whole lot out there. We've explored a lot of things. We didn't expect to do a lot in free agency. And we haven't."
McPhee's reason behind that decision has to do with a lack of depth in this year's unrestricted free agent class, leading to a "very inflated market" where role players are garnering higher salaries than perhaps they deserve.
Of course, looking at the Caps' current salary cap numbers, they have about $20 million in space to tinker with their roster. That number alone may cause fans to play general manager themselves, but as McPhee noted, it is not always about the money. There is also the risk of buyer's remorse as well.
"Players go to different places for different reasons," he said. "It's not necessarily the dollars. It's sometimes the fit."
"It's $20 million of space this year, but what's it look like in the future and how long are you committing to? Do you want 15-year deals, 10-year deals on the books? That's not a direction we want to go in right now."
"Everybody wants to do something, but you've gotta be careful, because we all know what it's like to feel like you've got to do something, you do something, then at the end of training camp or the end of October, you're looking at the guy and saying, 'Why did we do that?' Better to be nimble and flexible, and we are right now. We're not going to commit to anything that doesn't make sense to us."
There are still some holes that need to be filled -- particularly a second-line right winger to replace Alexander Semin -- but McPhee maintained Monday that he is happy with his team as is right now and is perfectly content with sitting this one out.
"There aren't very many players," he said. "At some point, you start inventing players and making them out to be better than they are and paying more than you should. It’s sometimes best to sit back and stay out of it.”
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