The Capitals open training camp next Thursday, and restricted free agent forward Marcus Johansson remains unsigned.
General Manager George McPhee said Wednesday that the Capitals "[are] hoping he'll be there," but in case he is not, head coach Adam Oates is preparing as if Johansson will not be available.
"Obviously, we want him, but we all respect everybody's individual situation," Oates said Thursday. "However it is, I have to prepare for it.
"You don't want it. You want to have everybody, but it happens. It's a part of it and as long as it doesn't become a distraction, it's no big deal."
The Capitals do have 12 NHL forwards under contract, so they are not in dire need of a replacement for Johansson, but a potential absence would cause a shift in Washington's forward lineup. Johansson spent the final 21 regular season games and all seven postseason games skating on the first line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, scoring five goals and assisting on 16 others. As an even-strength line, those three were the most productive among Washington forward combinations with 39 points.
Of course, there is the possibility that Oates may shift the lines regardless and put Johansson elsewhere if and when he signs, but in the mean time, both Martin Erat and Brooks Laich could fill in with Backstrom and Ovechkin. When asked what his plans were for Laich now that Mikhail Grabovski will play second-line center, Oates said that Johansson's status will play a role in determining where Laich fits in.
The Capitals have roughly $2.6 million in salary cap space to offer Johansson, who is believed to be seeking up to $3 million per season. McPhee said Wednesday that they could create space if need be. Johansson's agent, Marc Levine, has declined to comment on the negotiations.
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