Could Michael Nylander Be On The Move?

One rumor we keep hearing in and around the Washington Capitals this offseason concerns the disposition of veteran centerman Michael Nylander. With the team almost $2.7 million over the cap after re-signing a passel of players and a logjam up the middle, it's hard for the folks who watch the team not to speculate as to what General Manager George McPhee might have up his sleeve to get under the cap by opening night.

Toss in the fact that Nylander's former agent, Mike Gillis, is now General Manager in Vancouver, and you have a pretty typical recipe for intrigue.

And here's something new for the mix: Our FanHouse colleague Jon "J.P." Press, with an assist from some of his readers, discovered that Nylander put his Potomac, Md. house on the market back on July 17. The discovery is just more fuel for the fire, as former goalie Olie Kolzig's departure from Washington was also presaged by a real estate listing for his home.

When you take a look at the numbers, it's clear that moving Nylander, who was imported from the New York Rangers as a free agent before the start of last season, would solve the team's cap problem in one fell swoop. Coming in at a cap hit of $4.875 million, trading the veteran center would take care of the overage and provide about $2 million in cushion going into the season -- just the sort of cushion that most GMs would like to have come the trade deadline.

But will the Caps need to move Nylander at all? The answer: It depends.

One of the other pressing questions concerning the Caps has to do with their defense, in particular with the health of Brian Pothier, who was knocked out of the lineup with a concussion in January. Back in July, a local newspaper in Massachusetts reported that Pothier had seriously considered retirement after a recent setback. I made a quick call to the Caps to check on Pothier's progress, where a spokesman confirmed that the last time the McPhee had mentioned the injured defenseman during Summer development camp, it was simply to say that Pothier's situation was "day-to-day."

If Pothier can't return, the team would get relief for his $2.5 million salary, leaving only a couple hundred thousand dollars to trim in time for opening night. Of course, that eventuality would raise other questions, with the speculation perhaps turning to one of the many of the young forwards boasting affordable salaries that are awfully easy to move.

Outside of the financial considerations, there are plenty of other reasons to keep Nylander around. After missing most of last season to a shoulder injury, it's easy to forget why he was brought to Washington in the first place. This time last year, folks were talking about Nylander stepping in to center the top line beside Alex Ovechkin while also serving as a mentor to rookie and fellow Swede Nickals Backstrom.

To be sure, in Nylander's absence Backstrom blossomed under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, while the deadline acquisition of Sergei Fedorov certainly proved to be a tonic -- especially in the playoffs. Still, Fedorov will turn 39 in December, while it isn't exactly unheard of for a rookie to suffer some backsliding in their sophomore campaign. When you look at it that way, Nylander, an absolute fitness freak himself, provides some very valuable insurance -- perhaps even more valuable considering he's signed for three more seasons while Fedorov is only under contract for one, and has expressed the desire more than once to finish his career playing in Russia with his brother, Fedor.

But while there's plenty of uncertainty regarding the situation, one thing is for sure: Nothing is getting done anytime soon. That same team spokesman also confirmed that McPhee wasn't in the office, and wasn't expected back anytime in the near future.

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