Earlier this off-season, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he saw 25-year-old blueliner Dmitry Orlov as a player who was going to take a big step forward for the team this coming campaign. That can still be the case, but it’s going to require the Capitals and Orlov finding a way to agree to a new deal.
Less than two weeks before the start of training camp, the Capitals and Orlov don’t yet have a pact, and the restricted free agent defenseman said he’s not even thinking about signing a new deal at the moment. Instead, with the World Cup tournament and a second-pairing role with Russia ahead of him, Orlov told the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan he’s focusing on the task at hand. Then, maybe, he can start thinking about a contract.
“Of course, every player wants to have contract and every player wants to know where he going to play after World Cup,” Orlov told Khurshudyan. “But right now, I focus on World Cup and we’ll see how it goes.”
Orlov’s situation isn’t unique, and he’s not even the only RFA on his own World Cup club. Orlov, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov remain without contracts for the coming campaign. But that doesn’t make Orlov’s situation any less interesting.
Though he has only just broken into the league, Orlov displayed some signs of growth throughout the past campaign and he played well considering he needed nearly a full year away from the game after a broken wrist cost him his entire 2014-15 season. Trotz saw some positives, too, and told Khurshudyan in late-August that he sees Orlov slotting into the blueline’s top four. That would be a big step up from the 16 minutes of ice time Orlov averaged in 2015-16, and an even bigger step considering he was used sparingly this past post-season.
Increased responsibility would likely come with an increased salary, though. He’s coming off of a two-year, $4-million deal, and he’s likely looking for a raise. Even if that raise is only by $500,000 -- and he may have earned that with his eight-goal, 29-point performance in 2015-16 -- that puts the Capitals in somewhat of a bind. And if Orlov signs short-term at a cut rate, will he make Washington pay for it down the road?
And it really is the salary cap that makes signing Orlov most difficult. At present, the Capitals have less than $3.5 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, and they have a number of key players becoming either restricted or unrestricted free agents come next off-season. The list includes T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Stanislav Galiev, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt. Combined, those six players could easily command upwards of $15 million and take up more than half of the cap space Washington is currently slated to have available come July 2017.
Trotz’s comments make it clear that Orlov is a part of the Capitals’ plans going forward, but now Washington has to hope Orlov sees the Capitals as a part of his future. Because as of right now, he doesn’t sound so sure.
“You know, I play five years in USA, so of course, I like it here,” Orlov told Khurshudyan. “And I would like to stay there, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen. We’ll see.”
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