The Washington Capitals were one of only a few teams trying to make the playoffs that had little room below the salary cap ceiling to work with.
They aren't among those teams anymore, because a team spokesman confirmed to reporters that top center Nicklas Backstrom has been placed on long-term injured reserve. By putting Backstrom on LTI, the Capitals have an extra $6.7 million of acquisition space to work on trade deadline day.
Washington had less than a $1 million in space before the move, but capgeek.com has the Capitals with the ability to add about $7.693 million Monday. The issue is all of that relief from putting Backstrom on LTI is contingent on the concussed center staying on LTI -- the Capitals can only use all of that space if he doesn't play the rest of the season.
The Capitals are currently one point behind Winnipeg for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand. They are also three points shy of Florida for first place in the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, but the Panthers have a game in hand.
Washington general manager George McPhee is notoriously tight-lipped about his intentions, though there have been reports that he is shopping veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik. If he were to move Hamrlik, who was a healthy scratch and questioned coach Dale Hunter's decision, it would open up $3.5 million of "real" acquisition space that wouldn't rely on Backstrom not playing again during the regular season.
With a healthy Backstrom the Capitals might still need another center to have success in the postseason, and without him they are perilously thin at the position. If McPhee does look at add Monday, expect that to be an area of need he tries to address.
It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.
— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday