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Capitals hope to avoid arbitration with Johansson

Washington GM MacLellan says contract will have big impact on offseason plans

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is in Las Vegas for the 2016 NHL Awards Show on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN) as a finalist for the General Manager of the Year Award, but part of him feels like he's missing out on the action in Buffalo leading up to the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"All the managers are in Buffalo right now, so it's a little frustrating," MacLellan said during a media conference call Tuesday. "Most guys are down in Buffalo a little early and there's three [GM finalists] here in Las Vegas. I try to get on the phone early in the morning and have discussions about what guys are thinking of doing and try to find fits with other teams."

MacLellan characterized it as "a normal level of discussions" about trades heading into the draft. In addition, general managers are preparing to court potential unrestricted free agents from other teams; the period for doing that begins on Saturday.

After the Capitals fell short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, falling to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Eastern Conference Second Round, MacLellan would like to upgrade his bottom six forwards either via trade or unrestricted free agency.

"I think it's important that we explore all of it," he said. "We've had meetings and identified guys we think that would fit the criteria we're looking for in our bottom six. We looked at free agency too, possible targets that we might have that we'll check in with coming up here next week, and we'll pursue everything."

MacLellan's biggest concern appears to be re-signing potential restricted free agent forward Marcus Johansson, which could prove to be the linchpin budget-wise to whatever other moves he hopes to make this offseason. MacLellan said he intends to submit qualifying offers to Johansson and fellow restricted free agents Tom Wilson, Michael Latta and Dmitry Orlov before the 5 p.m. ET deadline on June 27.

MacLellan sounded confident he'd be able to re-sign Wilson, Latta and Orlov, but acknowledged, "I think the Marcus Johansson one is going to impact us the biggest."

Johansson finished sixth on the Capitals with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) in 74 regular-season games in 2015-16 after getting 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games in 2014-15.

The 25-year-old native of Landskrona, Sweden made $3.75 million in 2015-16 on a one-year salary arbitration award. If Johansson files for salary arbitration again before the July 5 deadline and goes through the full process without agreeing to another contract, he'd receive another one-year award, which would bring him potentially to unrestricted free agency next summer.

MacLellan said he's "optimistic" the sides can avoid arbitration this year.

"I think we should be able to get to a term and a number that both parties are comfortable [with]," MacLellan said. "I know Marcus has expressed a desire to stay within the organization. He likes his role, he likes his teammates and he likes where he's at, and we do [too]. We like what he's done this year, the improvements he's made. But we still need him at a number that works for us and where we have him slotted within the League payroll structure."

The problem in settling on that number is that Johansson has, "some pretty decent stats and some of the comparables could have a higher number than we're comfortable with," MacLellan said.

With Johansson's contract unlikely to be settled quickly, MacLellan sounded prepared to lose forward Jason Chimera, 37, when he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

[Chimera] had a great year last year," MacLellan said. "He scored 20 goals and has been a big part of our organization over the last number of years. [We'd] love to have him back. It's just, I think, a lot of timing is going to have to fall into place for us to have him back. If we can get our guys signed and we see a good fit for [Chimera] and the salary number comes in and the term comes in the right way, I think we'd pursue it."

MacLellan said defenseman Karl Alzner's recovery from surgery to repair a sports hernia on June 15 is going well.

"Everything is on schedule and I expect him to be 100 percent for training camp," MacLellan said.

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