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free agency

Capitals aren't planning to chase major free agents

Trotz wants Washington to turn to younger players

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The beginning of free agency has been a busy time for the Washington Capitals in the past, but don't expect them to be very active when the free agent market opens Friday.

"I think our team's in a pretty good place," coach Barry Trotz said Thursday. "I don't think we'll be actively going after a high-end free agent or anything. I think if we do anything we might add maybe one forward. But I think we'll be pretty quiet."

Washington has already made two moves: re-signing forward Tom Wilson to a two-year, $4 million contract on Thursday and trading a second-round pick in each of the 2017 and 2018 NHL Drafts to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Lars Eller on June 24.

Before the Wilson contract was announced, Trotz said re-signing him, forward Marcus Johansson, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov -- each was set to become a restricted free agent -- took priority over chasing expensive free agents. If those three players are re-signed, there won't be much money left to play with; with the re-signing of Wilson, the Capitals have about $8.9 million of salary-cap space, according to General Fanager.

Video: Washington's Wilson is mic'd for OT thriller

And that could mean saying goodbye to some veterans. Jason Chimera, 37, is set to become an unrestricted free agent Friday and will likely see his seven-year tenure with the Capitals end this summer.

"I think it's a slim chance that he would have the ability to come back," Trotz said. "He got 20 goals last year. There's not that many 20-goal guys that can skate like Jason Chimera in the National Hockey League. I think he's going to get a three-year deal somewhere in the National Hockey League."

Trotz wants to give some of Washington's prospects a chance to compete for a spot on the roster in training camp in September. He has watched top young players develop under Troy Mann, who coached Hershey of the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup Finals this season. 

"We've been patient with some of our young guys that have made a lot of progress and showed how much they've grown," Trotz said. "They went to the Calder Cup [Finals] and they've really grown. We don't want to block our good young players. We want to have a little bit of a path for our young guys right now, because we have a veteran team."

Video: PHI@WSH, Gm2: Chimera's tip beats Mason from distance

Any move to add a forward through free agency would likely be to bolster the bottom six and make up for the speed that Washington would lose if Chimera leaves. 

General manager Brian MacLellan cited the Capitals' Eastern Conference Second Round series with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins motivation for adding speedier players. Washington won the Presidents' Trophy with 120 points during the regular season but were eliminated by the Penguins in six games.

"We need to play a faster game," MacLellan said. "I think anybody that played Pittsburgh probably feels the same way. My thinking is we need to get a little more secondary scoring. With our young guys maturing having gone through a couple playoff rounds now, I would expect they'd be better. I'd be looking to improve [the] bottom-six forwards a little bit."

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