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free agency

Capitals OK with being quiet

GM MacLellan content to sign Connolly, give prospects chance to make roster

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he felt a little left out watching the flurry of free agent activity in the NHL on Friday.

The Capitals didn't plan to make any big moves, with just under $8.9 million in salary-cap space at the start of free agency.

"We're playing in a different market, trying to find a guy in a certain salary range that might have some upside and become a good player for us," MacLellan said.

The player who fit that criteria for the Capitals was forward Brett Connolly, who signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with Washington on Friday. Connolly, 24, had an NHL career-high 25 points in 71 games with the Boston Bruins last season. He was chosen by the Tampa Bay Lighting with the sixth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Video: BOS@FLA: Connolly steals puck, scores on snap shot

"Brett's got some upside to his game," MacLellan said. "He's got skill and offensive ability that hasn't fully come through yet in our minds, and probably his mind too. Hopefully we can take advantage of it. He's got good size, he skates well, he's got good hands, he shoots the puck well."

MacLellan said Connolly, who made his NHL debut with the Lightning in 2011, may have started his NHL career too young but hopes he can start to put things together with the Capitals.

"We're going to try to fulfill his potential, and he's trying to do the same thing," MacLellan said. "We saw it as a good fit for him with the opportunity to play with us and for us to take advantage of his skill level."

Connolly could slot in on the third or fourth line, but that won't be determined until training camp. There are two open forward positions on the bottom six, left by Jason Chimera and Mike Richards. Chimera signed a two-year, $2.25 million contract with the New York Islanders, and Richards is an unrestricted free agent.

Video: Jason Chimera on signing with the New York Islanders

MacLellan said the Capitals hoped to re-sign Chimera, who played in Washington for seven years, but couldn't meet his salary range.

"He's been a good player for us," MacLellan said. "Fun guy to have around, good personality. Disappointing to see him go, but sometimes you've just got to move on."

With Connolly in one of the open forward spots, MacLellan said he wants to give a prospect the chance to fill the other spot. He doesn't foresee the Capitals making any other moves.

"Ideally, unless something falls that's really attractive to us that we think can really help us and it's on a cheap contract, I would anticipate us keeping that spot for one of the young guys or rotating guys through that last forward spot," MacLellan said. "We're going to use that spot for some flexibility unless we see something attractive."

After signing Connolly, Washington has $8 million in cap space, according to General Fanager, with two restricted free agents, forward Marcus Johansson and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, to sign. Forward Tom Wilson, who would have become a restricted free agent, signed a two-year, $4 million contract on Thursday.

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