2010 Capitals Free Agency Primer

Around the League general managers, agents, mainstream media pundits, bloggers, and, of course, fans are all getting ready for the opening of free agent season tomorrow at noon.  With the Capitals having acknowledged there will be personnel changes and ownership willing to spend, there's good chance George McPhee and his staff will active in tomorrow's free agent frenzy.  With that in mind, here's a quick look at where the Caps stand as of right now:

Pending UFAs: Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo, Alexandre GirouxMilan Jurcina, Boyd Kane, Quintin Laing, Brendan Morrison, Shaone Morrisonn, Jose Theodore, Scott Walker

Pending RFAs: Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Gordon, Boyd Gordon, Patrick McNeill, Zach Miskovic, Jeff Schultz

Salary cap spaceAbout $15 million

Projected budget: $59.8 million.  The Capitals have the financial means to spend up to the salary cap, but given that the front office staff is smart enough to plan more than one season down the road and that they're likely to want some wiggle room to make moves during the season, the team's actual cap number should come in lower.

Key needs: The biggest concern has to be the hole the Capitals have at second line center.  None of the options within the organization - Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Eric Belanger, and Tomas Fleischmann - are particularly appealing, and the team needs someone who, working with Alexander Semin, can give the Capitals a second elite scoring line.

A lesser, but still valid concern, is the team's defense.  Five of the team's six nightly defensive spots should be spoken for, and although the Caps will probably hold on to John Erskine and Tyler Sloan for depth purposes, neither is a good option for a sweater on a regular basis.  An NHL defenseman of any ilk, from top-pairing quality to third-pairing depth guy, would help and the team has enough flexibility to fashion a capable defense with just about any addition.  Who the team ultimately winds up with, be it via trade or free agency, will depend as much on the player's cap hit and the length of his contract as anything else.

Potential free agent targets include:

Forwards: Matt Cullen, Olli Jokinen, Saku Koivu, Matthew Lombardi, Mike Modano, Vinny Prospal

Defesemen: Mark Eaton, Dan Hamhuis, Pavel Kubina, Toni Lydman, Zbynek Michalek, Willie Mitchell, Derek Morris, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov

So there's a snapshot of what the Caps' situation is heading into free agency. Let us know what you think in the comments section, and be sure to check in on what the other teams around the League are thinking via the SB Nation NHL Free Agency Hub.

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