I had to raise an eyebrow at one of the rumours that Eklund posted this morning, seeing that the Washington Capitals have a lot of interest in potential free agent defenseman, Anton Volchenkov. It should come as no surprise that Volchenkov is really drawing some interest, because he is a valuable defenseman, from a defensive standpoint. He might not put up a great deal of points or generate a ton of offense by himself, but the guy is exceptionally physical and is able to block a lot of shots. I would be drawing the interest around Volchenkov to the same amount of interest that Jay McKee got when he flipped into being an unrestricted free agent.
Offensively, Volchenkov does not tip the scales too far with a career-high of only 19 points, so his fantasy value has not been high, in terms of scoring. I suppose if you work one of those deeper statistical pools, you may find some good uses for Volchenkov in the blocked shots, shots on goal, plus/minus (on a good year) or penalty minutes, but otherwise, he's strictly your defensive defenseman. Of course, if he moved to Washington and was able to unleash the cannon of a shot that he has on a power play, he might actually find himself with some more assists, possibly even some more goals, but that's if he was to move there.
Now, the next thing is determining what his actual cap value will be with his potential deal to see if he could possibly fit in a place like Washington or what they might have to do to fit him in. Volchenkov's last deal, a 3-year, $7.5 million in 2007, was a cap hit of $2.5 million each year and was a pretty solid deal for the Senators, especially for all the hard work they got out of him. In terms of defensive defensemen getting a brand new deal, McKee's deal in 2006 netted him $4 million a year, which was awfully high for a defenseman that doesn't score much. Well, I think $4 million is a good jumping off point for Volchenkov, even four years down the road.
I think the greatest aspect of the Volchenkov free agency situation is that he will be a popular guy come July 1st and there just may be a bit of a bidding war for his services. If the auction was to start around $3.5 million per season, I could easily imagine him being overpaid at around $5.5 million per season by a contending team this Summer. That's a lot of scratch for very little offense, but blocked shots and hits are becoming big business in a very offensive NHL.
Let's call it, the worst-case scenario for the winning club at $5.5 million per year for likely between four or five years in his first unrestricted free agency deal. The Washington Capitals currently have plenty of cap space taken up with their current list of players, 13 players at $43.6 million, so a massive cap hit like the worst-case Volchenkov would really limit the rest of their depth and possibly give more reason to keep some of their developing blueliners in the minors for another year, which is one of those lumps they would have to take. Of course, there may just be a market for a guy like Tom Poti, who has one year at $3.5 million against the cap left on his deal, to a team that needs a bit more offense from the blueline. Out of general speculation, that might just work like a charm.
I would definitely say that Volchenkov signing in Washington is a plausible rumour, especially since a guy like Poti is marketable and the Capitals don't need much more offense from anyone, rather a lot more defense.