I can't say that I'm terribly surprised that Jose Theodore hasn't had any discussions with the Washington Capitals (as read here this morning), but I am exceptionally curious to know what kind of leverage he might have when negotiating a new deal away from the US capital.
First of all, Theodore is coming off of a 2-year deal that had an annual cap hit of $4.5 million, which is a fair chunk of change for a number one goalie. I don't think it was unfair to pay Theodore as a number one goalie, as he was brought in to fill that role in 2008 and he has done the job admirably, when called upon. Unfortunately for Theodore, the Capitals have some wealth in goaltending prospects, including Semyon Varlamov, who took back the starting role before the playoffs this year and Michal Neuvirth, who is currently leading the Hershey Bears in the AHL Calder Cup Finals at the moment. With two young goalies like that, the big contract of Theodore has become expendible.
As for his numbers, Theodore has managed to win at least 30 games in his two seasons with the Capitals, but arguably, with that much firepower up front, 30 wins should be expected of any goalie that can figure into 45+ games a year. It's definitely a credit to his play that he didn't stink it up behind Alex Ovechkin and company and won a lot of games, but how much credit is it actually worth? I would imagine in some negotiations, you might have teams try and discount his value because of the team in front of him.
What is going to be the role that Theodore has when he signs with a new team? I would have to think that he'll be holding out for a starting job, so the longer he stays on the market, would suggest the likelihood that he'll have to take a back-up role, which will greatly affect his pay scale, but looking at the teams that will (or may) be shopping for a starter (Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Jose or Tampa Bay) he might get snapped up in a hurry.
At age 33, there should be no consideration that Theodore is over-the-hill at all, especially since he put up some tremendous numbers in the regular season for a contending team. The length of deal he will likely attract couldn't be all that big, likely again in the 2-year range, especially with the amount of young talent most teams have coming up through their system. Most teams would be looking at Theodore as a short-term solution or use him in more of a mentoring role.
All of that being said, I am expecting to see an annual cap hit of about $3 million, maybe $3.5 million, for Theodore for the 2011 season, which is quite reasonable for his experience and the new team that he joins will probably be in need of a number one guy, so there will be a marketable price given.
Right now, I think his best fit would probably be in Tampa Bay, as they have some good young keepers coming through their system and Theodore could platoon the role with Mike Smith. Theodore would be a fresh face in a rebuilding city like Tampa and they could be a pretty good team in a couple of seasons, likely to help fuel better contract negotiations for another deal down the line.
That was just me thinking out loud again...