Well, the Caps made an NHL signing on Tuesday, inking center/right wing Boyd Gordon - a restricted free agent - to a one-year contract worth $800,000. That’s not exactly going to force a run on season tickets – okay, the franchise is beyond that at this point. But these kinds of signings are all part of the puzzle. Gordon, 26, played in just 36 games last year thanks to a chronic back injury. But he’s one of the team’s most valuable penalty killers, ranking third in ice-time per game shorthanded (2 minutes, 39 seconds). He also won 61 percent of his faceoffs – too few to qualify for the league leaders, but certainly enough to give the Caps two of the sports’ best alongside Dave Steckel. Only Alex Semin has been with the organization longer. Both were 2002 first-round draft picks - No. 13 and No. 17 respectively - and Semin spent a year playing back home in Russia in 2005-06.  

Gordon was one of four Washington NHLers who entered the summer as an RFA and nine overall. Defenseman Jeff Schultz and forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr all are headed to salary arbitration later this summer if they can’t reach a deal with Caps management in the coming weeks. Gordon avoided that often-sticky process. He had four goals and six assists last season during his limited time. Lest we forget - he also scored a monster shorthanded goal in Game 3 against Montreal in that first-round playoff series and assisted on another shorty by Mike Knuble in Game 4. That was back when the Caps were in control of the series and visions of Stanley Cups danced in everyone’s heads. Um…moving on.

Gordon originally left the lineup thanks to his back injury after an Oct. 12 game against New Jersey. Gordon would play all of two games between then and New Year’s Day, criss-crossing the continent to visit specialists until finding an exercise program that helped ease the pain enough to get him back on the ice. Including the playoffs, Gordon played 36 games after Jan. 2.

So Gordon gets a small raise of $38,750 and the salary-cap hit is minimal for a valuable role player. Every team needs them. But there’s still a question if he’s a night-in, night-out player in 2010-11 or more of a healthy scratch. Those third and fourth lines get crowded quick if Fehr and Fleischmann both return and you add in Jason Chimera, Steckel and Matt Bradley. Not sure the Caps would go Steckel/Gordon at center on each of those lines. I’ll kindly say neither is an offensive dynamo and that third line in particular could use a playmaker. So training camp takes on added importance even with that new contract. 

With no major free-agent or trade moves yet, Caps general manager George McPhee has plenty of room to sign Schultz, Fehr and Fleischmann if a deal is there for those players. Assuming 17 players accounted for now, Washington has about $13.5 million in cap space to sign its final six players. Even with raises for those other RFAs that’s a serious chunk of change a lot of teams won’t have when the season starts. 


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