Of the 12 Washington Capitals forwards that dressed for the team’s first three games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, just six have more expensive contracts than Eric Fehr. Making $2.2 million a year through next season, Fehr is one of the most expensive healthy scratches in the Eastern Conference (and no that’s not including Wade Redden’s $6 million salary that the Rangers buried by sending him to the AHL).
The issue is, the Capitals have roughly $9 million in cap room for next season, and they still need to sign five forwards- including three scoring-line players in Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm and Brooks Laich. Sturm is almost certainly going to be somewhere else next season, and if he does come back it will be at a fraction of his current $3.5 million cap hit. Arnott will probably look into re-signing with Washington, but also at a lower price. The real kicker is Brooks Laich, because his value as an NHL player has risen since his last deal. Currently making just over $2 million, he’s in line for a raise, and the Caps still need to either re-sign or find replacements for Scott Hannan, Karl Alnzer and Semyon Varlamov.
Fehr’s contract is one that the Capitals need to think about, because $2.2 million is simply too much to be spending on a forward they don’t intend to play. While it’s conceivable that he will regain his lineup spot once Sturm and potentially Arnott find new homes, the Capitals have a blue-chip forward prospect in Evgeny Kuznetsov, and he may be fighting for top-six minutes as early as next season.
Fehr is a talented offensive forward who can produce at the NHL level, as he tallied 21 goals a year ago- which is largely why he was rewarded with a two-year deal worth over $4 million last summer. He has shown that he can produce in big games, as illustrated by his two-goal performance at the Winter Classic and his three goals in seven playoff games in 2010.
Unfortunately for the 25-year old, Fehr may need a change of scenery. He has grown during his time with the organization, but is Eric Fehr ever going to be a top-six forward in Washington? The answer isn’t clear, but it appears less and less likely with each game that he’s a healthy scratch for. With his relatively pricey contract, and relatively low production, it may be best for both parties if Fehr is dealt to a team in need of scoring depth.