Of the five players who received qualifying offers last week that were eligible for salary arbitration, two have elected to do so: defenseman Milan Jurcina and forward Brooks Laich.
Jurcina, a 6-foot-4, 233-lb. defenseman acquired in February from the Boston Bruins for a 4th round selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft, made $500K in the 2006-2007 season. That’s a pretty paltry amount for a promising 24-year-old who, playing alongside former Bruins teammate and current Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, immediately became one of the Caps’ steadiest blueliners and is considered one of General Manager George McPhee’s savviest moves in recent years. Considering that even recently-departed journeyman Brian Muir made more money last season, it’s not surprising that Jurcina would look for more than the 10 percent raise that comes with the qualifying offer he received. Hopefully, Jurcina and McPhee will be able to negotiate a deal that keeps the hulking defenseman in Washington for a few more years at a modestly raised salary before the scheduled arbitration hearing hits.
Laich, a 6-foot-2, 208 lb. utility forward, on the other hand, probably should have joined Brian Sutherby, Steve Eminger, and John Erskine in keeping his trap shut and thanking his lucky stars he received a qualifying offer in the first place. It’s not that Laich—-who most Caps followers will forever remember as the dude the team received in trade from the Ottawa Senators for fan favorite Peter Bondra—isn’t an energy guy capable of plugging away on the third or fourth lines and notching a few points. It’s just that the Caps already have more role players than they know what to do with, and Laich doesn’t have Boyd Gordon’s shutdown capability, Matt Pettinger’s speed, Sutherby’s leadership qualities, or Donald Brashear’s left hook. And, with the incoming infusion of actual offensive talent (Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, Nicklas Backstrom), Laich isn’t likely to get another shot as a Top 6 forward.