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Capitals aren't buying into free agency

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Cheers and Jeers,Brian McNally

They are not going to do it. Capitals general manager George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis appear to be on the same page when it comes to NHL free agents: They don't want them. Not this summer at least.

McPhee made that clear last month at the draft in Pittsburgh. Too often contracts are handed out in July and by November the front office wants to trade a player it fought hard to acquire.

"Of all of the tools available, free agency has the most risk, costs the most as you always overpay [because you are in a bidding situation against other teams] and is the most uncertain," Leonsis wrote on his blog, Ted's Take, on Monday. "Just because you have cap space doesn't mean you can use it and get what you want as to a player joining your team."

Some would argue that several contracts handed out so far have been reasonable. Colorado signed winger P.A. Parenteau to a four-year, $16 million deal Sunday. He had 67 points with the New York Islanders last season and would have looked nice on Washington's second line at right wing. But it is the risk that concerns McPhee and Leonsis. Once free agent defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise sign, a logjam of free agents should break.

"But I don't expect that we're going to be involved in a lot," McPhee said. "You have to be really careful and prudent here with a little bit of self-restraint. You get used to the numbers that are flying around, and then you decide to do something, and then 10 minutes later you're wondering why you did it."

McPhee again said Monday that he's unlikely to retain free agent forward Alexander Semin and that the team can replace him internally. It added playmaking center Mike Ribeiro instead -- a move that presumably could help turn an average winger into a 20-goal scorer. Semin had just 21 goals last year for $6.7 million. Troy Brouwer had 18 goals for $2.35 million. But there are also two open spots on right wing now. Are there two internal solutions that don't open other holes? McPhee's work may not be finished yet.

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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