Laich is the organization’s longest-tenured player but has just one goal and six assists. He is in the midst of a 47-game goal drought.
The 32-year-old has one year left on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $4.5 million. If Laich clears waivers and is assigned to the American Hockey League, the Capitals would get $950,000 in cap space.
But coach Barry Trotz told reporters in Arlington, Virginia, after practice that defenceman John Carlson would be placed on long-term injured reserve with a lower body injury that’s expected to keep him out three to four weeks. That would open up enough salary cap space to activate forward Jay Beagle, who has been out after undergoing hand surgery.
The Capitals are right up against the cap ceiling ahead of Monday’s trade deadline. They acquired defenceman Mike Weber from Buffalo on Tuesday, but the Sabres retained half of his salary.
Assuming Laich clears waivers, the Capitals could keep him on the active roster and in the lineup. They’d be able to send him to the AHL’s Hershey Bears at any point over the next 30 days if they add salary at the deadline or when Carlson is back.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Thursday that it was difficult to see Laich’s play decline in recent years because of injuries. Even though he has a long-term emotional connection to Laich going back to 2004, MacLellan foreshadowed a move coming.
"The business part does kick in," MacLellan said. "There’s a point where there’s a business decision that needs to be made. That’s just what it is. You can’t get around it."
The Capitals could buy out Laich this summer and save $2.67 million against the cap in 2016-17. MacLellan said the team has a two-year Stanley Cup window, this season and next, and then will have to make some decisions.
Also Saturday, the Arizona Coyotes claimed forward Jiri Sekac off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Coyotes are Sekac’s fourth team in two seasons, following Montreal, Anaheim and Chicago.
The Minnesota Wild placed Chris Porter on waivers, and the Boston Bruins placed forward Max Talbot on waivers. Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jared Cowen cleared waivers.