What Capitals' waiver of Richard Panik means with NHL trade deadline looming

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J.J. Regan
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Capitals place Richard Panik on waivers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals placed forward Richard Panik on waivers on Wednesday after scratching him in three of the last five games. Panik has three goals and six assists in 36 games.

The move will make Panik available to any other team in the NHL to claim. If no one does, he will clear waivers at 12 p.m. on Thursday and the team will be able to reassign him, most likely to the taxi squad.

Panik is on the second year of a four-year contract that carries a cap hit of $2.75 million. With the flat salary cap, teams are being very stingy about acquiring players with term and it seems very likely Panik will clear waivers.

By rule, waiving a player only clears up to $1.075 million of his cap hit so that's how much room Washington stands to gain. The remaining $1.675 million of Panik's cap hit will continue to count against the cap.

When the team has been at full strength this season, it has carried the maximum of 23 players. It has also been over the salary cap for the entire season with Henrik Lundqvist and Michal Kempny on long-term injured reserve. Plus, if Panik is out, that gives the team just 12 forwards, the minimum number of forwards needed for a lineup.

The bottom line is that this was not a move the team would make without a corresponding move in mind which suggests they need the roster spot and/or the cap space. So what comes next? Either the team is going to recall a player from the taxi squad -- all four players of whom have a cap hit of less than $1.075 million so waiving Panik would make this possible -- or it hints that the Caps intend to explore the trade market before Monday's trade deadline.

Waiving Panik is likely the first move of whatever the team has planned next.