I had an outlook for the my beloved Washington Capitals this summer. It was a simple one that would get money off the books to sign key cogs back into the books. My list was:
- Expose Brooks Orpik in the Expansion Draft
- Create a side deal that had Vegas pick Orpik and trade Dmitry Orlov, a prospect, and a pick as incentive.
- Re-sign TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
- Hope Karl Alzner would want to stay on to help defensively
Only two of those things happened and much worse happened. The Caps did re-sign Oshie and Kuznetsov to very long-term deals, they lost one of their best skating defensemen in the Expansion Draft (Nate Schmidt), the traded Marcus Johansson, and lost Alzner to Montreal (which, Karl, they haven’t been out of the second round in the last three playoffs either, champ). All this on top of the fact Orpik is still under contract, they re-signed Brett Connolly, got Devante Smith-Pelly on a two-way deal, and still have to re-sign Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer.
The Caps sit at 15 rostered players and 38 contracts (of the 50 max) and have $8.5M left to fill it all out.
Now, there’s parts of me that understand the whole “blow up the team and trade Ovechkin mentality” and parts of me that understand the “what are you, stupid?? This team has won two consecutive Presidents Trophies.” Right now, I think the Caps management is hedging their bets that this team they’re assembling is still as elite as the last two teams and will make it further in the playoffs than those teams.
Some points that needed to be made from my point of view. First, you are playing Kuznetsov on potential. He’s only hit the 20-goal mark once and hasn’t gotten to the 80-point plateau, but he’s a second-liner; which many teams would take all day. Kuznetsov is the heir-apparent to Ovechkin as the face of the franchise, so you have to pay that potential. Second, you had to trade Johansson while his value was high. Yes, MoJo was a big contributor to the Caps last year, but the sample size the Caps have with him show that he could have peaked after six seasons in DC– so why not get rid of him to clear space?? Oshie’s deal is a big one, taking him until he’s 38, but if he’s still contributing– why not do that deal?? He’s one of the best guys on the right-side the Caps have seen in a while and is someone who plays his role on the power play and on the top line very well to help with this offense.
Defensively, I’ve never been a fan of Orlov– I don’t know why, I just get overly nervous when he’s out there for a shift. I guess it’s another situation where you’re paying on a potential the Caps see in him, especially with the lack of development being seen in Hershey with the other blue-chip prospects. There’s not a market for Orpik– an aging defenseman with little to no foot speed. The best option was the make a deal with Vegas in order to get him off the books for the next two seasons or even a buyout– but the Caps held-steady.
It’s a weird period for the Caps and their fans. Their star is getting older, their window is pretty much a crack right now, and this is a team with some kind of mental block in the playoffs that they can’t seem to get over and no sports psychologist can figure out (assuming they go to a sports psychologist). Yes, there’s some potential in Hershey with Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, as well as Shane Gersich at the University of North Dakota waiting for his time– so there’s hope. To hedge their bets like this and hope that an immediate rollover will be seamless with the new blood is a bit crazy– but I expect nothing less out of this teams after the years of wackiness that has transpired.