Dates, awards finalists, opting out, new faces, exhibition schedule and the Ottawa Senators rebrand.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams concludes with the Washington Capitals and their outlook for the summer– headaches, lots of headaches and not the salary cap related kind.
It only took 13 NHL seasons, but Alex Ovechkin is finally a Stanley Cup champion– and once you’re a Stanley Cup champion, you’re a Stanley Cup champion. No more “annual Second Round exit” jokes, no more counting the number of seasons or games until Ovechkin finally wins the Cup.
Instead, we’re left counting the number of beers all of the Capitals can consume in one offseason– and that’s from winning, not being eliminated this time around.
Kidding aside, Barry Trotz led the Caps to a 49-26-7 record and 105 points on the season. That was good enough for 1st in the Metropolitan Division in a season when most thought they’d never be as competitive as years past.
This team wasn’t “supposed” to win the Cup. But they did.
Now, Trotz’s two-year extension clause that would’ve kicked in having won the Cup led Trotz to resign as head coach, leaving General Manager Brian MacLellan searching for the next best coach available to step in behind the bench.
Trotz has every right to test the waters of free agency like players can and coaches salaries have risen for top-notch talent (Claude Julien makes $5.000 million a year– guaranteed, while Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville both make at least $6.000 million a year).
He’s the first head coach to not return to his team after winning the Cup since Scotty Bowman retired after winning with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and Mike Keenan left the New York Rangers after winning in 1994 to take the job as head coach of the St. Louis Blues.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Washington has the 31st overall pick in Friday’s draft thanks to winning the Cup.
They’ll either a) keep the pick and use it on a player inside the first or second round rankings, then overcook said prospect until he is ripe for an NHL debut or b) trade the pick for some assets (more picks in lower rounds or replenish some holes on the roster within the tight cap space that they have.
Pending free agents
The Capitals currently have about $11.200 million free in available money to spend this summer. There’s good news and bad news that comes with that.
Good news, Washington will keep some of their glue guys. Bad news, John Carlson is for sure gone because he can make bank (probably around $9.000 million per year) with his next contract elsewhere and MacLellan’s going to trade backup goaltender and pending-RFA, Philipp Grubauer.
This begs the obvious question, can the Capitals go back-to-back?
Yes and no.
Trotz plays a huge role in the postseason run that Washington had. The buy-in, the chemistry in the lineups and the changing strategies that got them further than they had ever gone under Trotz’s tenure– all of that comes under a combo of Trotz and the roster MacLellan built (okay, tweaked, since most of the Capitals were drafted by George McPhee anyway).
And no, because Washington’s run might just be one of those one-off acts where a team slays the competition in the playoffs, then stays competitive in the first or second round(s) for another year or two before returning to Earth.
Chiasson, 27, had nine goals and nine assists (18 points) in 61 games in his first season in Washington. He’s been around the league (Dallas, Ottawa, Calgary and D.C.) and likely will find a new address for 2018-19.
Beagle, 32, had 7-15–22 totals in 79 games played this season. Compared to Chiasson, that’s not that much better in 18 additional games. Beagle’s been part of the bottom-six soul of Washington’s forwards, but in an increasingly younger and faster game, he may be outpaced and outdone by the salary cap for the Capitals to retain his services.
Smith-Pelly, 26, had seven goals in 75 games in the regular season. He had seven goals in 24 gams this postseason. There’s no greater time than now for Smith-Pelly to cash in as one of the most important glue guys to any roster and given Washington’s cash strapped outlook, only time will tell if he’s rocking the red next season.
Wilson, 24, has his antics, reputation and scoring ability? The controversial forward and 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft had his best season in 2017-18 notching career-highs in goals (14), assists (21) and points (35). Washington’s going to want to lock him up if they can, while Wilson may opt for a bridge deal to drive up his value with another productive season or two.
Boyd, 24, hasn’t had a fair shake at the NHL level, having finally reached the Capitals roster in eight games (one assist) this season. He’ll be a low-cost, potentially high-reward (though anything more than one assist is automatically more rewarding) extension if a deal gets done.
28-year-old pending-UFA defender, John Carlson, will be the hottest blueliner on the market and unless MacLellan dumps some salary in a trade, Carlson won’t be back in the U.S. capital.
Michal Kempny, 27, on the other hand, has the chance to become more than a rental player, proving his worth over the course of 22 games in the regular season with Washington after being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks and 24 games in the postseason. He’s a top-6 defenseman that can play top-4 minutes, but like everything in Washington, only time will tell.
Given when this post runs, maybe some of these guys will have signed their name on the dotted line to stick around?
In a lesser sense, near-trade deadline acquisition, Jakub Jerabek, 27, could become more important this season if he’s re-signed as a top-6 guy to fill in behind Kempny, as Kempny fills in for Carlson (assuming both Jerabek and Kempny re-sign).
Madison Bowey, 23, is the only pending-RFA defender for the Capitals.
Star-goaltender, Braden Holtby, 28, has two-years remaining with a $6.100 million cap hit on his current contract and is Washington’s surefire starter for at least another seven years (probably).
Pheonix Copley, 26, likely will inherit the backup role with one-year remaining on his current contract ($650,000 cap hit) as MacLellan finds a trading partner to send 26-year-old backup turned probable starter (and pending-RFA) for a team in need of a goaltender, Philipp Grubauer.
While the Caps have to make the move for salary reasons, there’s a big potential to nail the perfect return.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
That’s all I can really say about tonight’s contests. Only three games are on tap this evening and most of them are at the same time. Two drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Arizona at the New York Islanders and Chicago at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Nashville at Detroit (NHLN/SN360/TVAS). All times eastern.
I must admit, there’s nothing really attractive about any of these three games. None of these teams have a winning record (two are .500, though), and all of them are west vs. east. I suppose we’ll go with the Predators at the Red Wings since expectations are so high for Nashville this season.
The Nashville Predators enter tonight’s game hosting a 1-2-0 record. Their one victory came in their first game played, a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena. Offense has been the main struggle so far, as their seven tallies ties for fourth-fewest in the NHL. Their leading point-scorer is Ryan Johansen, who has four assists to his credit.
Their opposition this evening is the 2-2-0 Detroit Red Wings. It’s not only their record that’s even: Detroit has also scored just as many goals as they’ve allowed – 12. Barring their first game against Tampa Bay, the Wings have averaged only 22 shots per game, 11 fewer than the league average. Even more frustrating for Detroit, Tomas Tatar, who leads the squad with 12 shots, has yet to find the back of the net. Instead, it is Mike Green and Thomas Vanek leading the team offensively, both with six points evenly distributed between goals and assists.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Detroit‘s Green (three goals and three assists for six points [all tie for team lead]), Darren Helm (three goals [ties for team lead]), Gustav Nyquist (three assists [ties for team lead]) and Vanek (three goals and three assists for six points [all tie for team lead]) & Nashville‘s Pekka Rinne (.934 save percentage [fifth-best in the leauge] and 2.04 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]).
Detroit is marked as the +100 underdog in tonight’s contest, a line I am comfortable with. I think the Preds can go into Joe Louis Arena and earn their second victory of the season.
- Carl Brewer (1938-2001) – This three-time Stanley Cup champion played 604 games over 12 NHL seasons along the blue line. Most of his career was spent with hometown club Toronto, but he also had stops in Detroit and St. Louis. In addition to his three professional titles, Brewer also helped Canada claim bronze at the 1967 World Championships.
- Lou Lamoriello (1942-) – Although he’s coached 53 games in his career, Lamoriello is better known for his team building abilities. He spent 28 seasons in New Jersey, winning three Stanley Cups. This is is second year in Toronto. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
- Michel Briere (1949-1971) – The career that never had the opportunity to truly get started, Brière played 76 games with Pittsburgh, scoring the third most points on the team. Unfortunately, he was involved in a car accident that eventually cost him his life. Brière’s 21 was never reissued, eventually being retired in 2001, and the QMJHL MVP and the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ Rookie of the Year awards both bear his name.
- Mike Keenan (1949-) – A controversial character in the NHL that has never held down a job for more than four seasons, Keenan has coached 1386 games in the top league in the world to date. His 672-531-147-36 record for 1527 points is decent, but what he really hangs his hat on is leading the Rangers to their fourth and most recent Stanley Cup championship in 1994.
How many more leads will be blown this season? San Jose had a two-goal lead on the Penguins entering the third period, but ended up falling 3-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.
Both those Shark tallies were struck in the second period. 5:04 after resuming play from the first intermission, Tomas Hertl (Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns) fired his backhander past Third Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury to take the lead. With 3:45 remaining in that same period, Patrick Marleau (Logan Couture) doubled the Sharks‘ lead by beating Fleury with a wrister.
Pittsburgh‘s comeback began 6:47 into the final frame when Second Star Evgeni Malkin scored his second goal of the season. 2:14 later, Scott Wilson (Matt Cullen and First Star Patric Hornqvist) leveled the game with 10:59 remaining in the contest. Hornqvist’s (Phil Kessel and Malkin) struck the winning wrister with 5:58 remaining in regulation to seal the victory.
Fleury earns the victory after saving 32-of-34 (94.1%), while Martin Jones takes the loss after saving 17-of-20 (85%).
Pittsburgh‘s victory extends the home teams’ record to 8-3-1 in the DtFR Game of the Day series, favoring them by six points over the roadies.