Here’s THN.com’s latest installment of the offseason for every NHL team. Today we look at the Washington Capitals.
2021-22 Record: 44-26-12
Finish in the capital division: 4th
Available salary cap (according to CapFriendly.com): $0 ($6,321,666 over limit)
What’s in Washington: Fully signed line-up; a legitimate, if aging, superstar scorer in Alex Ovechkin; a brand new goaltending tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren; two notable offseason acquisitions: former Senators and Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown and former Blackhawks center Dylan Strome; a deep group of forwards; an elite-level defenseman in John Carlson; decent signing depth in veteran forwards Marcus Johansson and Henrik Borgstrom and D-man Matt Irvin.
What Washington needs: Flexibility of the salary cap; the quick return to health of injured forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin; a much improved home record (they were 19-16-6 last season).
What’s realistic for Washington next season: The Capitals are trying to repeat their Stanley Cup glory in 2018, but success is diminishing. Last year, they managed to become a playoff team for the eighth straight season, but they came up short against the Florida Panthers in a six-game first-round series. Washington hasn’t gotten out of the first round in four years, and its veteran core doesn’t have much of a competitive window to try for the second Cup in franchise history.
The Caps did make the most of their available cap space this summer, trading for former Senators and Leafs two-way forward Connor Brown and former Blackhawks center Dylan Strome. Both veterans have scored at least 20 goals in their NHL careers, and both are young and talented enough to stand out in their own ways. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and Strome will be a restricted free agent, so there’s no guarantee they’ll stay in Washington long-term. But, at least this year, they’ll give the Capitals one of the deepest forward groups in the game.
However, the Caps’ biggest gamble this upcoming season is in goal. Last year’s duo of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are no longer with the organization, replaced by former Canadiens and Blues goaltender Charlie Lindgren and former Colorado starter Darcy Kuemper. Capitals GM Brian McLellan signed Kuemper, 32, to a five-year, $26.25 million contract, making him the No. 1 guy in Washington’s lineup for the foreseeable future, while Lindgren, 28, will waive Kuemper during the draft. to make the playoffs. The Caps’ offense should give Kuemper more than enough support to win more games than he loses, but make no mistake, the pressure is squarely on Kuemper to prove that his Cup-winning season with the Avs last year wasn’t a fluke.
Washington could also benefit greatly if they get lucky on the health front, as they currently have three experienced offensive producers in Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin on the sidelines to begin the 2022-23 regular season. Wilson should be fully recovered from his sprain, but there are real concerns about the future of Backstrom and his bad hip, as well as Hagelin and his eye injury. There’s obviously no way to replace what each player brings to the table, and in a highly competitive Capitals division, the Capitals can’t afford to be without them for an entire season or longer.
The Caps are sure to have the likes of Columbus, New Jersey and the New York Islanders fighting for a playoff spot, while Washington’s rival Pittsburgh will also be in the running for a spot. in the playoffs below. Three of those five teams will be disappointed by the end of the season, and the Capitals could be one of them this year.
NHL Offseason Prediction: Washington Capitals
Source link NHL Offseason Prediction: Washington Capitals