Here’s the most recent in THN.com’s ongoing sequence of breakdowns of every NHL workforce’s low season. Today, we’re wanting on the Washington Capitals.
2021-22 Record: 44-26-12
Finish In The Metropolitan Division: 4th
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapPleasant.com): $0 ($6,321,666 over cap ceiling)
What Washington Has: A completely-signed lineup; a respectable, if growing old, celebrity scorer in Alex Ovechkin; a model new goaltending tandem in starters Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren; two nifty low season acquisitions in former Senators and Maple Leafs ahead Connor Brown and former Blackhawks middle Dylan Strome; a deep group of forwards; an elite-level defenseman in John Carlson; first rate depth signings in veteran forwards Marcus Johansson and Henrik Borgstrom, and D-man Matt Irwin.
What Washington Needs: Salary cap flexibility; a fast return to well being for injured forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin; a much-improved house report (they went 19-16-6 final season).
What’s Realistic For Washington Next Season: The Capitals have been attempting to duplicate their Stanley Cup glory of 2018, with diminishing levels of success. Last yr, they managed to stay a playoff workforce for the eighth consecutive season, however they went out somewhat meekly to the Florida Panthers in a six-game first-round sequence loss. Washington has been unable to get out of the opening spherical for 4 years now, and their core of veterans doesn’t have an abundance of aggressive window wherein to attempt for the second Cup in franchise historical past.
The Caps made probably the most of their obtainable wage cap house this summer season, buying and selling for former Senators and Leafs two-way ahead Connor Brown, and former Blackhawks middle Dylan Strome. Both veterans have scored 20 or extra objectives a minimum of as soon as of their NHL careers, and each are younger and proficient sufficient to be difference-makers in their very own method. Brown will likely be an unrestricted free agent subsequent summer season, and Strome will likely be a restricted free agent, so there is not any assure they will be in Washington for the lengthy haul. But, for this yr a minimum of., they are going to give the Capitals one of many deeper teams of forwards within the sport.
That mentioned, the largest gamble the Caps are taking this coming season is in objective. Last yr’s duo of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are not with the group, changed by former Canadiens and Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren and former Colorado starter Darcy Kuemper. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan gave the 32-year-old Kuemper a five-year, $26.25-million contract, making him Washington’s No. 1 man in internet for the foreseeable future, whereas the 28-year-old Lindgren will spell off Kuemper in preparation for a playoff run. The Caps’ offense ought to give Kuemper greater than sufficient assist to win extra video games than he loses, however make no mistake – the stress is squarely on Kuemper to show his Cup-winning season with the Avs this previous yr was no fluke.
Washington additionally may gain advantage vastly with some luck on the well being entrance, as a result of for the time being, they have three skilled offense-producers in Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin on the sidelines to start out the 2022-23 common season. Wilson needs to be totally recovered after a stretch, however there may be real concern about the way forward for Backstrom and his unhealthy hip, and Hagelin and his eye harm. Obviously, there is not any changing what both participant brings to the desk and in a extremely aggressive Metropolitan Division, the Capitals cannot afford to be with out them for all the season or longer.
The Caps are positive to have groups like Columbus, New Jersey and the New York Islanders nipping at their heels for a playoff spot, and Washington’s rival in Pittsburgh can even be within the combine for a decrease playoff berth. Three of these 5 groups are going to be upset by the season’s finish, and this yr, the Capitals might be one in every of them.