When the Capitals acquired right wing T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues last July, they did so with the hope that they would have the solution to the revolving door that was the team’s first-line right wing.
For years, superstars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had played with players that were either incompatible with their playing styles, or players that were nowhere near suited for top minutes. These names included players such as Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Triy Brouwer, Joey Crabb, and Wojtek Wolski. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan once again struck gold with a summer acquisition, as Oshie did not disappoint.
In his first season with the Caps, Oshie scored a career-high 26 goals, and totaled 51 points in 80 games played. Oshie followed his productive regular season with an outburst of offense in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring six goals and 10 points in the Capitals’ 12 games. Oshie clearly proved he fit in nicely with the Caps, but with a season remaining on his current contract, what exactly does the future hold for Oshie?
As mentioned above, Oshie is entering the final season of his existing contract, and with next offseason being an important one for MacLellan (defenseman Karl Alzner, right wing Justin Williams are among the team’s most notable unrestricted free agents, while Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nate Schmidt headline the restricted free agents), the Capitals should at least think about extending some of their key free agents now.
Out of the UFAs, Alzner and Oshie seem the most likely to be considered priorities. Both are still in their primes (Oshie will be 30, while Alzner will be 28) and have played big roles in their time with the team. Williams will be 35 and depending on his asking price and production next season, he may be allowed to leave. Oshie has given the Caps the stable first-line right wing they’ve desperately needed since the departure of Mike Knuble in 2012, and is a huge fan favorite. His play was one of the biggest reasons the Capitals finished the season with the best record in the NHL and he was one of the bright spots in the team’s disappointing second round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins; in the first game, he recorded a hat trick, with the third goal being the overtime winner. But ultimately, it will be Oshie’s asking price and term that will decide his future with the Capitals.
Oshie’s salary cap hit is $4,175,000 and he will likely look for an increase in pay after what should be another productive season playing alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin. The Capitals’ salary cap situation will ultimately determine the futures of players, but Oshie has been an integral part of the Caps in his short time with the team and should ultimately be considered a priority come next summer.
By Michael Fleetwood.