As Brian MacLellan has stated repeatedly, the Capitals are in the 2nd year of their 2-year Stanley Cup window. They’ve made the moves to try and make one last push, signing Lars Eller and other role players to solid contracts. As I’ve stated before, entry level contracts are a necessity to composing a team not to keep pressure off the salary cap. So after the window is done, where will the Capitals be in terms of money?
As of today, this is what the salary and contract length of each player on the Capitals looks like: (As per General Fanager)
For convenience, let’s assume the salary cap stays where it is at $73 million, and exclude non-rostered players. Let’s break it down:
2017-18: This is why there’s a 2 year window for the Caps. Godspeed to BMac if he finds a way to renew the majority of these contracts.
- TJ Oshie: Oshie will be a UFA, and his current cap hit at $4.175 million will only go up if he hits the 30 goal mark this season. Expect teams to trample each other for the first line winger. If Oshie is willing to stay at his current salary to stay in DC, then the hockey gods will have blessed the Capitals and Brian MacLellan with all kinds of luck.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuzy is currently on the books for $3 million and is an RFA. If Kuzy’s success repeats itself, he’s going to get a pay raise, with or without the Capitals. If the Capitals have any intention of keeping him, then a Nicklas Backstrom level contract might be necessary, but hopefully he’ll take a touch less.
- Daniel Winnik: Winnik’s $2.25 million contract was a decent signing at the time. The Caps needed to alleviate their pocketbooks from Brooks Laich’s huge contract, and Winnik gave the Capitals a 4th line grinder. I don’t expect Winnik to be re-signed, as the Capitals could easily slot in Nathan Walker or another Hershey Bear.
- Justin Williams: Mr. Game 7 signed with the Capitals for $3.25 million a year last summer for veteran presence, and maybe some prodding by his child. By the end of next season he’ll be 35 years old, and the Capitals will have a tough decision to make: keep the grizzled veteran or make way for a younger player? This will be a close call, since Williams put up 52 points and a Corsi For of 53.1%. That’s highest on the team tied with Alex Ovechkin. Are the Caps willing to give that up?
- Andre Burakovsky: Kiss that pocket change ELC goodbye. Andre will get a raise considering he’s an RFA and a scoring 2nd line winger. If I’m the Capitals, I lock him up for the next 7 years during his prime.
- Brett Connnolly: This signing is similar to Winnik’s. Connolly is a productive depth player that the Caps will need this season, but I don’t expect him to stick around too long, as management could favor a Hershey Bear to take Connolly’s spot.
- Stanislav Galiev: Galiev has this year alone to prove he’s an NHL player. With Jakub Vrana as a potential up and comer, Galiev was supposed to be a scoring winger, but that hasn’t materialized. If Galiev doesn’t crack the lineup this season, it’s very likely the Caps will let him and his itty-bitty contract walk.
- Karl Alzner: If Alzner is to be protected due to the impending Vegas draft, the Capitals will have to offer him serious dollars. Alzner’s $2.8 million contract won’t be enough considering he’s projected to be the Caps top-pairing defenseman, and that number will have to go up since he’s a UFA.
- Nate Schmidt: This is another tricky contract. Schmidt’s pairing with John Carlson due to Brooks Orpik’s injury was stellar, as Schmidt proved himself a capable puck moving defenseman. But if Schmidt is exposed thanks to the Vegas draft, it’s very likely he’ll be plucked considering George McPhee is making Vegas the Washington Capitals 2.0.
- Philipp Grubauer: This signing is going to depend highly on the development of both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. While Grubauer has been a solid back up behind Holtby and grown immensely under Mitch Korn, he’ll have some competition for the backup job, and his contract will reflect that.
2018-19: The Caps get a reprieve from spending spree they are bound to go on in 2017-18. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have some hard choices to make.
- Lars Eller: If Eller proves to be the 3rd line center the Capitals have needed, then his $3.5 million contract might be worth it. The Canadiens overpaid a bit, but that’s water under the bridge now. The Capitals will have to give him equal value or slot in a younger player.
- Tom Wilson: Wilson just inked a 2-year, $4 million contract. Yes, he’s controversial, and yes, he hasn’t been as productive as many would expect for a first round pick. But if he takes that next step in his development, the Caps might keep him around longer.
- Jay Beagle: Beagle is a fan favorite, but is $1.75 million too much for a 4th line center? This will be a contract that will test BMac, as shades of Matt Martin’s deal could ripple to this type of contract. Beagle will probably want more than he’s worth, but will the Caps give it to him?
- John Carlson: This contract will be the dinger. Carlson was recently ranked as a top 20 defenseman, and this new contract could reflect that, since it’s all but certain that the Caps will protect him during the Vegas draft. The Caps will pay top dollar to keep Carlson around.
- Taylor Chorney: Chorney will be a UFA, and if he keeps up his development, might jump ship to a team that’ll pay more. This could be a sneaky pickup for another team, or a smart drop for a team that wants to slot in Jonas Siegenthaler, Madison Bowey, or Lucas Johansen.
2019-20: This is where the contracts start to peter out since most contracts last 5 years or less. Additionally, it’s hard to know how the team will be composed up to this point, as there are only 2 contracts that will be up.
- Marcus Johansson: Right before his arbitration hearing, MoJo signed a 3-year $13.75 million contract. By this point, MoJo will be a veteran, possibly leading a new wave of Capitals. That contract signals that BMac will probably protect MoJo this upcoming season, and if he shines, he’ll be around for a long time.
- Brooks Orpik: This mammoth contract is finally over. While Orpik has contributed as a solid stay at home defenseman, Orpik will be 39, and considering his speed has declined already, this is a contract the Capitals will be more than happy to terminate.
2020-21: This is where we see the cornerstone players of the Capitals start to end their contracts. And with good reason; they’ve earned it.
- Braden Holtby: Last season the Vezina winner signed a 5-year $30.5 million contract. If Holtby can stay healthy and weather the Caps’ defensive lapses, he’ll be around longer than 5 years for sure.
- Nicklas Backstrom: The playmaking center has cleaned up and has still remained the best kept secret in the NHL, earning his first All-Star bid this season. Backstrom’s health, like Holtby’s, will be the key factor moving forward, as he’s had some injury issues in the past.
2021-22: The final 2 players from this year-end their contracts this season. It will also test whether or not management will be willing to shill out for past their prime veterans.
- Alex Ovechkin: The 500 goal scorer has earned every penny here in Washington. What will be interesting to see is what type of contract Ovie will get once he slows down. If he hasn’t won a cup in DC, Ovie could bop around as a UFA to find the team that will get him the cup. I’m hoping that won’t happen, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
- Matt Niskanen: What a golden pick up by BMac. Niskanen will be in the same spot as Ovechkin, so this will be a matter of how much Niskanen will decline. Smoother skating, puck moving defensemen tend to last longer; Brian Campbell is a prime example of that. If Niskanen ages the same way Campbell has, the Caps might still have a little time left with him.
By Julia Karron