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When the Capitals acquired right wing T.J. Oshie just over a year ago, they did so with the expectation that he would be the top-line right wing they had lacked for years. Early in his second season with the Red, White, and Blue, the former Olympic hero has been all that and more.
After years without a true first-line right wing to play alongside superstars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, then-second year General Manager Brian MacLellan traded fan favorite and Winter Classic hero Troy Brouwer, along with a third-round draft pick and goalie prospect Pheonix Copley to the St. Louis Blues for Oshie. In all actuality, the Caps basically traded a third-line forward for a first-line forward.
As the season progressed, it became more and more clear who the winner of the trade was. Oshie finished the season with a career-high 26 goals and 51 points, as well as 10 points in 12 playoff games. While Brouwer did have a respectable 18 goals and 39 points, as well as 13 points in 20 playoff games, he departed as a free agent after the season.
This year, Oshie is off to a fast start in the first 11 games of the season. He has six goals and seven points, putting him on pace for a career best 45 goals and a third-highest career point total of 53; the point total will climb as he collects assists. His ability to get the puck on net and his creativity have been tremendous assets to the Caps.
Unfortunately, Oshie is in the final year of his current deal, which carries an annual salary of $4.5 million. If he surpasses his offensive totals from last year, his asking price may be too high for the Caps, especially considering other key players like Karl Alzner, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Andre Burakovsky will be in need of new deals. The only way that the Caps could keep Oshie is if he was willing to take a discount to stay in D.C. to get a legitimate shot at winning a Stanley Cup. However, the Caps have several young prospects waiting in the AHL, and that could be a factor as well.
No matter how long he has left in a Caps sweater, Oshie has been the player the Caps wanted and more. His leadership and willingness to interact with the fans have made him a favorite both on and off the ice.
By Michael Fleetwood