When the Capitals acquired Daniel Winnik last year in the trade that sent longtime Capital Brooks Laich to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the soon-to-be 32-year old forward was an unknown to most fans. Now, in his first full season with the Caps, Winnik is one of the most dependable members of the team. And he’s doing it while flying under the radar.
While he’s never been known as a big producer on offense, Winnik has a respectable 221 points (72 goals, 149 assists) in 696 career games played. Before being traded to D.C., Winnik had already played with SIX teams, never staying with a team for more than three seasons. With the Caps, however, he seems to have found a home.
While his offensive totals may not be eye-popping (19 points in 51 games played), he has helped the team in so many more ways. Along with Jay Beagle, he is one of the Capitals’ most valuable penalty killers and plays a solid two-way game. He ranks tenth on the Capitals with 28 blocked shots and 12th with a plus/minus rating of plus-16. He is also averaging a career-high 0.16 goals per game, and Capitals goaltenders possess a .969 save percentage at even strength when the versatile Winnik is on the ice.
Because he plays on a team with so many high-profile offensive players such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Winnik’s offensive efforts often go unnoticed. He possesses a quick, hard shot, and has used it on more than one occasion this season to beat the opposition’s netminder. He has a career-best 14.8 shooting percentage, much higher than his career average of 6.6, and is averaging 1.08 shots per game.
A pending unrestricted free agent, Winnik may once again find himself looking for a new team come July 1. The Capitals are in a bit of a bind when it comes to the salary cap, and have a plethora of both unrestricted and restricted free agents to re-sign. However, if the Caps don’t bring back players such as Justin Williams and T.J.Oshie, Winnik could be re-signed to try and make up for the loss of the more productive forwards. Whatever his future is (or isn’t) in Washington, Winnik has quietly been having a productive year in a season that has seen the Caps yet again lead the NHL standings.
By Michael Fleetwood