When the Capitals signed Brett Connolly, a former sixth overall pick, to a one-year, $850,000 contract last summer, they did so with the hope that he could provide some depth and offensive punch to an already stacked lineup. What they’ve gotten has far exceeded expectations.
Through 52 games played, the 24-year old right wing has a career-high 14 goals to go along with six assists for a respectable 20 points. The sixth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has averaged 11:00 minutes of ice time and has played most of the season on the Caps’ third-line.
After being a highly-touted prospect with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Connolly struggled to find the offensive success that had resulted in him being drafted so highly. After three and a half lackluster seasons with the Bolts, he was traded to the Boston Bruins. While he did have a career year with 25 points last season, the Bruins did not tender him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Since joining a highly potent offense in Washington, Connolly has revived his career. Having already set a career-high in goals, he is now just six points away from surpassing his career best in points. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan has already said that he would love to re-sign Connolly, who is a restricted free agent after the season.
With two of the Caps’ best right wings in Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie set to hit the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, and with the Capitals in a bind when it comes to the salary cap, it’s not impossible that the Caps re-up Connolly to take on a bigger role next season. It’s unlikely he will demand too expensive a deal, and the Caps could offer a two-year bridge contract, which would mean he would still be a restricted free agent when the deal is up.
No matter how the season ends for Connolly, he has clearly proven he has the offensive potential to have a bigger impact with the Caps. If he ends the season with 20 goals or more (he is currently on pace for 18), he could become somewhat of a priority for the Caps. For Connolly, he is beginning to show that he isn’t a draft bust after all.
By Michael Fleetwood