Everyone knew it was going to happen. Whether the Washington Capitals won or lost the Stanley Cup last spring, the Capitals would have a new look heading in to the 2017-18 season. The Capitals do have a new look and will have some new faces in the lineup when the puck drops on October 5.
Whether Capitals fans want to accept it or not, the NHL is a business. There have been plenty of favorite players among Capitals fans that have been shipped out of town over the years in the Ovechkin era. Some players have been lost due to the salary cap. Some players have been lost due to poor postseason performances.
SALARY CAP CASUALTIES OR POOR POSTSEASON PERFORMANCES?
In this offseason in Washington, lots of people might argue that the salary cap caught up with the Washington Capitals. That is fair, up to a point.
The Capitals had to make a lot of tough salary decisions with their restricted and unrestricted free agents. At the end of the day, GM Brian MacLellan kept his core intact and he kept his depth intact at key positions.
Brian MacLellan kept his center depth intact by re-signing Evgeny Kuznetsov to a long-term deal and by protecting Lars Eller in the expansion draft. With center depth lacking within the organizational ranks, MacLellan made a smart decision by protecting the depth that he did have at this position. The same method holds true to the right-wing position, as MacLellan chose to re-sign T.J. Oshie to a long-term deal.
With the Kuznetsov and Oshie extensions, the writing was on the wall for Marcus Johansson. MacLellan knew he had depth at the left-wing position behind Johansson, as Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana are two players that could easily fill Johansson’s role.
While many are upset about the trade of Marcus Johansson, it was likely in the plans all along. Johansson had a very easy contract to move and he does not play the key position of center ice. While a lot might argue that it was a pure salary dump, I would argue that there is more behind the trade. Marcus Johansson’s postseason numbers might be a factor as to why he was moved. I might even go as far as to say the same thing for Karl Alzner and why the Capitals did not make room to re-sign him.
WHEN WINNING DOES NOT HAPPEN, CHANGE THE FACES
In the Ovechkin era, the Capitals have only missed the postseason 3 times in 12 years. There has been a lot of success in Washington despite the regular postseason disappointments.
The Capitals have set a new standard for winning games and it appears that management has now set a new standard for players. The Capitals have built a winning culture in the Ovechkin era and the core players all know that there is still one goal left to achieve.
There is nothing wrong with the Capitals inserting some new faces into the lineup in the fall. While players like Johansson and Alzner will be missed by many, the Capitals need new faces in the lineup that can bring something different to the table. Maybe the Capitals will bring in a new young player that can excite the fan base when the stakes are high during the spring.
Despite the losses, the Capitals should still have a competitive team during the regular season. The Capitals can still contend for the Metropolitan Division and should remain a playoff team. While it has been a tough summer, changes were needed, and the team has evolved for the better.
By: George Foussekis