The Washington Capitals had a busy offseason last summer, and they had to make several key roster decisions as they moved into this season. The Capitals had several core players that were up for new contracts, and in the process, the Capitals had to let several players walk via free agency so they could fit their current roster under the salary cap.
The Capitals gave contract extensions to Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, and T.J. Oshie. Some of the moves drew some ire from the fans, but the Capitals management made these tough decisions so the club could remain in the NHL playoff hunt.
How are the new contracts looking for the Capitals early in the season? Which contracts are looking like bargains? Which contracts could be a little higher than normal?
Let’s break down the players with new contracts:
EVGENY KUZNETSOV (8-YEAR, $62.4 MILLION DEAL)
Kuznetsov currently leads all Capitals with 26 points in 26 games. He is coming off a 59-point campaign in 2016-17. Kuznetsov has spent most the season alongside Alex Ovechkin. He is third among forwards in average icetime per game, only behind Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. On special teams, Kuznetsov is used primarily on the Capitals top powerplay unit.
While the contract is a bit high, it will look like a bargain if he continues his point-per-game pace. Kuznetsov is still only 25-years of age, and has not completely rounded out his game yet. While he puts up points, he could improve his faceoff effectiveness (45.29%) and could also throw some more shots at the net. If the Capitals can turn Kuznetsov into a 20+ goal scorer consistently in the future, it will make their offensive attack much more balanced.
BRETT CONNOLLY (2-YEAR, $3 MILLION DEAL)
Connolly was brought into the organization in July 2016. He had bounced around before, looking for his long term shot. After a successful 2016-17 campaign, he was awarded a 2-year extension in June 2017.
Connolly put up 15 goals last year, and gave the Capitals some much needed secondary scoring. He gives the Capitals lineup added flexibility because he can play in a variety of different roles.
Connolly has 2 goals and 4 points through 17 games on a cheap deal that can be seen as a bargain if he has another 15-goal campaign in him.
ANDRE BURAKOVSKY (2-YEAR, $6 MILLION DEAL)
After a strong 2016-17 campaign that was cut a little short due to injury, the Capitals awarded Burakovsky with a short “show-me” bridge deal over the summer. Unfortunately for Burakovsky, he is injured again in 2017-18 and has missed over a month of action. Through 9 games, he has 1 goal and 4 points.
Burakovsky is only 22-years of age, and has plenty of upside still in his game. When healthy, he is usually in the Capitals top-six forward rotation and he also plays on the Capitals second power play unit.
The Capitals will like him to get over the 20-goal mark at some point in his career. He has a very quick release and hard shot. His body still needs to fill out a little more, but he is a quick skater with a lot of potential. If Burakovsky can come back healthy and score some goals, there will be tremendous value in this deal.
DMITRY ORLOV (6-YEAR, $30.6 MILLION DEAL)
Orlov has become one of the Capitals most reliable blueliners over the last couple of seasons. He has not missed much game action over the last number of seasons. He averages 23:29 icetime, which is 2nd among Capitals skaters. John Carlson leads the club in average icetime.
Orlov has 6 points through 25 games. He is coming off a 33-point campaign a season ago. Orlov’s role with the club has expanded this year with the departure of Karl Alzner. Orlov has absorbed a bulk of the penalty killing minutes for the Capitals among the defensemen. While he is used more on the penalty kill, he is still used sparingly on the Capitals powerplay unit.
The Capitals have shown a lot of faith in Orlov. While his game can be a little high-risk at times, he has improved his overall defensive play. While he could up his offensive statistics a bit, he has shown that he is reliable and can play in multiple situations. Any defenseman that can play in all situations that can log a lot of minutes is certainly worth a $5 million price tag in today’s NHL.
T.J. OSHIE (8-YEAR, $46 MILLION DEAL)
Oshie’s contract was a hot topic among fans over the summer. Many argued that the term was a little longer than it should have been. While Oshie took a long-term deal, he also left more money on the table as he did not use any contract leverage against the Capitals.
Oshie is coming off a 33-goal campaign, which was a career best for him. He also recorded 12 points in 13 playoff games for the Capitals. Oshie is one of the Capitals most complete players. He is second among Capitals forwards in average ice time, and plays in every situation. Even on the powerplay, he is used in the faceoff dot to take some draws, so he gives the Capitals plenty of lineup flexibility.
Oshie brings a relentless forecheck and plenty of skill in the shootout, which the Capitals tend to struggle with at times. The contract may still look bad to some right now, but Oshie should be commended for not taking the Capitals all the way past the start of free agency. It is highly likely that Oshie could have received bigger offers from other clubs if he tested the free agent market.
Oshie currently has 22 points in 25 games for the Capitals. He should be a lock to have another 20-goal season in him.
By: George Foussekis