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After the Capitals’ Stanley Cup win and Stanley Cup parade, the NHL season, in terms of game action and celebrating is officially over. In the coming weeks, teams will begin preparing for the offseason, including the NHL Entry Draft, Free Agency, and the contract decisions of players (and in the Capitals’ case, their coaches). In Capital Review, NoVa Caps will be taking a look at each player’s season, their contract status, and their outlook for next season, beginning in numerical order based on jersey number. Next up: forward Chandler Stephenson.2017-18 OVERVIEW
Games Played: 67
In his first full season in the NHL, Stephenson proved himself as a valuable member of the Capitals’ bottom-six forward group, recording a respectable 18 points in 67 games played, while also seeing time on the penalty kill. Stephenson averaged 11:52 of ice time a night for former Head Coach Barry Trotz, with an average of 0:47 seconds per shift. Stephenson played a total of 87:19 on the penalty kill during the regular season, averaging 1:18 of shorthanded ice time, which ranked 10th on the team; in addition, his total penalty kill time was also tenth-most on the team.
Stephenson elevated his game in the playoffs en route to the Capitals’ first Stanley Cup championship, recording seven points (two goals, five assists) in 25 games played, with a plus-3 rating while averaging 15:02 of ice time (good enough for 12th on the team). Stephenson, along with linemate Devante Smith-Pelly were two of the team’s hardest-working players and were key players in adding secondary scoring throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stephenson also won 45.1% of his faceoffs in the playoffs, and finished with a 10.5 shot percentage.
Status: One season remaining on two-year, $1.3 million contract signed in June 2017 ($650,000 salary/annual average value)
Money Left on Current Deal: $650,000 in total salary
Free Agent: 2019, Restricted
Analysis: After spending most of his entry-level contract in the American Hockey League with the Hershey Bears, Stephenson has made the most of his current deal with an impressive freshman campaign and given that the two-year, $1.3 million deal he signed last summer was not a particularly expensive one, it has proven to be a good one for the Caps to make. If Stephenson is able to replicate or exceed his performance from this season in 2018-19, he should receive a fair raise when it expires after next season. Given that he is still just 24, Stephenson has a few more years before the prime of his career, giving him ample time to develop.
Given his age and relative inexperience at the NHL level, Stephenson’s time in the majors this season should help him next season in his sophomore campaign. While the Capitals have yet to hire (or promote) their next Head Coach, Stephenson’s role should not be expected to change much, and should longtime fourth-line stalwart Jay Beagle depart in free agency this summer, Stephenson could even see a larger role both at even-strength and on the penalty kill. While Stephenson played mostly wing this season, he is also able to play at center, making him one of the team’s most versatile players. Assuming Beagle is able to be re-signed, Stephenson should see a similar amount of ice time, while his offensive totals have room to grow. While he may never put up 20 goals, 10 should not be out of the question for the hard-working former third-round pick.
CHANDLER STEPHENSON HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON
By Michael Fleetwood