Heading into the 2018 offseason, the Capitals’ to-do list mountain was one many believed would be difficult to climb, with the likes of John Carlson, Michal Kempny, and Devante Smith-Pelly (among others) in need of new contracts after outstanding 2017-18 season and postseason performances, the future of the team’s former Head Coach in question, and the challenge of keeping a Stanley Cup-winning team together. While the team has checked off most of the above, Restricted free agent Tom Wilson has yet to sign a new contract with the team, despite both sides having stated interest in a reunion. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at some possible explanations why the two have yet to reach an agreement.
Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan recently stated that the team is interested in locking the former first-round pick to a long-term deal after the rugged winger finished the 2017-18 regular season and postseason with a career-high 35 and 15 points, respectively. While it is still relatively early in terms of the offseason, it is likely safe to assume that MacLellan and the Capitals would rather get a contract signed earlier rather than later in the summer. So what gives?
Tom Wilson did not file for arbitration ahead of today’s deadline. The RFA and the #Caps will continue to negotiate. GM Brian MacLellan said earlier this week, “I would like [a] long-term [extension]…I’d prefer to keep him around for as long as we can.”
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) July 5, 2018
One possible explanation could be that Wilson, who did not elect for salary arbitration, is currently not available to sign a deal should his representative and the team reach an agreement, as he and girlfriend Taylor Pischke are currently in Europe. While this makes logical sense, the lack of reported discussion between his agent and the team gives reason that this is simply not the case.
Another, more likely reason could simply be that the two sides have simply not been able to come to terms on a deal both find satisfactory or that they are not on the same page when it comes to what each wants. The fact that Wilson elected not to file for arbitration could indicate that he believes that his agent and the Capitals will be able to come to an agreement at some stage in the coming weeks. The Capitals have expressed interest in locking Wilson up to a long-term contract to keep him in the DMV for as long possible, and despite his career season, it could presumably come at a reasonable cost. Wilson’s most recent deal was a two-year, $4 million deal with an annual salary of $2 million, and because 2017-18 was the only season in which he has reached a double-digit goal total and 30-plus points, he is still relatively “unproven” as a productive, offensive player. When one looks at negotiations from this perspective, it makes sense if Wilson’s side prefers a shorter, prove-it deal that would give him an opportunity to solidift himself as an offensive weapon, which would inevitably raise his asking price and worth on a long-term deal.
Of course, the above hypothesis could end up resulting in the exact opposite, and the fact that both sides continue to negotiate is a positive sign that a new deal could in fact come sooner rather than later. Wilson is without question a core piece of the Caps’ future and going forward will continue to be a valuable presence on the first-line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. While it took four seasons, Wilson’s potential as a physical, offensively-productive power forward has finally been realized.
By Michael Fleetwood