Photo: NBC Sports
Wilson, 24, signed a six-year contract worth $31 million ($5,166,666 million AAV) with the Capitals on Friday night, after he became a restricted free agent July 1.
On signing a long-term deal with the team, Wilson said, “Obviously I think that both sides were kind of on the same page about myself. I love it in Washington; it’s definitely a home for me now. I’ve had nothing but good times there, since I’ve been there, and I was obviously thrilled to get some term and continue to make it my home and just kind of look forward to building as a player, building as a team, and you know, just get comfortable and keep moving forward from that perspective….it’s nice to have that confidence from them and I think both sides are happy and just excited to be around for as long as possible.”
Wilson on the importance of a long term deal: “Washington is a 2nd home to me. I love it.”
— Luke Adomanis (@LukeAdomanis) July 30, 2018
On what he thinks the Capitals saw in him that made the team sign him long-term, Wilson said, “I think every year, I’ve been able to grow my role and responsibility. My role has taken more on every year, and with this deal, that’s going to be expected. I spent the second half of the year playing a majority of it on the top line and I felt comfortable there, whether it was [Evgeny Kuznetsov] or [Nicklas Backstrom] and obviously [Alex Ovechkin]. That kind of became a norm and on every given night, I was playing with those guys and continuing to grow offensively and playing 18, 19, 20 minutes. I’m looking forward to continuing in that role and just kind of whatever I can do to make the players around me better and I think that you guys have seen [Kuznetsov], [Ovechkin], and I are a pretty good fit there towards the end of the year and into the playoffs. It’s a big commitment. It’s six years and that’s a long time, so each year, I have to perform and the NHL is about consistency and guys will tell you that there’s pressure on you as a player that you’re expected to get the job done every single night. For me, it’s about being consistent and helping the team win.”
With Wilson now signed long-term, the Capitals will have the same core from the team that won the Stanley Cup locked-up for the next two seasons. When he was asked about the two-year window with this team, Wilson said that “It’s really exciting when you look at that because I think at the beginning of this year, people were uncertain about what this organization was going to hold. We didn’t know what we were going to be this year and guys stepped up and got into new roles and this year, we win. This year, we’re kind of supposed to be in a down period, a rebuild period, but we proved to ourselves this past year that we can do it, that we can play great hockey. A lot of familiar faces are coming back and like you said, a lot of guys are around for two+ years, so one of the best things is that since I’ve been in Washington and part of the organization is the demand and accountability. The expectation to win is always there. We’re expecting a lot from ourselves and it’s going to be on the core group and it’s going to be on the leaders to execute that, and to make sure that we keep moving forward in the right direction. We’re excited when you talk about those guys and guys I’ve grown very close with and guys that are great friends and great teammates. It’s nothing but excitement from my end and you know, the team’s pretty pumped to keep moving forward.”
When asked whether the contract made him feel like part of the core of the team, Wilson replied, “I’m not going to go out and say what I believe because thinking about that stuff is not about what I say, it’s not about what all the fans or opposing teams say, it’s about what happens in the dressing room and we have such a great group. I’m thrilled to be a part of that group, it’s pretty special. I’m going into my sixth season with all of the guys, so I can tell you that there are a lot of great relationships built and I think it’s expected, moving forward, that I’m going to have to be a part of it. I got to continue to grow as a leader, as a player, and this amazing foundation since day one with the older guys that have been there for a while. They’ve made me feel extremely welcome. I think that pretty much every guy in that locker room, for them it’s about the bonds and relationships that we have in that locker room. We have to continue to grow and build on that.”
Wilson was suspended three times by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety this season, twice during the preseason and once during the playoffs. When asked what the Department of Player Safety is looking at when they review his hits, he said, “It’s been a pretty busy month with the celebration in Washington and then coming home and getting settled in and getting back in the gym and back on the ice and stuff. You know that there’s a big mental load on each guy after that run so I haven’t indulged too much into that. I’m just trying to get recovered and rested physically and mentally and as the season approaches, I think there will be conversations with people I trust and respect. I’ll grow my game from that aspect. It would be stubborn on my part to know that the game is changing and there’s definitely an eye on that part, the physical part of the game. If I want to be contributing, if I want to be apart of the success of the group and if I’m not going to adapt, change with the times, then I’m not going to be able to do that. I want to be on the ice and not in the box or the stands. It’s different. I’m growing into a different role, you can’t get into those big hits, playing 19-20 minutes. I’m going to find a way to keep focused and be worried about playing both ends of the ice, playing with [Ovechkin] and [Kuznetsov] and playing with high skilled players and making plays for them, so that physical part of my game is going to always be there and that’s the nature of who I am and that’s how I play the game. I’m not going to run over anybody. You can’t take that away from me but you have to play within the rules and there’s going to be a time where I’ll continue to educate myself and continue to build a relationship with people around the game that are going after the great or good, so it’ll definitely be something that I’ll be looking at.”
“Would be stubborn on my part to see the game is changing. I want to contribute and success of the group. If I don’t adapt or change with the time I won’t help. I want to be on the ice, not in the box. That physical part of my game will always be there, but I have to be smart.”
— Luke Adomanis (@LukeAdomanis) July 30, 2018
Over the course of the offseason, the Capitals’ free agents have been giving the Capitals discounts to stay in Washington and take another crack at a Stanley Cup. When asked about the positive mood of the team, Wilson said, “I think numerous things go into it if you want to walk. Just speaking from my standpoint, it shows the city, shows the fans, shows the bond between the teammates. It shows how good the organization is, that guys are extremely happy in Washington and in the DC area, so guys want to stick around. It’s something that’s been built over the past 3, 4, 5 years. From [Alex Ovechkin] and [Nicklas Backstrom], to get guys to where they’re comfortable and excited to come to the rink every day. I think the expression that the grass is greener on the other side isn’t always true, that it’s definitely a thing we privilege in Washington. We have a great coaching staff, great management, great city, great fanbase, great teammates, so we’re extremely excited and that just shows that when guys want to stick around, and when guys want to be a part of that team is what that bond is between the team and with each other. At the end of the day, you just go out and focus on getting the job done, and everything else takes care of itself. It’s a pretty good feeling to have.
Wilson will spend his day with the Stanley Cup this Sunday in Toronto, his hometown, and has been following what his teammates have done with the Cup on social media. On the Capitals’ Stanley Cup tour, Wilson said, “I have been following it a little bit from the social media part of it. To be honest, I wish I could be a part of every single one. It’s been a busy summer and just kind of getting ready for September and October and I’ve been talking to a few of the guys and calling them. It’s so fun as a team and watch those moments with those guys and their families on their day and a lot of moments within that day that you’ll never forget. I’m pretty excited for my day and spending some time with it. When you win, the next week or so is kind of hectic and the Cup is flying around and Ovi’s got it and going to bed with it and you lose track of it here and there. So it’s going to be nice to have your day with your loved ones and all of the people that got you there.”
“It’s so fun as a teammate to see your teammates with the Cup. I’m excited for my day with the Cup.”
— Luke Adomanis (@LukeAdomanis) July 30, 2018
On potentially getting some time on the Capitals’ dynamic power play, Wilson responded by saying, “My goal is to continue to change and continue to grow and we’ve got the best power play in the league. It’s pretty much been No. 1 each of the past few years. That group demands a high level of execution and we have some pretty good players in that room, so if there’s an opening and the coaching staff wants to put me out there and give me that responsibility, then of course I’d be thrilled. It’s fun to play on the power play. It’s a chance where your chances to score are increased and it’s something that I’ll definitely hope to have in my game at some point. Growing up at that kind of level, it’s pretty fun to watch [T.J.] Oshie and what he does and it’s fun to watch those guys work, so I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s a decision that I have to make. It’s about me and it’s about doing everything and executing everything at the highest level that I can, and if I find myself out there, that would be awesome.”
While some people think that Wilson’s new deal might be a bit too lucrative, his new contract will look pretty good if he keeps improving every year like he’s done the past two seasons. His contract could look similar to what people thought about Kuznetsov’s contract he signed last summer for eight-years, worth $62.4 million ($7.8 million AAV). Now that contract does not look so bad and hopefully neither will Wilson’s. Only time will tell.
By Harrison Brown