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The Washington Capitals have had a busy offseason, making tweaks around the edges of the roster while keeping their core intact after falling in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Carolina Hurricanes. With training camp three weeks away, Capitals fans will get to see some new faces. NoVa Caps recaps the team’s changes from the front office to the roster that will take the ice on October 2 for opening night.
June 14: Capitals Acquire D Radko Gudas From Philadelphia Flyers In Exchange For D Matt Niskanen
The Capitals cleared $3.405 million in cap space by trading Niskanen and his $5.75 million cap hit and getting the Flyers to retain $1.005 million of Gudas’ $3.35 million cap hit.
Gudas will replace Brooks Orpik, who announced his retirement from the NHL on June 25, and anchor the third defensive pairing. He is coming off of a nice year in Philadelphia as he posted the second-best plus-minus (+6) and 255 hits on the team. In addition, his 133 blocked shots were the third-best on the Flyers.
This was a nice move by the Capitals to acquire a defenseman who is only 29 while the 32-year-old Niskanen had a down year last season and has had declining statistics in recent years.
June 16: Capitals Re-sign F Carl Hagelin To Four-Year, $11 Million ($2.75 Million AAV) Contract
After Hagelin was acquired, the Capitals’ penalty kill saw its efficiency jump from 78.4% (22nd in the NHL) to 80%. In the team’s First Round series against the Hurricanes, the PK posted an efficiency of 88% with Hagelin averaging 2:56 of ice-time per game on the penalty kill, the fourth-highest on the Capitals.
The 31-year old also stepped up his offensive game in Washington as he recorded three goals and 11 points in 20 games with the team after he tallied just two goals and eight points in 38 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings prior to the trade. He found chemistry with center Lars Eller on the third-line.
June 21-22: Capitals Select Four Players At 2019 NHL Draft
The Capitals drafted center Connor McMichael with their first-round pick, forward Brett Leason with their second, center Aliaksei Protas with their third, and defenseman Martin Has with their fifth. While none of the players are expected to challenge for a roster spot this year, the group will help replenish a relatively thin prospect corps for Washington.
June 28: Capitals Acquire Second- And Third-Round Picks From Colorado Avalanche In Exchange For F Andre Burakovsky
The Capitals granted a trade request from Burakovsky, who reportedly felt that he needed a fresh start after getting passed by forwards Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson on the depth chart in the past two seasons. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the 24-year old throughout his career despite having the potential to score 25+ goals.
Trading Burakovsky also gave the Capitals more flexibility in the free-agent market. The team had to tender a qualifying offer of at least one-year at $3.25 million annually to retain Burakovsky, a steep price for a forward who has only hit the 15-goal plateau only once in his career (2015-16 on the Capitals’ Presidents Trophy-winning team). He scored 12 goals in each of the previous two seasons.
Note: The Capitals also acquired the rights to AHL forward Scott Kosmachuk but he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and will not likely sign with the team.
July 1: Capitals Sign Three Unrestricted Free Agents, Lose F Brett Connolly
The Capitals signed forwards Richard Panik (four-year contract that carries a cap hit of $2.75 million), Garnet Hathaway (four-year contract with an AAV of $1.5 million), and Brendan Leipsic (one-year contract worth $700,000) to bolster their bottom-six forward group and step of their defensive play after the team finished last season with an average of 3.02 goals-against per game, which was tied with the Vancouver Canucks for 17th in the NHL.
While the focus of these signings was to help the Capitals play better in their own end, these are also guys who can help out offensively too.
Panik has scored at least 14 goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 22 with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016-17, and was a key contributor to a penalty-kill that was tied for the league lead last season.
Hathaway posted 11 goals in 76 games with the Calgary Flames a season ago. He also played well defensively with 200 hits, 36 takeaways, and a +14 rating last season.
Leipsic showed scoring potential with 23 points in 62 games last season despite playing for two of the worst teams in the league in the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings. In addition, he recorded 28 blocked shots, 56 hits, and 22 takeaways.
The Capitals also lost UFA forwards Brett Connolly, who signed a four-year contract that carries a cap hit of $3.25 million with the Florida Panthers and scored a career-high 22 goals last season, and Devante Smith-Pelly, who recorded seven goals during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018 and remains unsigned.
July 16: Capitals Re-sign Vrana To Two-Year, $6.7 Million ($3.35 Million AAV) Contract
The Capitals re-signed Vrana, who became a restricted free agent on July 1, after he set career-highs with 24 goals (which was third on the team), 47 points, and 82 games played last season. The 23-year old also led Capitals forwards with a +20 rating while securing his spot in the top-six forward group going forward.
Vrana will get an opportunity to prove himself even more and could demand a big contract in a year or two’s time.
July 24: D Christian Djoos Awarded One-Year, $1.25 Million in Arbitration
The Capitals went to arbitration with the 25-year-old Djoos after he struggled after returning from thigh surgery, which knocked him out for 23 games this season. He finished with a goal, 10 points, and a +9 rating in 45 games but split time with Jonas Siegenthaler to end the regular season and was scratched for the last four games of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup Playoff run.
After showing potential in his rookie season and being a regular during Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018, Djoos will have the opportunity to return to that level and cash in on a bigger contract next summer as he will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights again.
July 27: Capitals Re-Sign F Chandler Stephenson To One-Year, $1.05 Million Contract
After struggling last season with only 11 points and a team-worst -13 rating, Stephenson’s playing time diminished over the course of the season.
As one of the Capitals’ unsung contributors during their Stanley Cup run in 2018, Stephenson convinced the team to give him at least another chance. But with the additions of Hathaway and Leipsic additions in free agency, Stephenson could enter the season as the 13th forward. Given the team’s salary cap situation, Stephenson could find himself on waivers to accommodate the cap.
Stephenson will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights once again next offseason.
July 31: Capitals Make Changes To Scouting Department
After veteran Ed McColgan retired, the Capitals hired Karl Stewart as an amateur scout. They also parted ways with Terry Richardson.
By Harrison Brown