As we get into the stretch run of the 2019-20 season, the offseason will be here before we all know it and the Washington Capitals will have some major contract decisions to make in the near future. NoVa Caps takes a look at how every player is living up (or not) to their contract value.
Alex Ovechkin (Cap Hit: $9.54 Million)
Critics were skeptical when the Capitals signed the forward to the first $100 million contract in NHL history, but the 34-year-old continues to prove them wrong as he has recorded two 100-point seasons and six 50-goal seasons since signing that lucrative deal. The blockbuster deal is currently considered a bargain for the Capitals. His career-low in goals is 32 and he has been an offensive force in recent years as he’s scored 137 goals in the past three seasons and has won the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s leading scorer in six of the last seven seasons. Oh, he also led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup too while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP in 2018, when he recorded 15 goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
John Carlson (Cap Hit: $8 Million)
After setting career-highs with 57 assists, 70 points, and a +21 rating in 80 games a year ago, the 30-year-old has had a historic season as his 62 points are 10th in the NHL, 49 assists are third, and his +18 rating is 17th. He is the clear favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and may even get some consideration for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Fortunately for the Capitals, Carlson’s exceptional season came a year after he signed, otherwise he could possibly command $10 million as the league’s top defenseman.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (Cap Hit: $7.8 Million)
After averaging a point-per-game (83 points in 79 games) for the first time in his career and leading the NHL with 32 points during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 27-year-old has dipped a little bit. Still, he has been a productive player with 18 goals, 45 points, and a +2 rating in 50 games this season after recording 21 goals, 72 points, and a +7 rating in 76 games last year. He will be a key part of the Capitals’ future as some of the Capitals’ top guns get older and he is arguably one of the most talented players in the league.
Nicklas Backstrom (Cap Hit: $6.7 Million)
The 32-year-old has had one of the league’s most team-friendly contracts as he has recorded at least 50 assists and 70 points in seven consecutive seasons and would be on pace to do it again this year had he not missed eight games due to injury. Backstrom has also averaged more than a point-per-game in each of the Capitals’ last three Stanley Cup Playoff runs, including 23 points during the 2018 postseason. After being underpaid for a decade, that won’t be the case starting next season as Backstrom signed a five-year contract extension that carries a $9.2 million cap hit.
Braden Holtby (Cap Hit: $6.1 Million)
While the 30-year-old is in the midst of the worst season in his career with a .896 save percentage and a 3.11 goals-against average, let’s not forget what Holtby has accomplished since he signed his deal: two Vezina Trophy nominations, winning once, tying Martin Brodeur’s single-season 48-win record during the regular season in 2015-16, and backstopping the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup. While he may not be playing up to the billing this season, Holtby has been solid for four seasons and players are going to have down seasons; it’s part of the game. He will definitely be getting a pay raise this summer.
T.J. Oshie (Cap Hit: $5.75 Million)
The 33-year-old struggled for a little while after returning from a concussion in the first year of his deal but he has been productive since the stretch run of the 2017-18 season and recorded eight goals and 21 points in 24 games during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run. After recording 25 goals and 54 points a season ago, Oshie is once again having a solid season with 19 goals and 37 points in 53 games. The term (eight years) may have been a little long as it will take Oshie until age 38 but that’s a problem for later. For right now, this is looking like a solid deal for the Capitals.
Tom Wilson (Cap Hit: $5.17 Million)
After his payday was one of the most controversial discussions in the league and the 25-year-old was suspended for the first 16 games of the 2018-19 season, Wilson has recorded 38 goals, 77 points, and a +17 rating in his last 115 games. He was also productive in the postseason last year with three goals and five points in seven games and has proven to be the perfect fit to play with Ovechkin on the top line with his size, speed, and physicality, not something every NHL player could do. While Wilson is doing a good job living up to his contract, the Capitals knew the risk of giving a player who’s a suspension away from missing significant time a multi-year deal with a lot of money.
Dmitry Orlov (Cap Hit: $5.1 Million)
The 28-year-old has one of the most expensive contracts on the team as his performance has declined after setting a career-high in goals (10) in 2017-18. He had a down season last year with just three goals and a +3 rating in 82 games but is doing better this season with three goals, 23 points, and a +8 rating in 53 games this season. Orlov, who just played his 500th game in the NHL, has not missed a game since missing the entire 2014-15 season.
Lars Eller (Cap Hit: $3.5 Million)
The 30-year-old’s goal total declined from a career-high 18 in 2017-18 to 13 last year but he has already equaled that total in 28 fewer games this season and is just six off of his career-high in points (38) set that season. The Capitals were able to get Eller, one of the team’s unsung heroes during the 2018 Stanley Cup run with seven goals and 18 points in 24 games, at the same price tag as his last contract, a pipe dream if the Capitals had re-signed him after the Cup run.
Jakub Vrana (Cap Hit: $3.35 Million)
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a career year as he only sits one goal behind his career-high 24 and two points behind his career-high of 47, both set last season, in 29 fewer games. The team got him at a bargain but will soon have to pay up as he will become eligible to sign a contract extension on July 1 and is in line for a big contract.
Carl Hagelin (Cap Hit: $2.75 Million)
The 31-year-old got off to a slow start this season as it took him 28 games to score his first goal and he missed 11 games due to an upper-body injury in November, but he has taken off lately as he currently has three goals and six points during a six-game point streak. Hagelin also averages 2:56 worth of shorthanded ice-time per game, which is second on the team and leads all forwards, on the No. 2 penalty kill in the NHL. Hagelin may be 31 but he has heated up lately and has been a key cog in the Capitals’ turnaround on the penalty-kill so far this season.
Richard Panik (Cap Hit: $2.75 Million)
Like Hagelin, the 28-year-old took some time to adjust to his new team as he recorded only two goals and three points in his first 25 games with his new club and missed 10 games due to an upper-body injury. Also like Hagelin, Panik has started to heat up lately as he has five goals, 10 points, and a +5 rating in his last 18 games. He is also responsible defensively with a +10 rating.
Michal Kempny (Cap Hit: $2.5 Million)
After leading the Capitals with a +24 rating and setting career-highs in goals (six), assists (19), points (25), and games played (71) last season, the 29-year-old may have not been at the same level this year after recovering from hamstring surgery but has still put up respectable numbers with three goals, 16 points, a +14 rating, 63 blocked shots, and 83 hits. He also plays a key role on the PK as he averages 1:37 per game while shorthanded and he has done a pretty good job next to Carlson, which is not easy.
Nick Jensen (Cap Hit: $2.5 Million)
The 29-year-old has been a disappointment since a good start with the Capitals after he was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings on February 22 and signed a four-year contract as he has just nine points (all assists) and a -2 rating in 73 games with the team. He is also not that strong along the boards and can be exposed defensively at times. After he was expected to be the heir to Matt Niskanen, Jensen has been a disappointment and could be the odd-man-out if the Capitals need to free up some cap space.
Radko Gudas (Cap Hit: $3.35 Million, $2.345 Million Paid By The Capitals)
After coming over in the Niskanen deal in the Flyers, Gudas has been a nice addition as he currently leads the team with a +21 rating, averages 2:46 worth of ice-time per game on the penalty kill, is second on the Capitals with 144 hits (Wilson: 185), third with 68 blocked shots (Jonas Siegenthaler: 86, Carlson: 83), ninth with 20 takeaways, and only has 32 giveaways. He has been a nice physical presence with Brooks Orpik retired and played well since coming to the Capitals.
Garnet Hathaway (Cap Hit: $1.5 Million)
The 28-year old has been a pivotal part of the Capitals’ fourth-line’s 180 as he has six goals, 12 points, and a +7 rating in 50 games this season after posting 11 goals, 19 points, and a +14 rating in 76 games with the Calgary Flames last year. While Hathaway has provided a nice offensive boost to the Capitals’ fourth-line, he has thrived defensively as his 139 hits are third on the team, 35 blocked shots are ninth, 17 takeaways are tied for 11th, and 14 giveaways are fourth among Capitals’ skaters. He has also played an average of 1:23 per game on the PK.
Ilya Samsonov (Cap Hit: $925,000)
The 22-year old is currently in the Calder Trophy discussion as the NHL’s top rookie as he is currently 16-3-1 with a .923 save percentage (13th in league), a 2.21 goals-against average (fourth), and one shutout. He has also set numerous records among Capitals and NHL rookie netminders this season and is challenging for the No. 1 goalie job in Washington after starting in the Capitals’ 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Samsonov is in line for a big pay raise as he can sign a contract extension on July 1.
Travis Boyd (Cap Hit: $800,000)
Due to the Capitals’ depth up front, the 26-year-old has only appeared in 20 games this season but has made the most of his opportunity when in the lineup with three goals, nine points, and a +8 rating. With Leipsic up for a new contract after the season, Boyd could finally find himself into an everyday NHL role as soon as next season. The Capitals have not needed Boyd much but have certainly gotten their money’s worth when they do.
Nic Dowd (Cap Hit: $750,000)
The 29-year old has had a nice season with five goals, 10 points, and a +10 rating in 40 games while driving the Capitals’ resurgent fourth-line. He has also found himself playing regularly on the penalty kill with an average of 2:26 worth of shorthanded ice-time per game and has stepped up defensively with 17 takeaways (tied for 11th), four giveaways (fewest on team), 17 blocked shots (13th), and 67 hits (seventh). If he keeps this up, the Capitals have found themselves one heck of a bargain.
Jonas Siegenthaler (Cap Hit: $714,000)
The 22-year-old has become an everyday NHLer and the Capitals’ top penalty-killing defenseman this season as he has two goals, nine points, and a +10 rating while playing all 53 games this season. Seigenthaler currently has 42 hits, a team-leading 86 blocked shots, nine takeaways, and only 28 giveaways (ninth on the Capitals). Seigenthaler will have a big payday in the near future as he can become a restricted free agent on July 1.
Brendan Leipsic (Cap Hit: $700,000)
The 25-year-old has been productive in his first season in Washington with three goals, 11 points, and a +7 rating and he has provided a nice energy boost. Leipsic has earned seven takeaways, 24 giveaways, 15 blocked shots, and 48 hits (10th on the team). He has earned a big pay raise as he can become a restricted free agent after the season but with the emergence of Boyd, it may not come in Washington.
By Harrison Brown