Photo: Sporting News
With a lot of big contracts already on the Washington Capitals‘ salary cap and many more to come over the next couple years, the franchise will see a big shift in their roster during that time. So which players will ultimately stay for at least the duration of their current contracts? NoVa Caps takes a look at the most likely candidates.
Note: This does not include contracts expiring after this season.
The 34-year-old’s 13-year contract is set to expire after next season but he will certainly re-sign as he is arguably the best athlete the District of Columbia has ever seen and shows no signs of slowing down, scoring 148 goals over the last three seasons, which is 27 more than the next highest total in the NHL (Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak). The Capitals do not have many scoring wingers in their farm system and the Great Eight has said that he wants to finish his career as a Capital. Besides, who can imagine him getting that elusive 895th career goal in any other sweater? Expect him to sign an extension almost immediately after he becomes eligible to do so.
The 32-year-old just signed a five-year extension on January 14 and while the Capitals have some talented and promising young centers such as Connor McMichael and Aleksei Protas in the wings, they are not going to deal Backstrom. He was on pace to record his tenth season with at least 50 assists before the NHL season paused on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Backstrom’s 684 career assists lead the Capitals franchise, while his 927 points are second only to Ovechkin (1278). While the Capitals have a bright future down the middle, they will ultimately need at least one of them to be strong defensively. With Kuznetsov weak in that area and McMichael and Protas needing time to develop on the defensive side of the puck, Backstrom will be heavily relied upon to lead and provide that two-way play that may be lacking from the other centers.
The 27-year-old’s play has dipped the past couple of seasons after leading the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 32 points but he has still contributed with 40 goals and 124 points in 149 games over the last two seasons, which is still the 45th-most in the NHL. Kuznetsov has shown flashes of his potential to be one of the NHL’s best players and while sometimes he may not live up to that hype, he is still a very good one and it’s not like he has been necessarily bad ever since winning the Stanley Cup. There are five years left on his $7.8 million AAV contract.
Many call the 26-year old the franchise’s next captain. After missing the first 16 games of the 2018-19 season due to suspension, Wilson has stepped up and become one of the NHL’s best power forwards with 43 goals and 84 points in his last 131 games. While he produces, he is also a big brother on the ice as he protects his teammates and intimidates the other team. Heck, if you have a player that is in the head of your arch rival and dictates some of the trades they make, why would you let him go? Not many players in the NHL have the bite Wilson has to his game in addition to his production. He is truly a one-of-a-kind player that you do not trade.
The Capitals are relatively short on young wingers in their prospect pool so that just adds to the reasons why the team will not deal the 24-year-old, who was on pace to become the first Capital other than Ovechkin to score at least 30 goals in a season since forward T.J. Oshie did it in 2016-17 (33). Vrana already set career-highs in goals (25), assists (27), and points (52) in 69 games before this season paused and is just entering his prime. In fact, a big payday will come soon as he will be eligible to sign a contract extension after this season and he can become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season. Expect Vrana to get a long-term deal when that payday comes.
The 30-year-old has stepped up during the past three seasons as he has posted 43 goals, 213 points, and a +33 rating in 231 games and inked an eight-year contract (which carries an $8 million cap hit) and has improved every year over that time. Before the season paused, Carlson set numerous team and league records and was a big favorite for the Norris Trophy, which is given to the NHL’s best defenseman every year. While the Capitals have plenty of defensive depth down the pipeline, Carlson will not be leaving town any time soon as his play has kept on pointing up the past three seasons and those kids will need someone to lead them. There are not many better options than Carlson to do that. Carlon has six years at $8 million AAV left on his contract at the end of the season.
The 20-year-old has gotten a few looks from the Capitals this season and opened some eyes with his play as he earned an assist and a -2 rating in six games. While the plus-minus rating is nothing special, Fehervary was a -4 in his last two games, which the Capitals got outscored in by a total of 12-5. His play even pushed Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas out of the lineup for a game. Many are penciling him into a regular role on next year’s team with Gudas eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. Fehervary will have another two years left on his entry-level contract after this season and he is not even in his prime, so expect him to grab a big role for the long run some time soon.
The 23-year-old’s play might have dipped after the NHL All-Star Break but that’s natural for a rookie netminder, and Samsonov showed that it is only a matter of time before the net will be his. His 2.06 goals-against average was the best in the NHL while his .927 save percentage was tied for eighth at that point and many were questioning whether Samsonov might be the Capitals’ goalie the rest of the way. Samsonov’s contract will expire after next season and he could get a long-term contract either then or a couple years after.
By Harrison Brown