Where Do We Go From Here? The Capitals Preliminary “To-Do” List For The 2022 Off-Season

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

As we head into the vast unknown of yet another off-season for the Washington Capitals we immediately shift our focus to looking at team “needs” and the roster moves required to address those “needs”. Some of the decisions have surely already been made, but others may take further assessment by Capitals brass to determine.

But before addressing needs, any smart general manager will take a look around and see what’s working, and maybe just as importantly, what isn’t working, for the successful teams in the league. In other words, what do the Capitals “need” to do to compete with and beat the top teams in the Metropolitan Division, and what do they need to do to compete with and beat any of the top teams in the league.

Here is a quick preliminary “to-do” list:

1. Sign or Trade For Goaltender

This one is obvious. And while the need may be obvious, the means for the change is not. By free agency? or via trade? The Capitals must resolve the goaltender issue. They can’t go into next season with the same two-headed question mark they have been dealing with for the past two seasons.

2. Part Ways With Michal Kempny, Justin Schultz and Carl Hagelin

Justin Schultz and Michal Kempny should not be re-signed. Their departures will generate $6,500,000 in salary cap space that could be used for better value (sign a goaltender, a veteran defender, a scoring center).

Parting ways with Carl Hagelin and replacing him with Johan Larsson or Axel Jonsson-Fjallby would save more than $1,500,000, although it will be difficult to deal Hagelin with his current injury status.

3. Get Younger

The Capitals elevated some of their youth this season (Martin Fehervary, Connor McMichael) and that needs to continue. Replacing Schultz and Kempny with Lucas Johansen, Alex Alexeyev, Tobias Geisser or even Bobby Nardella would be ideal, if they are ready/capable of making the jump to the NHL. That’s a big “if” for all of them right now. The trading of Jonas Siegenthaler begins to really hurt at this point.

Replacing Hagelin with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (restricted free agent) would reduce the age of the fourth-line left wing position by 10 years. Johan Larsson would cut the age by four years. Ideally, Joe Snively, Aliaksei Protas and/or Brett Leason will also be part of the roster discussion in September.

4. Find Potential Upgrades

There are players like Lars Eller, who are on the bubble, with potential replacements (Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas) waiting in the wings. With one more year remaining on Eller’s contract, the Capitals need to seriously consider dealing him and upgrading at the position. They might also consider moving Nicklas Backstrom down to center the third line and look to sign a second-line center this summer.

Then there is John Carlson, who’s game is becoming more and more bipolar. His offensive game and point production has been great, but the defensive side of his game has been steadily deteriorating. His contract is also a huge negative. The Capitals need to think long and hard about possibly moving on from Carlson.

The Work Begins Now

The work for the start of the 2022-23 season is already underway and you can be assured that changes are on the way. It’s easy to say the Capitals need to get younger, but the execution is critical. Experience is very valuable in the NHL, so the balance of youth and experience needs to be carefully crafted.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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32 Responses to Where Do We Go From Here? The Capitals Preliminary “To-Do” List For The 2022 Off-Season

  1. novafyre says:

    Well done. I worried earlier when reading about training camp decisions. As you so well say, we have decisions to make now. Decide on the look of the team, on the playbook, the style, and then make your player decisions accordingly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Carlson needs to go, but we will DEFINITELY miss his scoring.

    • DanielleinDC says:

      It’s not like we won’t get scoring elsewhere. But he’s become a defensive liability. What galls me is he could be better; he just chooses not to. He needs to get his head screwed on right, or he needs to be gone.

      I agree with everything here. Hagelin has only one more year on his contract. Hopefully he can spend that on LTIR and then not be re-signed. And giving Backstrom sheltered minutes is unfortunate for a guy who’s getting $9M a year, but it has to be done.

      • Marky says:

        Eller has only 1 year left making him very easy to move at draft or trade deadline. I don’t agree with moving him though. He is nice insurance for when Backy gets hurt, and he will.

  3. Bob says:

    Sign ville husso, trade Carlson +1st for chychrun.

  4. red says:

    Carlson is actually not too old to recover. I think for a lot of this year he was dealing with injury. He is so good at helming the team 5 v 5 I don’t think we can find a credible replacement. But I do think his minutes need to diminish. If we don’t sign Schultz and make some other moves, we may be able to get a quality puck moving defenemen — think a Matt Niskanen type — to come in and take some of the pressure off. I don’t know who would take Eller in a trade. I do agree Backstrom needs to have reduced minutes and he should stay on PP1 where he remains effective. Maybe McMichael gets a real shot to be the 2C next year. The team will suffer for it at first, but if he grows into the role, it could make a real difference. Juat about anyone on this team not named Ovechkin or Kuznetsov or Wilson should be tradeable this offseason.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great article.. I also read Tariks piece on Athletic.. I’m in the camp of making a move on a goalie of a Quick, Husso type.. and continue the youth movement. McMichael get a full time role middle 6 winger/ 3l center 82 games 12-14 minutes a game put up 40+pts per. Snively, AJF, Lapierre, Protas all have chance to take other roster spots..

    But if they can swing a move like Fil Forsberg or something a legit star or zjohnny Hockey legit star that’s UFA or via trade that’s in that 27-28 range that’ll boost the top 6.. im all for it. Move Mantha or Eller or both and get that person

  6. Lance says:

    Good stuff, Jon. The frustrating thing is that it won’t get put into shape in a year or two.

    Our stars are getting older. Ovie is amazing. He’ll probably keep scoring and we’ll probably overlook his defensive play. Backstrom is ok as a #2 center if he’s healthy enough to play. Kuzy had an excellent year and a good playoffs all things considered. He could help another team win the Cup. He has real trade value. Wilson probably stays. He does everything so well. But again what would he return in trade?

    Carlson did get torched on defense a few times but I think Lavi just rode him too hard. Our D corps is weak. Fehervary had a good year but he’s not a good top pair D man yet. Maybe one day. Orlov had a great year. He’s become a hell of a D man. He could bring back a good draft pick in a trade. Schultz had an ok year and was ok in the playoffs. I’m not a big fan of Jensen’s game overall. He’s a good skater and decent puck handler but struggles to shut down star players. To be fair almost everybody struggles to shut down star players but the Caps need players who can do it. None of the Caps D corps are outstanding defensively. Carlson is damn good offensively. Orlov competes all over the ice and can carry the puck reasonably well.

    I see average NHL goalies in Sammy and Vanny. Samsonov has toms of raw talent but seems to lose his competitiveness a few times each game. Vasilevsky ups his game in those moments. So yeah I don’t think Sammy is the answer.

    Do you think Ovie’s run at becoming the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer will be or should be more important than building the next Cup winner? Let’s face it, that’s on a lot of people’s minds.

  7. argent says:

    How about coaching? Two back to back first round losses. Traditionally has been a catalyst for head coach change.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I’m with ya. But I think since the first two years he’s dealt with unusual circumstances, like COVID and a ton of injuries, I feel confident he will get next season, at least.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Every post playoff there’s claims major changes will be made with roster yet none are made. Ever. Owner is only interested in filling arena. Not winning. Fire GM and coaches. Overhaul roster. Otherwise enjoy being mediocre. Again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Blowing it up is not the answer.. As long as Ovi is on the roster….
      sooo another 4 years or so… IT’s not going to happen. So get over it. How long have you even watched hockey, 2018ish? GTFOH

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dont over react like the Leafs.. we took the Prez winners to 6 games without Willie… Hathaway came within an inch of prob winning the series…

    Let Hags go… JS and MK as well… I say let Eller go and keep CM… Dowd can play 3rd line C if needed…

    Sign who for D? There are a few… wait for the draft… If Mantha stays healthy next year, along with a solid G then the Caps will be fine.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good points. The Caps-Cat series was close. A shame it was a 1-8 seeding, that’s a joke.

      • steven says:

        Why a joke? The Caps did it to themselves during the season with many OT lossees and a poor PPmost of the year. They are what they are, a team that has quality but not enough quality to suceed in the playoffs and win a Cup.

  10. DC Scappeli says:

    Defense wins you the Cup—the PK did ridiculously fantastic, but overall team D wore down against the Cats. But it was also a problem in the REGULAR SEASON, choking leads! So something needs to improve with the overall team D.

    I like Eller because he’s a good Swiss army knife type player but I think he may need to be moved for draft picks or something. And then it’s up to the young guys to produce and grow up fast, if you’re gonna replace Eller.

    But yeah, Hags, Kemper, Schultz need to go to free up space. Gotta get more draft picks and prospects and re-stock Hershey too

  11. Anonymous says:

    Stop doing the drop back pass,
    It haunts us. Teams steal the puck and get short handed goals.
    Move the puck forward.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Learn to score garbage goals,
    Teams love garbage goals against us. They knock us out in the 1st round.They love garbage goals,Goals with odor on em.
    A goal is a goal.

  13. Danny says:

    Caps need to get younger and add more speed. The leauge is fast pace now. Teams like FLA, Colorado, Toronto, tampa sorta. They are succeeding while old school dump and chase and slow wearing down game doesnt work. Second, we need another star. Ovi is Ovi but he shoukd be on second line already. He shoukdnt be the center of our offense. Imagine if we had a another star on top line and ovi on second. Backstrom shoukd be third line center at this point. His production isnt top 2 center level. Third. MANTHA needs to go. He sucks, he is a waste of oxygen on this team. He is lazy doesnt shoot and cant score in playoffs. Fourth, defrnse needs to bring in young players like alexyev and more. Let them play a 82 game season. Let them make mistakes and learn and come playoffs they will be ready. Time to take a chance and use our youth at the top. Let mcmichael play top minutes. Let snicely play. You dont know their potential. Our team is to reliant on our core and theres no room for others

  14. Anonymous says:

    Huge mistake not signing Kane. Washington hockey fans are hockey illiterate.

    • Anonymous says:

      The majority of the league must be hockey illiterate. There were only a couple teams interested in taking a chance with him.

    • novafyre says:

      A toxic locker room is worse than an injured locker room. I do not feel it was a mistake. Kane might straighten out and fly right (and for his sake I hope he does), but with his history at the time, not signing him was the correct call.

  15. steven says:

    I agree withmost of what you say JOn however I think that the first thing that management and ownership must realize is that the Cup window for this team, due to many reasons, has closed and it is time to rebuild. They dont have to start tomorrow by getting rid of over 1/2 of this team but can do is slowly over the next 3-4 years.

    I agree that they have to ake some changes in goal as they cannot go forward with two #2 goalies and at tis time there is no one in the minors who is really ready to start. Things to look at: When will Hunter Shepard be ready? Are Gibson and Clark in the picture and if so when will they get to Hershey? Copley is a good/decent backup and maybe one day will become a goalie coach. Where oes Clark fit in as he has nice size but at 20 still in College. Kostenko and Bjorklund look like projects. I would prefer VV as the #2 for now. I doube that Sammy will bring much in trade and he is not worth what he was paid this year. With both of them being RFA this summer we cant resign both. I think a lot dependson when they expect Shephard or one of the other guys to be ready on who they sign over this summer and hopefully it will not be for a long term or for big bucks. Maybe Campbell or Suban might take a 2 year deal.

    Agree on parting ways with Kempny, Schultz and Hagelin as well as Johansson and probably Larsson as well. Bring up all those that played last year and let them fight for spots this fall. And to be honest if Laviolette doesnt like it I say let him walk. Also have no problem with trading Eller adn Sammy or VV whichever you can get the most for. If someone would take Carlson without having the Caps take back salary I would do that. Sad but backy and his hip problems needs to retire. With thee changes the team reduces salary cap and gets younger.

    Lastly Im not sold on the HC or on the GM. I feel that just making trades like the GM did this year in what appeared to be desperation and making a trade for the sake of a trade needs to stop. Also trading away our younger players and draft picks for older players who dont produce is nothing more than wher GMGM did. Why is it that Fla can get a Giroux while we end up loosing draft picks for players like Johansson and Larsson. Pitt got Jeff Carter a couple of years ago and Boston picked up Hall while we get scraps.

    The Caps had 9 players who took up about 68% of the salary cap. Its time to seriously reduce their cap number and play the rookies who they have drafted to see what they have. Also they need to take a hard serious look at the draft this year and draft someone in the 1st round who is either ready now or will be in one year and then the rest of the picks need to be players who have size, speed and can shoot and have grit.

    Finally I really think that the Cpas need to clean house in both the front office and on the coaching bench. time for new blood and new thinking. And time for Ted to realize that if the rebuild does not start now when it does it willt ale a longer time that is he were to start now. Starting now may mean being out of the playoffe for 1-3 year starting later means out for 4-6 years.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I am a Bears season ticket holder and I am Commenting on your potential moves to replace current Caps defenseman with those in their AHL system. Johanson had an ok year. His first since he arrived in Hershey. Not ready for prime time. Alexeyev has a big shot but not an elite skater. Potential though. Nardella has been getting worse not better each year. Geisser is decent for an AHLer now. None will improve the defense. Best players in their system are forwards. So if the are moving defenseman they better go shopping.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I believe it says “and that’s a big “if”. I will disagree with your assessment of Nardella, as he was the leading scorer on his SHL team last season. I have also watched every game for the past 8-9, years (away games as well) so I feel I have a good gauge of who is doing what in Hershey.

      You should know as well as I players sometimes suffer in Hershey (See Jonas Siegenthaler) He was average at best there, but once he left he flourished, and now is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. The Capitals will give them a chance in September, that you can be assured.

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