Has A “Rebuild” Already Begun For The Capitals?


Is it a rebuild? Maybe just a retooling? Or are we simply reloading the roster for another run?

It’s really a matter of personal perspective as to what each of those terms means to you with regards to NHL roster management. In the big picture sense, it’s semantics. But closer to the District, each term has real meaning pertaining to the Washington Capitals ethos.

So, have the Capitals already entered a true “rebuilding” stage, intentionally, unintentionally, or as a result of uncontrollable circumstances?

The term “rebuild” more often than not implies a momentary restructuring (however brief or long it may be) of a team with the future in mind, in lieu of the primary goal of chasing a championship. A “rebuild” could take three months, three years or three decades. Hello Toronto.

Nevertheless, some within Caps nation have already begun to label the Capitals’ current situation a “rebuild”. Others in Caps Nation will argue a true rebuild will only occur when captain Alex Ovechkin retires, or when the entire current “core” is jettisoned. In other words, it’s more directly tied to specific players for them.

Unanticipated Change

Star center Nicklas Backstrom required hip surgery less than a month ago and will likely be out for at least the 2022-23 regular season, if not longer. Whether the Capitals replace Backstrom from within, as MacLellan stated in his pre-draft presser last week, or they go forward and sign or trade for a high-caliber center, the second line will undergo significant change before opening night.

The injury to Carl Hagelin will also require another new face. Hagelin’s condition was improving, but as he stated in his last interview, he’s focused on health, first, but hopes to play again someday.

The Capitals have also now jettisoned both of their goaltenders from last season. Cleaning house and starting from scratch at the goaltender position has to be a rare occasion (I passed on doing the research on this one). Regardless, the Capitals netminder tandem will be completely new on opening night.

In addition, the Capitals will likely move on from at least five roster players from last season (Justin Schultz, Michal Kempny, Matt Irwin, Marcus Johansson), all requiring new faces to step in. Finally, the injury to Tom Wilson will also require yet another new player for a majority of the first half of the season. It would be a temporary need, but a current need nonetheless.

Taking Stock

As a result, the Capitals could see as many as 8-10 new faces on their opening night roster when they host the Bruins on October 12. That’s as much as a 45% overhaul. We could see a trade or two that could possibly increase that number to over 50%. Does changing out half of a team’s roster constitute a rebuild?

MacLellan’s statement regarding replacing from within indicates the plan is to elevate  prospects (youth). There is nothing wrong with training kids on the job, but that is also another key indicator a rebuild is underway.

Most will agree an overhaul is desperately needed. The question is, does it already garner the “rebuild” moniker? Some will say a true “rebuild” will require the replacement of specific players in the “core” before it’s truly underway. That’s for you to call.

In the end it’s just a label. But it’s a label that’s tied to the philosophical mindset within the organization and among fans. It’s a label that is in high-use right now within the Capitals universe, and one we will be hearing about for some time to come.

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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16 Responses to Has A “Rebuild” Already Begun For The Capitals?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Make no mistake, this is a rebuild. The team will never say it, as that’s not good for business, but as far as calling it a rebuild, that’s for each person to decide.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Rebuild. This summer will be huge in what direction the team goes in the next five years.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can’t rebuild if you can’t get rid of players you have. This is spraying Lysol on a turd.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Eloquently put.

    • Troytee says:

      A re-build around 8-77-74-92-43 is possible.
      Savvy trades and FA fill ins along w/ youth could lead to a re-load scenario
      I for one am excited for an injection of young hungry and fresh legged forwards in particular.

      • steven says:

        For a rebuild they also have to choose to keep eother 74 or 9 and I vote for 9. Cant have that much tied up in just 2 D men almost the same age. And as much as I watch 77 play and how he helps the team I think its time to tradehim either this summer or mid season as his age and size the injuries last year are just the start. Someone who will make the playoffs and has Cup hopes will pull the trigger on 77.

  4. Joe says:

    Anybody who doesn’t think this is a rebuild, is not paying attention. Two goalies gone, two key players on LTIR, and multiple other players on the bubble with some of the youngsters possibly taking their places. If this isn’t a rebuild, then it’s a major remodel.

  5. Lance says:

    Our forward group is really pretty good. Sure the forwards would benefit from a couple of lucky hits on the free agent market but we have a lot of solid forward prospects and quite a few of them can play this year if they have to.

    The D core needs a massive overhaul at the NHL level. It’s just barely holding together with fishing line and duct tape. We need at least 2 new guys who play good ol’ tough as nails defense back there. Lavi wants to play an offensive game and that’s good enough in the regular season but like in most sports you have to defend well.

    It sounds like Kuemper will be our goalie. I’m feeling pretty good about that signing if it happens.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I think we add two goaltenders (obvious) and three new defensemen this off-season. That’s a sizable overhaul on defense.

      • novafyre says:

        Sammy and Caps could agree to a lesser amount and he could be staying. And to me, promoting Fucale isn’t really an add since he did play for the Caps last year. So we could be only adding one goalie new to the Caps.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

    Just remembered this quote from Tobias Geisser re: decision to leave Hershey for Swiss League until: “when the rebuild finally happens”.

  7. Norm Stewart says:

    I think a one year RELOAD is likely in the cards – hoping to squeeze into the playoffs with some improving health at the end of the year. I don’t think it’s a rebuild until we see the usual suspects either moved or retired – remember how GMGM did it.

  8. steven says:

    Call it a rebuild, retool or remodel or reload as they ae all the same. This team should have been retooling or remodeling back in 2019 rather than keep handing out huge contract extensions. Now its going to be a rebuild and a few more names ahve to go . They must decide if the keep Carlson or Orlov as they are just about the same age and dont need your top 2 d-men to be 32+. Getting rid ofboth goalies says ebuild. THe big question are they going to rebuild with a blend of youth adn UFA’s or just bring in UFA and use up all the salary cap space. Fans might not like it but maybe it would be better to go with more youth and go through growing pains which means losses and no playoffs for 2-3 years but they will receive higher draft picks which will help the rebuild. If however they spend all the cap money and try to keep the team in the they the rebuild will tale a lot longer at least 5 years after Ovie retires to who knows how many years and no playoffs. Another move that will help this teamand Ill be sad to see him go would be to have Backy etire thus not keeping the young players or team in limbo. Injuries are part of the game but size and age also are and therefore the team should be looking for another team for oshie either this summer or midseason as by then Im sure a playoff team would be interested. Just clearing those salaries off the books would be good and who knows what they would bring back in young prospects or draft picks that would be valuablein the rebuild.

  9. novafyre says:

    To me, it’s the age of the replacements. Adding older vets is a tweak, adding young prospects is a rebuild.

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