Extend, Cut, Trade, Or Wait?: A Look Ahead At All Of The Capitals Entering Contract Years

The Washington Capitals have a major offseason looming after 2022-23 with only one defenseman signed for the following campaign and a lot of their bottom-six forward group up for a new contract. NoVa Caps sees who is entering their contract year and assesses whether to extend them now, wait, or let them go in July.

FORMAT

In this piece, I’ve categorized all of the Capitals players by current contract status at the end of this season. At the end of each paragraph on each player, I have assigned a preliminary action label as;

    • Extend – extend current contract now,
    • Cut – let them go at the end of their current deal,
    • Trade – before trade deadline, or
    • Wait – see how player does in first half of season at least,

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

RW Connor Brown — The 28-year-old was just acquired from the Ottawa Senators on July 13. Though the Capitals did not pay a cheap price to acquire him (a 2024 second-round pick), they will likely see how the marriage goes before making this decision. Wait

C Lars Eller — After signing Dylan Strome, the 33-year-old’s role in the organization appears to be uncertain with the need of getting Connor McMichael (and perhaps Aliaksei Protas) regular NHL roles as soon as this season. Eller’s days as a Capital appear to be numbered. Trade/Cut

RW Garnet Hathaway – The 30-year-old is a key part of the Capitals’ strong fourth-line, which is used to shut down other teams’ top players, and added offense with career-highs in goals (14), assists (12), points (26), and plus-minus (+19) in 76 games last season. The team needs to get younger but for a defensive role, some veteran presence may be needed. His role in the community and low milage (373 career regular-season games) could be other reasons to retain Hathaway. Extend

LW Conor Sheary – The 30-year-old can play any role for the Capitals, is cheap, and can produce as he tallied 19 goals and 43 points in 71 games last season. Those players are hard to find. Extend

RW Marcus Johansson – The soon-to-be 32-year-old played well after being acquired from the Seattle Kraken on March 21, tallying three goals and six points in 18 regular-season games with the Capitals. The team awarded him with a one-year contract. While letting Johansson go would pave way for Protas or another young player, we cannot 100% decide on this when he has yet to play a game since he signed his current deal. Wait

LW Carl Hagelin – The 33-year-old’s game turned around for the worse last season as he saw his responsibility on the penalty kill, where he averaged 1:54 on the penalty-kill (second among Capitals forwards), decline and did not produce much offense with three goals and 14 points in 53 games before undergoing surgery on his left eye on March 6. Hagelin did not play after February and his status for this season is still up in air. Even if he is an option, it is hard imagining the Capitals re-signing him. Cut

D Dmitry Orlov – The 30-year-old was arguably the Capitals’ best defenseman last season when he set career-highs in goals (12) and points (35) in 76 games. Orlov also turned in a +25 rating, 52.42% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 52.02% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 52.18% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage. While he is on the wrong side of 30, Orlov has been fantastic over the past two seasons and losing the top-pairing blueliner would be a tough one for the Capitals to overcome. Extend

D Nick Jensen – The 32-year-old also turned in a strong season, earning five goals, 21 points, a team-best +32 rating, 50.16% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.76% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 49.82% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 76 regular-season games. Jensen is getting up there but only has 407 career regular-season games under his belt. Wait

D Trevor Van Riemsdyk – The 31-year-old had another solid season as he posted a goal, 17 points, a -3 rating, 49.44% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.20% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 50.92% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 72 games. Like Jensen, Van Riemsdyk does not have a lot of mileage on him as he has appeared in 456 career games. Unlike him, he is younger and plays a smaller role. Van Riemsdyk also provides excellent value for what he has made on his last two contracts. Extend

D Erik Gustafsson – The 30-year-old earned three goals, 18 points, a -4 rating, 50% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 47.07% expected goals-for percentage, and 47.71% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 59 games with the Chicago Blackhawks last season before signing a one-year contract with the Capitals. The hope is that Alexander Alexeyev or Lucas Johansen will be ready for a full-time NHL role by then. Wait

D Matt Irwin – The 34-year-old excelled when given an opportunity last season when he tallied a goal, four points, even rating, 56.01% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 59.32% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 54.55% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 17 games. His play warranted a one-year contract extension. Perhaps having Irwin as the seventh blueliner is a good fit and he has a great relationship with head coach Peter Laviolette. Wait

Non-roster: C Michael Sgarbossa, C Mike Vecchione, D Dylan McIlrath, D Bobby Nardella, G Hunter Shepard, G Zach Fucale

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

C Dylan Strome (arbitration eligible) – The 25-year-old put up 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games with the Blackhawks before the team did not qualify him as a restricted free agent and the Capitals signed him to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Strome gives the Capitals what they need with another young, productive center who can play in the top-six but we will have to see how the fit is for both player and team. Wait

LW Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (arbitration eligible) – The 24-year-old earned two goals, four points, an even rating, a 47.26% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 49.94% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 49.7% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 23 NHL games. While with the Capitals, he averaged 42 seconds per game on the penalty-kill, where he is strongly utilized with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Jonsson-Fjallby also tallied 16 goals and 34 points in 44 AHL contests. Extend

D Martin Fehervary – The 23-year-old finished his freshman NHL season with eight goals, 17 points, a +15 rating, 49.1% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 47.57% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 48.19% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 79 games. Fehervary is the youngest defenseman on the Capitals’ roster and has a bright future ahead of him. Extend

Non-roster: RW Kody Clark, RW Riley Sutter, C Henrik Borgstrom (arbitration eligible), C Garrett Pilon (arbitration eligible), D Alexander Alexeyev, D Gabriel Carlsson (arbitration eligible)

ELIGIBLE FOR EXTENSIONS – WAIT OR SIGN

LW Anthony Mantha (UFA after 2023-24) – The 27-year-old tallied four goals and eight points in 14 games in 2020-21 after getting acquired from the Detroit Red Wings. Mantha missed 44 games after undergoing surgery on his shoulder on November 5 and wrapped up his first full season in Washington with nine goals and 23 points in 37 regular-season games. He has six assists in 11 postseason games over two seasons since joining the Capitals. The team values his size and skill but a limited sample size has made this decision too early to call. Wait

C Connor McMichael (RFA) – The 21-year-old had a solid rookie season with nine goals and 18 points in 68 regular-season games and one helper in four postseason outings. McMichael excelled at creating scoring chances and could vie for a bigger role this season. The verdict on him and what action to take on his next deal will get clearer at the end of the season. Wait

RW Tom Wilson (UFA) – The 28-year-old finished last season with career-highs in goals (24), assists (28), points (52), and plus-minus (+13) in 78 regular-season games. Wilson provides a physical element, can sway momentum in a game in his team’s favor, and even dictates other rivals’ roster moves. He scored a goal in just 1:31 during the postseason before tearing his ACL in Game 1 of the team’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Florida Panthers, which forced him to miss the rest of the tournament and will keep him out of the lineup until around December. Since Wilson is viewed as the Capitals’ next captain, the team will likely put a strong effort together to keep him unless his game deteriorates to a certain degree once he returns. Extend

The Capitals will have a busy offseason after this upcoming season, which means that the team’s Stanley Cup window could be shutting for good then. While there are a lot of factors at play for a few of these players, we have some idea as to who the team will or won’t prioritize. However, this upcoming season could change any (or all) of that. Stay tuned.

We will revisit and update around December or January, just prior to the trade deadline.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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10 Responses to Extend, Cut, Trade, Or Wait?: A Look Ahead At All Of The Capitals Entering Contract Years

  1. novafyre says:

    I would like to see more maturity from Garnet. Don’t have stats, but my poor memory says he made a lot of fouls at the wrong time and that cost us. I like having a physical player to take some of the pressure off of Wilson but he needs to pick his battles wisely.

    Wish you had split extend into short term and long term. Agree with some extends if 1 or 2 years, but would not if longer.

    I still don’t understand signing MoJo.

    • Marky says:

      There was a good opinion by a Caps writer on one of the blogs that I agreed with and it did hold true as to why he was signed at the trade deadline and probably why he was resigned. He is good at puck possession and in getting the puck thru the neutral zone and good defensively and very sound positionally. The Caps had struggled at the end of the year thru neutral and with puck possession and Mojo seemed to have an effect there, especially in the playoffs. Yes, he didn’t score much but that’s not why he’s here. I think one more year of Mojo will not break the roster. I also think BMGM is wanting to have many options in case the Caps have another injury filled season.

      • Anonymous says:

        You saw a different MoJo than what I saw. I found him…meh. Certainly not the MoJo of years ago (and he will be 31 when the season starts). Apparently other NHL teams saw the same things I saw as he is now on his 6th team in 4 years. The problem with signing him is that he blocks a young LW player, e.g. Snively and possibly McMichael, from either a roster spot or ice time. That is worth more than what MoJo costs in salary.

      • steven says:

        Depending on which young player that is not waiver exempt you have to look at players like MoJop and Eller as being traded or cut.Please take off the 2015 eyeglasses when you looka t him and see him as the 2022 players that he is…..older and not likely to score much and taking the place of a younger player who needs time in the NHL on this roster not in the AHL or worse with another team!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think we are already past the point of cutting ties with MoJo. Loved him as a Caps but Father Time stops for nobody. Same reason Eller will be traded this season.

  3. steven says:

    Trade: Mantha, Oshie, Eller, Johansson, Orlov.
    Cut: Johansson, Hagelin.
    Retire: Backstrom.
    Wait: Wilson, Brown, Hathaway, Sheary, TVR, Irwin, Gustafsson, Jensen, Orlov.
    Extend: McMichael, Fehervary, AJF. Strom, TVR.

    The reason for so many on the wait is not just to see how they do this year but also to see where the team is in the standings in January and who might be interested in any of these players rather than just seeing them possible walk in the summer for nothing. The rebuild starts with this training camp and will go on all year and begin in earnest come January depending on the standing of the team and then big push next summer. Hopefully the GM at that time, and I hope its not GMBM, does not go whole hog into signing free agents but rather fills amny of the holes with younger players in the system from Hershey! Also looking forward to who the HC wil be next season and how long Lav lasts this coming year if the team get off to a bad start.

    • Dan says:

      So many seem to think rebuilds are easy. Rebuild more likely means 5 years out of the playoffs…no thank you. I’m fine moving forward, being very competitive and if we go out in the 1st or 2nd round, so be it.

      Additionally I don’t think a rebuild is necessary.

      Pretty good chance of this in 2023-2026

      Centers

      Kuzy, Stromm, McMichael, Lapierre and Protas

      Wings

      Wilson, Ovi snidely, mantha , Sheary, Miro (maybe lapierre, McMichael or Protas ends up wing) and that’s without a big top 6 free agent.

      Capitals are in pretty strong shape for the next 5-7 years.

      • steven says:

        Yes rebuilds take time and with 10 UGA and 3 RFA after the 22/23 season it is going to start probably this coming January as there is no way that all 13 players can be resigned with the salary cap. The question that aces the GM is two fold: 1) do you make your roster to please the preent HC or loook to the future and 2) do you trade players now and lose several promising NHL ready young players who can not able to pass through waivers like AJF, Snively just to mention 2. I also have no need to keep Mantha who has shown nothing since the trade and to be honest not much the 2 years before the trade. You dont mention any D where all except an aging Carlson are either UFA or RFA after this coming season. There comes a time when you cant keep all your players year after year and its not just salary but you have to mix in the young players to stay viable. This team has failed to do that and all have gotten old at the same time. Also you have a HC who does not like to play younger players and this team is poised to lose several of its good young players when it should be parting ways with older players like Eller, MoJo and others.

    • Marky says:

      I would agree with you about waiting on most. And I would agree about seeing how the team is positioned in January to determine all in for one more shot or for selling status. The only guy I would be happy seeing extended is Orlov. The others can wait to see how their seasons go.

      • steven says:

        If you extend Orlov then maybe you trade Carlson as I dont seeing Orlov taking less than Carlson to stay here when I think he would rather be in Russia. Carlson, Backy, Oshie and Kuzy all have very bad contract and that blocks a lot of what can be spent on younger players.

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