NoVa Caps’ Round Table: The Capitals’ Offseason Playbook

With the Washington Capitals out of contention for the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the focus immediately turns towards next season with the goal of making the most out of captain Alex Ovechkin’s final years while also bracing for the post-Ovechkin era. After reviewing the potential offseason strategies that Washington could adopt this offseason, NoVa Caps contributors give their thoughts on how Washington should approach the biggest offseason in a long time.

Harrison: I think a hybrid of infusing youth, a significant trade, and blowing some of the roster up is warranted at this point. Lots of changes are needed if the intent is to stay competitive with Ovechkin. We have seen the players that Washington values when they inked extensions post-NHL All-Star break, as well as the core guys. I have absolutely no problem with that as all of those players earned the extensions they got.

I would expect a number of guys like Lapierre, Alexeyev, and Aliaksei Protas to get close looks at regular roles in the fall. I also think a major trade is absolutely necessary, whether it’s center Evgeny Kuznetsov or defenseman John Carlson, preferably the latter, but Washington needs to be sure to get fair value in return.

I think that the Capitals will see what it will cost to move left-wing Anthony Mantha before they do anything this offseason unless the head coach believes that he can get more out of him, and then start tinkering to get a more accurate picture of their salary cap situation.

Jon – I think my take is probably fairly mainstream at this point. Starting at the top, all signs point to going a different direction by bringing in a new head coach. Laviolette was brought in reinstate accountability, which he has done. But the team’s “needs” have changed since his hiring. Younger players will require more of a development coach.

Also mainstream is the take that Blaine Forsythe’s time is over in DC. He was successful along the way, but that has come to an end. I expect all new coaches with the exception of Scott Allen, who did very well this season.

As far as player adjustments, I still think we are short on the backend. Alexeyev looks to be solidifying a role with the team next season, but it’s better he begins as the seventh defenseman. We also need at least one more scoring forward, possibly two, depending on who the Capitals lose in the off-season. Finally,I would look to move Mantha and be open to calls regarding Kuznetsov and Carlson.

Justin: Acquiring a top-six scoring forward in the prime of their career is a requirement this off-eason. With another primary scorer in the lineup, the Caps should be able to improve considerably in finishing rate, and should transfer to success in the standings. A player like Nick Schmaltz would be a tremendous addition to the lineup. That would likely require prospects and picks to make a trade work.

A nice-to-have addition would be a legitimate top four defenseman, ideally someone to pair with John Carlson. That move would largely depend on the evaluation of Alexander Alexeyev, but a defensively focused, fleet-footed top-four defenseman next to Carlson should allow Carlson to do what he does best: create offense.

To have the space for these types of moves, there’s probably one or two players who make considerable money that’ll be on the move: Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov. I’d only move Kuznetsov for the right package, but impactful additions to the roster are going to cost cap space.

EricThe key for the Capitals this offseason is to get some young blood into their forward corps. Five forwards under contract for next season are aged 30 or older and a few of them, namely T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom, have dealt with many injuries throughout their careers.

Adding the jump and desire of younger players can infuse a new energy into the lineup. There are a few options with Hershey that can step in and help. Connor McMichael has excelled since being sent to the Bears and can succeed at the next level if put in the right spot with a coach that believes in him. Ethen Frank is another younger player that can fit into the Caps plans. He is a natural goal scorer with a knack for the net. Beck Malenstyn would infuse energy into the bottom six and would aid the penalty kill.

Bryan: As a Spring of disappointment meanders towards a Summer of discontent, Capitals brass needs to think about the unthinkable: asking Nicklas Backstrom to retire. Everyone wants him on the the ice if/when Alex Ovechkin passes Gretzky. Everyone understands his contributions to this franchise. Everyone knows he has earned his salary through past performance, but he is no longer earning his salary, right? Nine million dollars is too high a price for his current performance. Nick is to be lauded for a tremendous career and commended for his comeback from surgery.

What to do? Name him First Line Center Emeritus and let him hang in the locker room. Make him the highest paid assistant coach in the league. But Washington needs his $9 million cap hit off the books. It won’t be an easy conversation, but someone should get in his ear before the start of the new league year.

Michael: I believe the Capitals can infuse younger players into their lineup to increase their speed and skill while not limiting Ovechkin’s chances of running down Wayne Gretzky’s record. Dylan Strome is an ideal top-line center and has played well this season, which in my opinion makes Evgeny Kuznetsov expendable for the right return in a trade (but hold onto him if nothing that increases their prospect pool and/or draft cupboard comes along).

The team also needs to give prospects like Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre, Joe Snively and Beck Malenstyn a realistic opportunity to contribute next season and continue to give Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary (pending restricted free agents) more responsibilities; a contract extension for Rasmus Sandin would also not be a bad thing either ($3-3.5 million x eight years would make sense to me given his play with the Caps this season and their anticipated role for him).

While Peter Laviolette has done his best, the team needs to look elsewhere and for a younger coach that will hopefully give said young players more of a chance than the veteran bench boss has done in his time in DC. The Caps are losing ground in a Metropolitan Division that has tremendous skill, youth, and speed. It is time they acknowledge their shortcomings with personnel moves that truly address them.

Diane: The short answer, aside from getting younger, is to improve at center. Most of the UFA options are older than Kuznetsov which would defeat the purpose of getting younger. Restricted free agent centers include Pierre Luc Dubois but, as he’s a RFA, he would be expensive to acquire, whether in trade or via offer sheet. Other options include: trading for a center or promoting Connor McMichael. Or the Caps could do the Vegas Golden Knights’ (pre Jack-Eichel) model and acquiring another elite winger so they don’t have to be as strong at center.

For defense, the first order of business would be to sign RFA’s: Fehervary and Alexeyev. The latter seems to have found a home on defense. Overall, with Carlson, Van Riemsdyk, Jensen, and Sandin on contract for next season, if they sign Fehervary and Alexeyev, they’re set on defense. Maybe Lucas Johansen or Gabriel Carlsson could earn the seventh role unless they wish them to earn a spot in the top-six.

To be competitive next season, Washington will need to make some big changes. However they decide to do so will be up to MacLellan and co. After five straight years of failing to get passed the second round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, tough decisions are on the way. MacLellan will have around two months to make them.


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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17 Responses to NoVa Caps’ Round Table: The Capitals’ Offseason Playbook

  1. novafyre says:

    Every HC candidate should be asked one question: What would you do to get Ovi another Stanley Cup while he reaches and passes Wayne?

    If you pick the right head coach, you then help him implement his solution.

  2. Anonymous says:

    New GM.
    New coaching staff.
    Pay someone using draft picks to take Mantha.
    Let UFAs leave.
    Listen to offers on anyone not named Ovi or Wilson.
    Sign top 6 FA winger.
    Resign AA and MF
    Sign FA D if space allows

    • Diane Doyle says:

      Maybe they could get a taker for Mantha as he has only one year left on his contract. I presume the Caps would take back salary and probably get a minimal return, such as a late draft pick.

    • Anonymous says:

      New GM lol BMAC got us a cup.. See Poile and Mcphee..

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes Mrs BMac. So he should have a lifetime contract? Has made a series of bad decisions and bad contracts. Don’t give him all the credit for the cup either. He didn’t build it all.

        • Anonymous says:

          He did: He stole Oshie, clear as day filled 3C hole with Eller, stroke of genius he hired Kevin from the Office as an assistant under Trotzy to lure Nisky and Orpik from the Pens. The final piece was the Kempney trade that put this team over the top with all those additions.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Short of some kind of miracle trade, Caps should use the kids, and that means they will be bad next year. Keep all, unless you can fine a suitable trade for Kuzy, I doubt. I think they should find a new coach who can work with him and maybe get him to play like he did in 2018. IDK. This is a tough one. My list would include Severson, Graves, Gavrikov on D, Bertuzzi, Domi, Compher, Barbashev, Bunting on F.

  4. hockeydruid says:

    Retooling is just a slower version of a rebuild. Somehow I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that PL will be resigned for 2 years because Ted wants that scoring record more than a chance for a Cup right now. Even though Ovie only needs 72 to tie and 73 to pass The Great One, which means, not counting any goals that he gets in the last 4 games needs 24.33 goals a year for the next 3 and he can do that no problem, and he could get that many in a retool or rebuild so I see no problem in starting the rebuild IF and only if they obtain the right HC and obtain a new GM. The team needs a new philosophy and scheme top to bottom, one that can be implemented now and still work after Ovie retires.. As Bryan stated the first changes need to come with Backy retiring and Oshie and Carlson being traded. All 3 have done a great job but it is time to move on to younger players. I believe that Backy would be a great assistant coach and really help Allen. With those 3 moving on that opens the door for Lapierre, CMM, Malenstyn, Frank and possible others to get shots at making the roster next fall. A trade of Kuzy would benefit both just like letting Samsonov and VV go last summer benefited both players and the Caps as the Caps had no faith in either. Trading some players like Carlson, Oshie, Mantha,Kuzy and possible Wilson (would start contract talks asap and hope that he could be signed for several years but not an 8 year deal or for 7-8Mil a year) and be willing to take mid to low picks just to get rid o salary and age except for Kuzy who should bring a 1st and a 3rd and Wilson who could bring a 1st or a 2nd depending on the team. . .

  5. Anonymous says:

    I firmly believe there is no “correct way” to be a fan of a team. So if people want to blow the whole thing up, trade everyone who can be traded and fire everyone that’s a okay with me. Personally, a thing I like about the Caps is that they try to treat their players like people not just sports management assets. Listening to Ovi, I think he cares about another cup and keeping this core together a lot more than the scoring record. Sometimes I actually suspect he’s doing all this because it got that handshake agreement out of Ted not to blow the team up in return. We waited for a cup for 43 years and who knows if we ever draft someone like Ovi and Backy together again in another 43. I can easily deal with two or three extra years to go into an uncertain rebuild (there isn’t another Ovechkin waiting at the beginning of that one by the way) if it means some of the best players the franchise ever had get to play out their career here in peace and hopefully get to celebrate breaking one of sports great records together. Shrug.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s a business. They are assets. 🙄

      • Anonymous says:

        They are and will always be people first. I prefer my favourite sports team not resort to an Amazon style attitude towards its workforce.

    • dwgie26 says:

      Culture is an asset as well. I appreciate what Ted and GMBM did. Lot of shit went against them with Covid, injuries, and flat cap. It’s been fun hockey to watch and be part of. Playoffs has been Uber disappointing.

      A lot has to change in the offseason but the old core players aren’t going anywhere. Kuzy can go. Mantha for sure. The rest old core including JC74, we ride to the end.

      Lavi and coaches go except Scott Allen. GMBM stays are does more work.

  6. Seven says:

    Hi Caps fans. Love the boys. I don’t think everything is as dire as some think. This team still has a ton of talent, just need to find the right formula. New coach probably, and obviously get rid of Mantha and a few others. Remember, we probably were not the best team in hockey when we finally won it all. They found that special formula and just did it. Were the Blues the best team in hockey when they suddenly went from worst to first a few years back?NO. Somehow, they suddenly figured it out. We shall see. I think we will be ok as long as we find the right coach to pull the trigger.

    • dwgie26 says:

      I agree. We have some good pieces. Mantha will actually fetch value (not cost us). Would be nice to generate some Kuzy wars and get a crazy haul for him.

      Sign RFA’s. Replace UFA’s with Hershey players and a legit top 6 (maybe 2 if Kuzy goes). I’d prefer a RD which and if AA falters TVR can play on left. But I’m on team offense this offseason. Goalies are fine.

  7. Prevent Defense says:

    Thank You NovaCapsFans staff for the excellent analysis!

    – Kuznetsov brings major “knucklehead factor” to the rink and will be traded for return
    – Carlson: Gosh so many Caps fans / armchair GMs want to sacrifice him. He stays on my Caps team
    – Mantha should be removed even if it’s a buyout. But there’s a sucker born every day and GMBM will bamboozle one of the other 31 GMs and offload one of most underachieving, ineffective Caps of all time. Actually makes Joe Murphy look good
    – Good Luck convincing Backstrom to retire. I’d rather see T. J. Oshie do so. Backstrom can still play, will need major off-season conditioning to regain effectiveness. Osh-babe is an orthopaedic disaster
    – I want a wide-open competition for Backup Goaltender
    – Scott Allen stays. All the rest of the coaches get gold parachutes. Agree.
    – Bribe the Hockey Gods to make the offseason adjustments a big success

  8. franky619 says:

    Props to Bryan for calling it like it is. Any hope they have of being a contender again begins by getting Backstrom off the team.

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