Washington Capitals Ties To The 2023 Stanley Cup Finals

Photo: Toronto Star

The Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin Saturday night when the Vegas Golden Knights host the Florida Panthers, as both teams look to hoist their first ever Stanley Cup. [Preview here]. Both participants include one player who formerly played for the Washington Capitals. In addition to the players, there are a number of other personnel working with the Stanley Cup finalists who were formerly associated with the Capitals.


The former Capitals players participating in the Stanley Cup Finals are defenseman Radko Gudas of the Florida Panthers and center Chandler Stephenson with the Las Vegas Knights.

Radko Gudas, Defenseman, Florida Panthers

Gudas, a native of Czechia, has played for the Panthers since the 2020-21 season. He is more of a defensive defenseman who plays a physical game rather than a goal scorer. This season, Gudas played in 72 regular season games and scored two goals and recorded 15 assists. He has played 16 playoff games so far this season, scoring no goals thus far but recording three assists.

Before playing with the Panthers, Gudas played for the Capitals. Washington acquired him from the Philadelphia Flyers after the 2018-19 season in the Matt Niskanen trade, but played with the Capitals for just one season, 2019-20, before signing with the Panthers as a free agent.

Before joining the Capitals, Gudas played for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers. Tampa Bay selected him in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry draft with pick #66 overall. He was part of the Norfolk Admirals team during the 2011-12 season that set the winning streak record for a professional hockey team. Incidentally, his younger sister, Karoline, is married to former Capitals goaltender, Michal Neuvirth.

Chandler Stephenson, Center, Las Vegas Knights

The Capitals drafted Stephenson, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft with pick #77 overall. He played for the Hershey Bears for several years and made his debut with the Capitals during the 2015-16 season.

Stephenson came up to the NHL to stay early in the 2017-18 season when he was part of the Capitals team that won the Stanley Cup. He remained with the Capitals until December 2, 2019, when he was traded to the Las Vegas Knights in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. Due to salary cap reasons, the Capitals were not able to keep both him and Travis Boyd and he was thus traded.

Photo: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

Stephenson blossomed after the trade to Las Vegas. Back with the Capitals, while he was generally in the lineup, he did not have a defined role as he played on the first line, fourth line, and third line at different times, as well as playing both center and wing.

Stephenson ended up with career highs in goals, assists, and points for 2019-20. During 2020-21, he was promoted to the Knights’ top line where he centered Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and exceeded his career highs in goals and assists from the previous season.

Stephenson has improved his point total every year with Vegas. This season, he led all Knights forwards in the regular season in five-on-five and power-play minutes while being second in short-handed minutes. He even made the 2023 NHL All Star game for the first time.

During the 2023 postseason, Stephenson has scored eight goals and has recorded six assists. He scored the game winning goal for the Golden Knights in their 3-2 victory in Game 2 of their third round series against the Dallas Stars.


Among non-playing personnel, the Florida Panthers have no former Capitals’ personnel on either the coaching staff, in their front office, or scouting staff. Only last season, 2021-22, they had employed Joel Quenneville and Andrew Brunette, as head coaches.

However, the Las Vegas Knights have plenty of former Capitals’ personnel, their most well-known being Team President, George McPhee, and Head Coach Bruce Cassidy.

President of Hockey Operations, George McPhee

McPhee was the Capitals General Manager from 1997-98, a season where the Capitals reached the Stanley Cup Final, through 2013-14. During his tenure in Washington, the team drafted Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and other stars.

McPhee became the Knights’ very first General Manager during the summer of 2016.  After the 2018-19 season, he relinquished his General Manager position in favor of Brad McCrimmon but retained his position as President of Hockey Operations.

Benjamin Hager:Las Vegas Review-Journal

 Head Coach Bruce Cassidy

The Capitals were impressed by Cassidy’s record as a head coach at the AHL level and selected him to be their head coach before the 2002-03 season. This was Cassidy’s first Head Coaching position at the NHL level. However, they fired him in early December 2003 when the Capitals got off to a bad start. After leaving the Capitals, he coached for various other AHL teams.

The Boston Bruins hired him to be assistant coach for the 2016-17 season and appointed him as Interim Head Coach midway through that season. He was no longer interim after that season and remained as the Bruins’ Head Coach through the end of the 2021-22 season. His tenure with the Bruins included an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018-19 and winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2019-20. After the Bruins fired him the Knights then hired Cassidy as their Head Coach.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Other Personnel

Other personnel who used to work for the Capitals were Wil Nichol who is now the Knights’ Director of Player Development and Vojtech Kucera, who is now the Knights’ Director of European Scouting. McPhee lured both of them from the Capitals to Las Vegas after the 2015-16 season. Nichol scouted for the Caps from 2011 through 2016. Kucera  scouted for the Caps from 1999 through 2016.

Another Vegas scout, Jim McKenzie, played 30 games with the Caps in 1999-00 and scored one goal after a trade from the Anaheim Ducks. In addition, Rick Braunstein, the Knights’ Director of Team Services, worked in Public Relations for the Capitals and was one of the main authors of their 1995-96 Media Guide

Las Vegas Knights Personnel Directory

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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2 Responses to Washington Capitals Ties To The 2023 Stanley Cup Finals

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm 🤔 Double check the date for the Stephensen trade

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    An excellent primer on Ex-Caps making good. Thank You Diane!
    A few exclamation points:

    – Radko Gudas has been rock-solid for FLA through thick and thin of past three seasons. Despite criticism of being old and slow, Gudas is simply never out of position defensively nor embarrassed by any slick forward. He hits hard and is a definite intimidation factor on the ice. Finished regular season at +14.

    – Butch Cassidy has come a long way since his Caps head coaching days. What defined his DC tour more than anything else was his immediate entry into the Washington Tabloid Gossip world with an embarrassing scandal. Only one detail needed, a quote from Butch: “I guess I’ll have to be the best father I can be.”

    – Stephenson’s disastrous mis-evaluation by the Reirden Administration has led to development of a new verb at NovaCapsFans: In context it reads, “Don’t Stephenson that prospect.”

    – And let’s honor George McPhee. Having been handed a Billion-Dollar-Bribe NHL expansion roster, he didn’t blow it. VGK was immediately a championship contender and it continues to this day.

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