Heading into the 2023 offseason, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was eligible for a contract extension, as the six-year, $31 million contract he signed back in 2018 was set to expire following the 2023-24 season. The Toronto, Ontario, native has called Washington home for his entire career, and he made it clear that he did not want to change that in the near future.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to play hardball or say that I don’t want to be here. Everyone knows I love it here and want to be here. No matter what happens, I want to help this city win games. Who knows what’s going to happen over the summer into next year,” Wilson said back in April.
During the offseason, there were a number of reports and rumors about the Capitals looking to trade the 29-year-old forward.
Last Friday, however, Washington officially put those rumors to bed when it rewarded the power forward with a seven-year, $45.5 million extension, essentially making him a Capital for life; the deal is set to begin next season and will expire following the 2030-31 season.
Both sides wanted to get an extension done before the new season began so it would not become a distraction during the year.
“I knew I wanted to be here for as long as I could and the team expressed the same,” Wilson said during a teleconference with the media and Washington General Manager Brian MacLellan. “I think it just makes it easier to get it out of the way now [so it] doesn’t have to be a distraction.”
The 2012 first-round selection had to work his way up the lineup to become an effective player, going from a fourth-line enforcer to a top-six forward, while still keeping the physical element to his game. In his first season in the NHL, he played all 82 games but recorded just 10 points (three goals, seven assists), along with 151 penalty minutes [PIMs].
But as his career progressed, he saw his offensive numbers go up and his time in the penalty box going down. He set career-highs in all three offensive categories with 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists) in the 2021-22 season. After missing the first half of the 2022-23 season recovering from ACL surgery, the right-winger had 22 points (13 goals, nine assists) in 33 games.
“Obviously we value what Tom brings to the table for the team. He’s got a unique set of skills, plays on both specialty teams, good five-on-five player. Real good teammate, real good person in the community,” MacLellan said. “Tom creates a lot of attention, and I think even this past offseason, it was creating attention about future contracts or possibilities of being traded. It was a priority for us to get him signed…and be a big part of our organization going forward.”
Wilson has become a fan favorite over the years on and off the ice. He has been an active member in the D.C. community. In 2018, he started “Forty Three’s Friends”, through which he donates free Capitals tickets to sick children [in coordination with] the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.
“It’s a huge privilege and honor just to see the support from the community, from the city. A place that I love so much just to have people reach out and say such nice things and support me, it makes it all worth it,” Wilson said. “It makes it that much more fun to do what we do on a given night when you have such a great fanbase and organization behind you.”
Though there were mixed reactions from the hockey world about the long-term extension, teammates and fans were thrilled when they found out No. 43 was here to stay. None more so than [Wilson’s fellow right wing] TJ Oshie, who took to Instagram once the deal was official.
“Not many I’ve seen with the same amount of heart and love for his teammates and his organization and his fans,” Oshie said. “This guy leaves everything on the ice every night, leads by example and protects his own.”
There have been storylines about Wilson becoming the next captain and face of the franchise once Alex Ovechkin retires; Ovechkin has three years left on his five-year extension signed back in 2021. Wilson mentioned that he has had conversations with the Capitals captain about how to lead a team to success.
“They’re very meaningful to me, but just to have him there, to show me the support that he’s given me since day one. He’s had some ups and downs to learn from and pass on some of the advice from that. When you are a guy like him on a team and you’re a leader, you’re wearing a letter, there can be stuff that comes with that. We’ve had conversations about what that can entail.”
It is going to be very fun for Caps fans, albeit much to the chagrin of the rest of the league, to see Wilson wear Red, White, and Blue for the rest of his NHL career.
By Jacob Cheris