The Washington Capitals have been a strong regular season team for the last nine years, only missing the playoffs once in 2013-2014. Still not having seen the Conference Finals during the Ovechkin era, this season seemed to be their last chance to make that leap. Nobody is getting any younger, and cap issues could take center stage.
They didn’t help their situation by first signing TJ Oshie to an 8-year, $46 million contract. An $5.75 million AAV isn’t awful, but 8 years when he is already 30 is very risky. They followed up by signing Dmitri Orlov to a 6-year, $30.6 million deal. One upping those, they re-signed Evgeny Kuznetsov to an 8-year, $62 million contract. That makes three players tied up in $18.65 million, plus the $17.5 million between Ovechkin and Backstrom. That’s about half the salary cap tied up between five players.
With the signing of Burakovsky, they are left with $4 million in cap with six spots to fill. By losing Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, they are now down 48 goals, 56 if you add the depleted blue-line. Then there is the fact Oshie had a career year with 33 goals, something you can’t expect to happen again. That could be a loss of another 10 goals. With just $4 million left, there is not any way they can make up that loss. Smith-Pelley, their one NHL acquisition so far, gives them eight goals at the most. That’s still a loss of 58. How are three more dressed players supposed to fix that issue?
There is also the question of the defense. They let in just 182 goals against last season. With the loss of Alzner, Schmidt, and Shattenkirk, I don’t see it being as low of a total. There is also the possibility Holtby drops off just a bit. I can’t see him maintaining a 2.07 GAA for a second straight season.
So, what happens now? Some might say there is no way they miss the playoffs because they had 55 wins, 118 points, and still have plenty of firepower in their lineup. Well, look at Dallas; in 2016, they had 50 wins and 109 points, but followed up with a 79 point season. There have been plenty of instances where top teams one year miss the playoffs the next, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Caps finished on the outside looking in.