Now that fans of the Washington Capitals have had a few days to calm down after their playoff elimination, it’s time to take a look at some of the stories for the team heading into the offseason.
The big ticket contract for the Capitals this season is that of Alexander Ovechkin. He has yet to re-sign with the team, but expressed in a press conference on May 25 that he is interested in a new contract with Washington. His previous contract was a 13-year, $124 million one signed all the way back in 2008. Since signing this contract he has scored over 500 goals, won numerous awards and led the Capitals to win a Stanley Cup.
While Ovechkin has been an excellent player over the course of his career, Washington currently has little to spare in terms of salary cap space. The popular speculation is that he will be offered around $12.5 million a year for an unspecified number of years. At 35 years old, likely 36 before the start of the next season, it is unclear how much longer Ovechkin plans to play in the NHL. Aspirations for another Stanley Cup and beating Wayne Gretzky’s all time goals record may fuel a longer term contract, but age, injuries and a changing league may influence a shorter one. Whatever the exact details of the contract may end up being, the good news for Capitals fans is that their captain is likely to return next season.
Other Free Agents
Some other players entering unrestricted free-agency are Zdeno Chara, Henrik Lundqvist, Michael Raffl and Craig Anderson. Ilya Samsonov will be a restricted free agent, a category which is explained here.
For Zdeno Chara, Henrik Lundqvist and Craig Anderson the upcoming season brings a series of unknowns. Chara is 44 years old and will turn over the course of the next season. Chara’s nutrition, fitness and unreal work ethic have kept him playing most, but it is unclear how much longer he plans to play. In a May 25 press conference he did not clarify if he planned to return next season, saying that he needed some time to think it over. If Chara did return, he might not return as a Capital.
There are plenty of younger teams with more salary cap space who are looking for a leader. Even if just for a year, there are teams who would pay Chara in return for his skill and leadership. Should Chara choose to continue playing, it is likely that he could find an offer.
Lundqvist and Anderson both find themselves in similar situations to Chara. Lundqvist is 39 years old and missed the 2021 season while recovering from heart surgery. He not expressed interest in retiring, but it is unclear if he will be physically able to return. Anderson recently turned 40 and has not made his intentions for the upcoming season clear. Both goaltenders provide skill and veteran experience, but it is unclear if there are plans for their return next season.
Both Ilya Samsonov and Michael Raffl were useful for the Capitals this season. Samsonov is a young goaltender who shows a lot of promise for the organization. Hopefully the Capitals at least make an attempt to re-sign him. Raffl is more on the veteran side and provides a variety of different benefits for the Capitals as a forward. Washington currently has a backlog of forwards in their system, but Raffl definitely could help the Capitals down the road.
The addition of the Seattle Kraken as a franchise means an expansion draft this summer. The draft will take place on July, 21, 2021. The Kraken will select a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders, for a total of 30 players. They may select one player from each of the other NHL teams, except for the Vegas Golden Knights. Each team may protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight total skaters and one goalie. More information about the specific rules and conditions for protection/exposure to the draft can be found here.
The expansion draft means that one Capital will make his way to Seattle this offseason. The Capitals roster is full of skilled players, so it is hard to say who the organization will protect and who they will expose to the expansion draft.
Speculation often points to TJ Oshie as a candidate for the Kraken as he is a native of the Seattle area and would be ideal material for a captain. Oshie expressed in a May 25 press conference that he aims to stay with the Capitals, but that the decision is ultimately not up to him. Oshie to Seattle is not completely out of the question, but is not a likely choice.
Whatever plays out with the expansion draft and re-signings over the summer, the 2021-2022 Capitals are likely to look a bit different from the 2020-2021 Capitals, reminding fans that the NHL is primarily a business.