Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov. Image by: Getty Images
With no bonafide stars coming through the system and an aging, expensive core, it’s kind of difficult to get very excited about the long-term future of the Capitals.
Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
That sound you hear is the window of opportunity closing on the Washington Capitals. It may very well be slammed shut by the time the 2019-20 season rolls around.
This is not to say the Capitals will not still have quality NHL players three years from now, but they’re going to need a lot of help on defense and with their third and fourth lines if they have any hopes still having a team that is a Stanley Cup contender. When you think about it, though, for all their success, the Capitals actually haven’t been one. They’ve never made it out of the second round of the playoffs in the Alex Ovechkin Era and nobody, but nobody, knows if they will in the next couple of years.
The Capitals are entering a transition period at the moment. And that includes them realizing that Ovechkin is not only not their best forward anymore, he’s actually not even their best Russian forward. That designation belongs to Evgeni Kuznetsov, to whom they’ve hitched their wagon by signing him to an eight-year contract extension.
The problem for the Capitals is that they are having a difficult time deciding how they want to build for the future. Will they be willing, from the ownership level down, to give Ovechkin a lesser role? Will they allow their younger stars to pick up the torch and lead this team? The early returns, based on the fact they signed a 30-year-old T.J. Oshie to an eight-year deal, are not terribly promising.
Any team with the firepower and goaltending the Capitals have will be a threat most years, but this is a group that has been utterly incapable of putting it together in the post-season. And this comes despite the fact that they’ve mortgaged the future considerably. In fact, they’ve only had four picks in two of the past three drafts.
That will make it very, very difficult to stock the system with players who will push those on the roster. It will also make it difficult to fill the holes from within. And if the Capitals get into a cycle of constant moves to stay in contention to win a Cup for Ovechkin, that could be a dangerous game that ultimately leaves them with nothing to show for their efforts.
GOT IT: Star power in the forward ranks and a very reliable starter and backup goaltender. The Capitals can take some solace in the fact that for the next couple of seasons, they should be able to score with anyone in the NHL.
NEED IT: Depth on defense, something that would be enhanced greatly by re-signing John Carlson, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this coming season. And with so few picks in the draft, the Capitals have been unable to supplement their bottom six with quality NHLers.
CAP WATCH: This is not good. The Capitals have seven players under contract for 2019-20 season and the average cap hit on each player is almost $7 million dollars. Most of the rest of their players will either be on entry-level deals or bridge deals by that time.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s kind of difficult to get very excited about the long-term future of this team. You get the feeling the window has closed even before it every really opened.
Previously: Anaheim Ducks | Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens | Nashville Predators | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | Pittsburgh Penguins | St. Louis Blues | San Jose Sharks | Tampa Bay Lightning | Toronto Maple Leafs | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights
Monday: Winnipeg Jets