Story highlights: The Washington Capitals – having won their first Stanley Cup – will soon have a few major decisions to make involving their victorious head coach, a star defenseman and some other monetary matters. What should the Caps do?
By Corey Parkinson
It’s been a long and winding road for the Washington Capitals. It took 44 Seasons, 28 Playoff Appearances, 11 Division Championships, three President Trophies, and two trips to the Stanley Cup Final to finally win their first Stanley Cup. And, here they are at the top of the NHL pyramid and Alex Ovechkin has finally gotten that one trophy that has alluded him for the 14 years he’s been in the league. What’s next now for the Washington Capitals? Where do they go from here?
Barry Trotz: Will He Stay Or Will He Go?
One of the biggest questions is does Barry Trotz come back or does he leave for another coaching opportunity? Will Trotz leave the franchise as a champion? As of right now, one of Trotz’s alternative options for coaching next season would be to catch on with the New York Islanders – but this leaves him with almost no leverage. On the other hand, trying to explain to a Caps fan base that the club just let go of the head coach that just helped them win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history would be an extremely tough sell.
Time to Trade Grubauer?
Another issue facing the Caps is what to do with backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer – especially since Braden Holtby’s amazing performance throughout the Stanley Cup Finals. Grubauer is coming off a season where he went 15-10-3 and had a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage – he also made $1.5 million for being a backup. There are a few teams in need of a starting goalie – including the Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings – so Grubauer could see a hefty pay rise he were to be traded.
Several Free Agents, But One Huge Decision
The Capitals also have some big names facing free agency. John Carlson, Michal Kempny, and Jay Beagle are all impending unrestricted free agents, and all three were crucial in the Capitals’ Cup win. Washington also have restricted free agents Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly to deal with – again, each of them turned out to be massive game-changers in the postseason. With $64 million of their salary tied up in players already, that leaves the Capitals with around $11 million left for free agents.
John Carlson is definitely due for a pay rise and could easily ask for $8 million per year to stay in DC. The 28-year-old tallied a career-high 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) during the regular season – which led all defensemen in the NHL; he then did it all again in the postseason with 20 points – a club-record for a D-man (five goals, 15 assists). If the Capitals resign Carlson, then the question becomes how to divvy up the remaining dollars between Wilson, Smith-Pelly, Beagle and Kempny. Assuming they lose Kempny and Smith-Pelly, they are still able to keep fan favorites Carlson, Beagle and Wilson – and in doing so, keep most of the core players from the past five seasons intact. Jakub Jarabek and Alex Chiasson are the other UFA’s and they’ll likely leave go.
For Now, Be Proud
The Caps are in a position to establish themselves for a long time, and going into the offseason they are optimistic about a repeat Cup win next season. With Ovechkin performing out of his mind through the regular and postseason and players such as T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby here to stay – the Washington Capitals are as fierce as ever.
For now, be proud and scream it loud and clear: the Washington Capitals are the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions. It has an satisfying ring to it.