Story highlights: DCpuckDrop’s newest contributor, Buster Williams, provides coverage of the Capitals’ many offseason maneuvers.
By Buster Williams
Coming off the heels of a Stanley Cup Championship, the Washington Capitals have never had a more high-profile offseason. Expectations and excitement are through the roof, and the team has been busy in its quest to (in the words of T.J. Oshie) go back-to-back. Let’s take a look at some of the key transactions they’ve made this offseason and determine if it’s possible the champs have improved.
Caps Named Todd Reirden Head Coach
This headline could also read “Caps let Stanley Cup Winning Coach Walk.” However, we don’t yet know if that will help or hurt the team. The good news is Reirden has been with the team since 2014 and is seen as an integral part of their success as he oversaw the defense and the power play – two key aspects of the Capitals’ playoff run. He’s well respected within the organization, but if he can replicate the team’s success under Barry Trotz remains to be seen.
Re-signed John Carlson
8-year deal; $8M/AAV.
This was the big one. Carlson is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and was undoubtedly the top D-Man available via free agency. General Manager Brian MacLellan said “Defensemen like John are a rare commodity in our league and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.” Maybe the price tag was a bit high, but his two-way skill makes him an invaluable member of the team. This contract may not look as good when he’s at age 36, but securing him in his prime – and while the window to win remains open – was the right move. The power play should continue to roll with Carlson at the point.
Re-signed Tom Wilson
6-year deal; $5.17M/AAV.
Wilson’s value is hard to establish, as he doesn’t fill up a stat sheet in the way other top line forwards might. He did, however, produce the goods at exactly the right time to get paid as he tallied 15 points in 21 playoff games. The knock on Wilson around the league is he’s “dirty” or he spends too much time in the penalty box, but that fiery passion is exactly what makes him a commodity to the Capitals. When he’s on the ice, opponents are aware and must account for him. At 24 years of age, the Capitals likely have him secured through the prime of his career.
Signed Ilya Samsonov
3-year, entry level deal; $925K/AAV.
This was important, as it allowed the Capitals to trade Phillip Grubauer and acquire a second-round pick. Samsonov is widely considered one of the top goaltending prospects in the NHL. As he continues to develop, the Capitals should feel good with their depth in goaltending.
Re-signed Devante Smith-Pelly
1-year deal; $1M.
Smith-Pelly tuned down more money from other teams to return to Washington, which should secure him as a fan favorite. The Capitals made it clear he was more of a luxury, with a modest $1 million offer. His value stems from his ability to come up big in clutch moments, as he scored seven goals during the Stanley Cup run.
Signed Michal Kempny
4-year deal; $2.5M/AAV.
Kempny was a trade deadline acquisition from Chicago, and he became a great fit for the team after the Caps lost key defensemen after the 2016-17 season. He averaged around 17 minutes per game, while mostly being paired with John Carlson. His play was solid down the stretch and that continued throughout the playoffs. The signing allows the Capitals to bring back their top-four defensemen.
What It All Means For the Capitals
This was a pivotal offseason for the future of the Washington Capitals. With a number of impactful players hitting free agency, they were able to successfully retain the players at the top of their priority list. They will start the 2018-19 season with a new head coach but will bring back their top-nine forwards and top-four defensemen.
The ability to keep their core intact, and lock up key assets for multiple years, has made this offseason an overwhelming success. The Capitals will show off their Stanley Cup Championship banner on Oct. 3, and they will do so as the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2019.