Washington almost filled its top 6 with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie. It’s the same top six that led the team to a Stanley Cup in 2018. The bottom six have a few moving parts, but not a lot – for now.
Lars Eller will continue to center the third line, with Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik expected to flank him. Ilya Kovalchuk, acquired at close of trade, ran third row during the playoffs but became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He has yet to sign with an NHL team.
On the fourth line, Nic Dowd wants to focus on Garnet Hathaway and Daniel Sprong, who have signed the Capitals to a two-year contract for $ 725,000.
Those 12 players are all strikers that the capitals have room for below their current salary cap, with eight projected defenders on the roster. If the capitals decide to run with seven defenders on the active roster, the organization will only have room to sign a striker with a minimum of $ 700,000.
Another forward option could be Daniel Carr, who signed a two-year deal with Washington last month. Carr comes from a Nashville organization and has spent most of the past season in the American Hockey League.
In late September, Ross Mahoney, deputy general manager of Capitals, said he was intrigued to see Connor McMichael during training camp. McMichael, who was the Capitals’ first pick in 2019, seems like a longshot. Brian Pinho, who made his NHL debut in the Toronto Bubble, and Beck Malenstyn are also key members of the Capitals organization but don’t seem to be pushing for permanent roles in the line-up.
“Connor had an excellent year last year … curious about the gains he’s made in terms of strength. The greatest thing for him is to get stronger. I’m curious how Connor is doing, “said Mahoney.
Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson will continue to lead the blue line next season and is expected to lead the way with Brenden Dillon. Carlson played the majority of the past two seasons alongside Michal Kempny, who had surgery for a torn Achilles in early October. Kempny is expected to miss the next four to six months and is put on a long-term injury reserve at the start of the season.
With Kempny on his $ 2.5 million salary cap off the Capitals’ books, Team Dillon was able to re-sign for a four-year deal for $ 15.6 million and right-back Justin Schultz for a two-year deal for $ 8 million. Schultz is expected to work with Dmitry Orlov on the second pairing. With the third pair, Jonas Siegenthaler and Nick Jensen seem to be the likely duo, including Trevor van Riemdyk.
Siegenthaler signed an inexpensive one-year contract for $ 800,000 with the team. He was a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. van Riemsdyk, a right-shot, is on a $ 800,000 one-year contract and has a Stanley Cup on his resume. Paul LaDue, another right shot defender, also has a one-year contract worth $ 700,000.
If you add LaDue with Capitals’ other seven projected defenders on the active roster, Washington only has a $ 50,000 cap spot and 12 strikers on a possible 22-man roster.
Since the blue line on the right looks a bit crowded, the capitals could move a player to move another player up on their roster and make more room for the cap. With the top 4 sets, it’s unclear whether Jensen – and his $ 2.5 million AAV for the next three seasons – would likely be the weird man, but he will certainly have competition on the third pair.
Capitals’ new assistant coach, Kevin McCarthy, who will be in charge of the defenders, previously announced that he wants eight capable defenders early in the season. McCarthy also emphasized his preference for left-right combinations when it comes to D pairings.
Ilya Samsonov is expected to be the starter of the capitals on the network at the beginning of the season. Henrik Lundqvist signed a $ 1.5 million one-year deal on day one of the NHL Free Agency, his veteran backup.
However, the experienced Lundqvist has made it clear that he believes he can make a contribution. Although Samsonov is expected to be number 1 on the team, General Manager Brian MacLellan has made no commitments after signing Lundqvist.
“I see it as a good young goalkeeper and a great experienced goalkeeper,” MacLellan said at the time. “… I would expect [Lundqvist] It will come as tough as possible and the coaches will make the decision based on how the boys play and how we win games and what is best for our team. “
Samsonov has had a solid rookie season and set a 16-6-2 record with 2.55 goals against average. He seemed to be pushing former Capitals starter Braden Holtby, now under contract with the Vancouver Canucks, at certain times of the season. Now it seems Lundqvist will be pushing Samsonov in the hope that both of them can lead Washington in another unconventional season. With the potential for more back-to-back games next season, two solid goalkeepers could be key.
Lundqvist has already made at least one trip to Washington to visit the Capitals training facility and to explore the DC area with his family. He recently posted a video of himself on the ice in Capital’s training gear.
When does the next NHL season even start?
The NHL continues to aim for a start date for the next regular season on January 1, with the hope that they can still play a full season of 82 games. However, the January 1st start date and the goal of playing a full season and in arenas with fans will be a difficult task. The American Hockey League announced on Wednesday that it would target its expected start date on February 5. It wouldn’t be surprising if the NHL pushed back January 1st to reflect more closely on the AHL season.
The NHL has already postponed the 2021 Winter Classic in Minneapolis and the 2021 All-Star Weekend in South Florida. Both events will be postponed until 2022, according to the league.
With the NHL’s start date still in the air, Capitals players are still scattered around the world, most not in the Washington area. Informal skates are expected to start before training camp at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, but the league has not announced anything official. The players still train and run in their spare time.