Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said on breakdown day that the team could be in for a hard summer with a lot of decisions that’ll have to be made. And, looking at the current state of the team, nothing should be off the table for Washington this season. In fact, the team should be ready to go all-in heading into 2022-23.
The Capitals are in a rather interesting situation following their fourth consecutive first-round exit. There is still plenty of potential with the current group, and a lot of positives to take away. Alex Ovechkin is coming off of one of his best seasons yet, and amid adversity, Washington saw a lot from its prospects this season.
However, the veteran core is aging, and the team faces a lot of questions upfront, especially with regard to the top-6. Nicklas Backstrom’s future, for one, is in flux as he continues to struggle with lingering hip issues. Not only that, but Tom Wilson just underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL he suffered in Game 1, and he will be out for 6-8 months. The soonest he could return would be in late November.
Without Backstrom and Wilson, Ovechkin, who turns 37 in September, and Kuznetsov would be leading the way once again. T.J. Oshie also showed his potential to continue putting up points with a stellar showing in the playoffs, but injuries remain a concern for the 35-year-old. Beyond those three, the team needs more scoring prowess and support on the top-6. Anthony Mantha still has to strike a balance and find consistency as well.
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Not only is Washington dealing with two key absences upfront, but the team also has to figure out its goaltending situation. Both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are RFAs, but neither has been able to emerge as a legitimate No. 1.
Going into the summer, the Capitals actually have the upper hand when it comes to cap space. The team has a few pending UFAs to address, including Marcus Johansson, Johan Larsson, Michal Kempny and Justin Schultz, and could save some money by letting go of some of those deals and promoting young guys to the big club. In addition, Washington can place Backstrom and Wilson on the long-term injured reserve if need be, and that would open up significant cap space to boot.
Taking that into account, this is the right time for Washington to go all-in on the market, whether it be free agency, the trade route or both. There are several names that are set to hit the market, and there’s nothing stopping the team from going all-in on a big name if need be. Names like Darcy Kuemper, Filip Forsberg and more are on the table, and adding a couple of difference-makers can help keep the Stanley Cup window open and help the team maintain a winning stander.
Looking at the current roster, a legitimate and experienced starting netminder, a reliable top-6 forward and more center depth could go a long way. And, considering the circumstances and the ever-changing game, there’s no reason to not go for big names if the price and fit are right.