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Why The Capitals’ Tom Wilson Extension Makes Sense



Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) in action during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Washington. The Devils won 5-4 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In an offseason where fans lambasted the Washington Capitals front office for what it didn’t accomplish, the spotlight is now on what Brian MacLellan and company did do.

Tom Wilson, the team’s longest-tenured player outside of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson, signed a seven-year contract extension Friday, keeping him in a Capitals sweater until he’s 37-years old. With a partial no move clause, the contract all but ensures that Wilson will retire in Washington.

In many instances, offering a longterm contract to somebody who will be nearing their 40s when it expires can backfire at times, but there’s plenty more to like than to be worried about with Wilson’s new deal.

The Contract

Wilson’s new deal, which kicks in starting in 2024-25, carries a cap hit of $6.5 million — an increase of roughly $1.4 million from his current deal. He’ll be the team’s fifth-highest paid player once the deal takes effect, and at a rate that appears to be on par with the rest of the league.

But when you consider the league salary cap, things get interesting.

The cap, currently sitting at $83.5 million, has only increased by $2 million since the 2019-20 season. According to the collective bargaining agreement, the cap can increase at most by 5% year-over-year, meaning that it could jump to nearly $92 million in two years time.

Many see a major cap increase as not an if, but a when, due to the limited growth over recent years, in part attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. And when that does happen, Wilson’s $6.5 million very well could be just a drop in the bucket, providing the Capitals with increased flexibility to build a strong roster in the post-Ovechkin years.

The Performance

There’s no denying that Wilson has earned this contract extension.

Since taking on the team’s enforcer role as a rookie during the 2013-14 season, he’s blossomed into a player making an impact all over the ice. While Wilson has fought 80 times during the regular season in his NHL career, his offensive numbers have ticked up over that 10-year span.

In the 2021-22 season, Wilson tallied a career-high while ranking fourth on the team with 52 points — 24 goals, 28 assists — in 78 games. He also finished second among the team’s forwards with 240 hits, in addition to placing first among the team’s forwards in defense, according to win shares.

Despite playing in only 33 games last season as he battled injury, Wilson still managed to tally 22 points — 13 goals and nine assists.

There’s no reason to expect that Wilson’s production will suddenly plateau, and his output should remain somewhat consistent for a portion of the contract — a time that, with Ovechkin still on the roster, is undoubtedly the most important to the team’s Stanley Cup hopes.

The Future Fit

Wilson is not a superstar, but he’s quickly worked his way into the hearts of Capitals fans. A fan favorite, Wilson is the likely heir apparent to the captaincy post-Ovechkin, and this deal all but guarantees that he will see it through.

But Wilson’s fit goes further than the ice. He has long been lauded for his attitude and locker room presence, and stands to provide stability after the impending retirement of the 37-year-old Ovechkin, whenever that may be.

And it’s not just an act for Wilson, who was the team’s most recent nominee for the NHL’s King Clancy Award, which is presented to the player that exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.

Ultimately, while Wilson’s ability and skill may falter with age, this extension will, at a minimum, bring steadiness to a team headed into a new era.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.