As the NHL season is now just days away, we continue our look at each team’s offseason and preview the upcoming year. Next up is the Washington Capitals.
Last Season: 56-18-8 record (120 points), 1st in the Metropolitan Division and Presidents Trophy winners for the most points in the NHL. Defeated Philadelphia 4-2 in Round 1. Lost to Pittsburgh 4-2 in Round 2.
Remaining Cap Space: $1.45MM as per Cap Friendly
Key Departures: LW Jason Chimera (free agency, NY Islanders), C/RW Michael Latta (free agency, Los Angeles), C Mike Richards (free agency, unsigned), D Ryan Stanton (free agency, Colorado), D Mike Weber (free agency – unsigned)
[Related: Capitals Depth Chart from Roster Resource]
Players to Watch: LW Andre Burakovsky – The 21 year old had a productive sophomore season despite not getting a lot of playing time (17 goals and 21 assists in 79 games while logging just 13:01 per night). There is potentially a top six spot up for grabs depending on what the plans are for Marcus Johansson and it’s likely that Burakovsky will get a look in that role at some point. If the 2013 first round pick can continue his progression, he’ll have a shot at making an already potent lineup that much deeper.
D Dmitry Orlov – Orlov was rumored to be seeking a long-term deal this offseason after an improved 2015-16 campaign. However, he had to settle for a one year, $2.57MM pact late last month instead. He has shown glimpses of becoming an impact blueliner in the past but consistency and injuries have held him back. At age 25, this is Orlov’s chance to prove he can be part of the core moving forward and earn the big term, big money contract he has been coveting.
Key Storyline: After leading the league in points last season, it’s all about getting over the playoff hurdle. The team has made the postseason in eight of the last nine years but has failed to advance past the second round in any of those. Despite routinely being one of the higher scoring teams in the league, the Caps have struggled to score consistently when the playoffs get underway; Braden Holtby’s elite level goaltending hasn’t been enough to carry them to victory on his own.
The core of the team is unchanged from last year and has been together for a while now. As long as they stay healthy, they should pretty much be a lock for the postseason so the main question will be how do they get over the hump this time? In particular, what can they do differently to avoid the repeat struggles of recent years? Will this core get another kick at the can or will GM Brian MacLellan change it up between now and the trade deadline in early March? The measure of success in Washington this season will be determined by their play in May (and possibly June) meaning that it will be quite a while before their key storyline this season gets to play itself out.