When the Washington Capitals opted to re-sign T.J. Oshie to a $5.75 MM AAV for the next seven years, the hockey world was rightfully befuddled. Most expected Karl Alzner, Justin Williams and Oshie to depart, while the team locked up Evgeny Kuznetsov and retained other important pieces. Some anticipated the possible exposure or dumping of Brooks Orpik and his $5.5 MM for the next two seasons. Instead, the Capitals decided to pay the 30 year old Oshie to an extraordinarily long deal.
Oshie has indeed been one of the best wingers in the game over the last few seasons. He’s broken 50 points each of the last four campaigns, and his production on the powerplay has been incredibly valuable in maintaining high-octane offense. He’s also performed admirably in the post-season on a team where quite a few other individuals have fallen short. 22 of his 31 post-season points have come with Washington in just the last two years. That said, he will be 37 at the conclusion of this deal. It’s almost unheard of to maintain the production or speed you had at 30 when you are 37. Oshie’s decline could come as soon as the next few seasons. Oshie easily could have gotten this term on the open market as the best available winger, but is it wise to invest so heavily in this particular player?
In an off-season where many teams opted to go with shorter-term on unrestricted free agents, Oshie’s contract stands out as a future potential albatross. But how much will it impact Washington’s window? Well, the short answer is that we won’t know until the team finds itself playing games next spring.
Oshie’s signing, in conjunction with the Kuznetzov signing, forced the movement of Marcus Johansson from the roster. Johansson actually scored more points than Oshie last year, and his game is more well-rounded. Oshie’s Corsi For % has consistently declined over the last two seasons in Washington, Johansson’s has increased. Although Oshie has greater creativity and flash, Johansson has been a consistent performer of late, and had two years remaining on a very reasonable $4.58 MM contract. Perhaps more importantly, Johansson is four years Oshie’s junior. On a team that will need to fill gaps internally, going with the younger player is not often the wrong decision. Especially with losing both Nate Schmidt and Alzner on the backend, they will need younger players to contribute at every position in relief this season.
Ultimately, this decision will be judged in terms of post-season success. Still, when the team has lost two top-six wingers and a top pairing defenseman, it’s hard not to question the management’s handling of the situation. Alex Ovechkin and crew are still looking for a conference finals berth, and taking such steps backwards in the Metropolitan Division can only draw fire from an increasingly frustrated fanbase.