The Washington Capitals have decided to lock up some center depth. Nic Dowd experienced a career year playing on the Capitals’ fourth line this season, and the team has rewarded him with a three-year contract extension. The deal carries an average annual value of $750K, and will keep Dowd under contract through the 2021-22 season.
Now 28, Dowd is about to make his NHL playoff debut after finally finding a home with the Capitals this season. Originally a seventh-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2009, he had only once played more than 40 games in a season prior to 2018-19. This year saw him record eight goals and 22 points in 64 games while anchoring the fourth line, something he’ll likely do for the next few seasons.
That is, unless the Capitals find a better option during that time. Though Dowd has found some financial and career stability with this deal, there’s no reason to believe that the Capitals wouldn’t move on if an upgrade presented itself. The $750K cap hit is nearly the league minimum—in fact it will be by 2021-22—meaning it can be buried in the minor leagues if the team needs a bit of flexibility. Still, Dowd could very well show that he can be a valuable member of the team over the next few weeks given his penchant for scoring timely goals. Of his 17 career NHL tallies, six have been game-winners.
The expansion draft is another thing to consider when looking at a three-year deal for a depth forward. As it was with the Vegas draft two years ago, teams must expose at least two forwards that are under contract for 2021-22 and played at least 40 games the previous year or 70 the previous two combined. While that doesn’t seem like a very tough thing to do, having a player like Dowd meet the criteria is an easy way to give you some flexibility as the draft approaches.
This obviously isn’t a franchise-altering deal for the Capitals, but it is an effective way of insuring you have cheap options for the fourth line moving forward. The team has been stuck in a precarious cap situation the last two seasons, resulting in decisions like burying Devante Smith-Pelly in the minor leagues because of his relatively expensive $1MM salary. He couldn’t serve as an extra forward because the team simply needed the addition cap room to make necessary injury moves. Dowd will now give them that veteran option who can slot into several spots and likely pass through waivers if needed because of the length of the deal.