The Washington Capitals acquired Daniel Sprong at the deadline in an under-the-radar move, but have now decided to re-sign the former top prospect. Sprong has signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Capitals that will carry a $725K average annual salary. The 23-year-old forward was scheduled for restricted free agency and would have been arbitration-eligible but will now be under contract through the 2021-22 season.
For several years following his second-round selection in the 2015 draft, Sprong was seen as a future top-six star in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. He made the team out of training camp just a few months after being drafted and played 18 NHL games as an 18-year-old. After finally returning to the QMJHL, he scored 61 points in just 45 games before then being sent back to pro hockey and playing big minutes for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs. That was followed by another very successful (though limited) season with the Charlottetown Islanders before Sprong burst back onto the AHL scene with a 32-goal, 65-point season with the baby Penguins in 2017-18.
Expected to then take the next step for Pittsburgh and become a core part of their NHL team, things fizzled. Sprong would fail to score a goal in 16 games to start the 2018-19 campaign and found himself traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Marcus Pettersson. 14 goals down the stretch for the Ducks wasn’t enough to keep him off waivers the following training camp and when he cleared, it was obvious his NHL outlook was not as rosy as it once was.
This season, Sprong spent the majority of the year with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL, scoring 27 points in 39 games. He was swapped for Christian Djoos at the deadline, and finished strong with the Hershey Bears before the season was canceled. Now in Washington, where the team will be looking for inexpensive options at the bottom of their NHL roster, Sprong has another great shot to get his career back on track.
Still just 23, it’s impossible to write him off completely at this point. Should Sprong get an opportunity with some of the more skilled attackers in the Capitals lineup there is a real chance he flourishes in this next chapter. Still, he’ll have to prove he can do more than just contribute at the offensive end of the rink to keep himself up at the NHL level.