- The Capitals announced (Twitter link) that goaltender Clay Stevenson underwent surgery to repair an injury on his right hand. The procedure carries a recovery time of four-to-six weeks. The 23-year-old will begin his professional career this season after spending the 2021-22 campaign with Dartmouth where he posted a .922 SV% in 23 games.
After waivers opened yesterday, quite a few players have ended up on the wire today. Teams keep making cuts to their rosters, and any veteran player needs to clear before being assigned to the minor leagues. Here are the names on waivers today.
Detroit Red Wings
New York Rangers
San Jose Sharks
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Washington Capitals were back in front of the cameras and reporters today, answering questions about the upcoming season. Many of those questions were directed at Nicklas Backstrom, who is coming off hip surgery and has an unclear timeline. While it’s not yet certain when he’ll resume skating, Backstrom told reporters including Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic that he is “pain-free” for the first time in a long time. The veteran center first underwent hip surgery way back in 2015.
El-Bashir also spoke with T.J. Oshie, who had a core procedure this offseason and isn’t expected to miss any time, and Tom Wilson, who is ahead of schedule in his ACL rehab. With such a veteran core, injuries are always going to be something the Capitals have to monitor closely or risk their season being derailed quickly. Getting Wilson back ahead of time would be a big boost, and any games from Backstrom this year seem like a bonus.
In March, just as teams were starting to put together their boards for the 2022 NHL Draft, some terrible news came out about a top prospect. Ivan Miroshnichenko, a player some expected to go very close to the top of the first round, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer that affects the immune system. It was unclear at the time whether he would play at all in 2022-23.
That started a freefall in his ranking (combined with the geopolitical factors affecting Russian players), and though he was cleared to return to training more than a month before the draft, Miroshnichenko was no longer the top-ten selection that many assumed a few months earlier. Instead, he fell to the Washington Capitals at No. 20 which was still ahead of fellow Russian forward Danila Yurov – who went four picks later to the Minnesota Wild – but much lower than expected.
Today, Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney gave Tom Gulitti of NHL.com an update on the young prospect. Miroshnichenko has been cleared to return to the ice, has been skating, and expects to play this season. Unfortunately, he still needs to wait for clearance from the actual KHL to get into any game action.
While that may not be ideal in terms of his development, it is great news to hear that he has progressed to this point so quickly. The 18-year-old is a brilliant skater and had even appeared as a potential challenger for the first-overall pick at one point. Under contract in Russia through 2023-24, the Capitals will have to wait patiently to see if their pick was a worthwhile one.
- The Capitals are believed to be among the teams that have shown some interest in free agent winger Jake Virtanen, reports 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer (audio link). The 26-year-old had his contract bought out by Vancouver last summer following accusations of sexual assault. That went to trial and six weeks ago, he was found not guilty. Virtanen spent last season in the KHL and has 100 points over 317 career NHL contests. At this point, it seems likely that he’ll land a PTO or a contract near the league minimum over the coming days.
- Tom Wilson is “believed to be ahead of schedule” in his return from a torn ACL, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic. The Washington Capitals forward was given a six to eight-month recovery timeline when he went under the knife in late May, and it is still unclear when he will be ready to return to the lineup. It’s somewhat positive news on Nicklas Backstrom too, who is expected to at least be on the ice with the team at their photo shoot later this week. Backstrom is coming back from hip surgery in June.
- Capitals winger Carl Hagelin took part in informal team skates without needing a no-contact designation, relays Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic (Twitter link). The veteran has been dealing with an eye injury that has his availability for the upcoming season in question but the fact he’s skating without restriction bodes well for him. The 34-year-old had 14 points in 53 games last season.
After being originally reported by Sportsnet’s Eric Engels last week, his colleague Elliotte Friedman confirmed the original report today on the 32 Thoughts podcast. Echoing the fact that the Canadiens and Dach are close to signing Dach to a four-year contract, he added that the team is likely working on other moves before making the deal official.
Cap implications aside, the team will likely need to trade a forward (or two) just to have space for Dach in the lineup. With the addition of Sean Monahan into the fold for next season, Dach will likely shift to wing. He has the most experience there out of Montreal’s five natural centers in their top 12 forwards. With Cole Caufield, Mike Hoffman, Josh Anderson, Jonathan Drouin, Evgenii Dadonov, and Brendan Gallagher all in the fold, there’s just not enough room in Montreal’s NHL lineup to have Dach play an appropriate role to continue developing. Cap implications are certainly a part of that, though, as a $3.5MM cap hit as surmised by Friedman and Engels would still put Montreal dangerously close to the salary cap even with Carey Price’s $10MM cap hit on long-term injured reserve.
- The San Jose Sharks are hosting this year’s 2022 Rookie Faceoff, a voluntary tournament for teams’ rookie camp rosters to get some game experience against each other. The Anaheim Ducks announced their participation today, noting that the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, and Vegas Golden Knights will also participate. The tournament will feature nine games in total across four days from September 16 through September 19. Anaheim has not lost a rookie tournament game in regulation since 2016, going 11-0-2 in the process.
- The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reports that American coverage of the 2023 Stadium Series game will be on ESPN after TNT/Turner Sports hosted coverage last season. ESPN will broadcast the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-ever outdoor game as they host the Washington Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh on February 18, 2023. Shapiro also adds that the full slate of American national TV games is expected to come out later this week as the regular season approaches.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has put together an incredible career, especially considering that he has been dealing with chronic hip pain for parts of at least half of it. Up until this season, Backstrom has missed very little time due to injury throughout his career despite the nagging injury, however as the injury became more and more unbearable, the veteran knew he needed to address it for real, not simply ride it out. That ultimately lead to hip resurfacing surgery back in June, a procedure that should alleviate much of Backstrom’s day-to-day pain, but could affect his long-term career plans, much as the procedure did to Ryan Kesler and Ed Jovanovski.
Recently, Backstrom sat down for an interview with Swedish website expressen.se to discuss life before and after the surgery (link to original Swedish article). Washington Hockey Now’s Sammi Silber broke down Backstrom’s interview, originally in Swedish, profiling the Capitals star’s road to recovery (link to Silber’s article in English). Of note, Backstrom said prior to the surgery he had trouble doing things as simple as tying his shoes or putting on his socks. He added that skating had become easier than walking at times with the injury. On the brightside, however, Backstrom says that since the surgery, his quality of life has improved greatly and he’s been able to enjoy the offseason. Though the injury can end the careers of professional athletes, and there’s no timetable on when or if Backstrom can return, the All Star says that he’s not ready to think about hanging up his skates and for the first time in a long time, feels optimistic about where things are. Despite the injury and his age (34), Backstrom remains an incredibly important part of the Capitals’ build and has three more seasons at a $9.2MM AAV left on his contract.
- An interesting bit of news, if it can be called that, was free agent forward and former Capital Brett Connolly joined several members of the Capitals at an informal skate at the team’s facility in Arlington, Virginia on Friday. Connolly skated alongside John Carlson, Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Hendrix Lapierre, Joe Snively, Sam Anas and Alexander Alexeyev, and though he was a teammate of a few of them from 2016-19, he wasn’t skating with them as a teammate Friday. The veteran forward instead told El-Bashir he was in town for personal reasons and simply needed a place to skate. An NHLer, and one who helped bring a Stanley Cup to D.C., Connolly was simply able to skate in a familiar place with some familiar faces. The veteran is currently a UFA awaiting his next deal, which could likely be on a PTO and invite to training camp with an NHL team looking for a proven offensive weapon.
With Washington’s top two centers being Evgeny Kuznetsov and newcomer Dylan Strome (with Nicklas Backstrom injured) and Connor McMichael in the mix as well, some have wondered if the Capitals should look into moving veteran middleman Lars Eller. However, Sammi Silber of Washington Hockey Now cautions against that approach, noting that having a bit of a logjam down the middle is never a bad thing while Eller can certainly help on the defensive side of things, an area that McMichael isn’t ready to take on just yet. With one year left at $3.5MM, Washington would have some interest if they were to shop the 33-year-old around but his best value might come later in the season compared to now when the trade market is not yielding top returns for veteran players.