NHL Season Recap – Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals

2016-17 season: 55-19-8, 118 points

Beat Toronto  4-2 in the First Round

Lost to Pittsburgh 4-3 in the Conference Semifinals

Head Coach: Barry Trotz (2014)
1st Place Metro Division General Manager: Brian MacLellan (2014)
1st Place Eastern Conference AHL Affiliate: Hershey Bears

ECHL Affiliate: South Carolina Stingrays

Draft Position: Would have the 27th Pick in the First Round

Top Forwards

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
C 29 Nicklas Backstrom 82 86 23 63 17 50.6
LW 31 Alex Ovechkin 82 69 33 36 6 51.2
C 24 Evgeny Kuznetsov 82 59 19 40 18 52.2
LW 26 Marcus Johansson 82 58 24 34 25 52.9
RW 30 T.J. Oshie 68 56 33 23 28 50.9
RW 35 Justin Williams 80 48 24 24 14 53.8
LW 21 Andre Burakovsky 64 35 12 23 13 55.2
RW 31 Jay Beagle 81 30 13 17 20 45.4
C 27 Lars Eller 81 25 12 13 15 53.8
LW 31 Daniel Winnik 72 25 12 13 15 49.6

Top Defensemen

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
D 30 Matt Niskanen 78 39 5 34 20 53.4
D 27 John Carlson 72 37 9 28 7 48.7
D 25 Dmitry Orlov 82 33 6 27 30 54.2
D 25 Nate Schmidt 60 17 3 14 22 53.6
D 28 Kevin Shattenkirk 19 14 2 12 4 54.3

Top Goaltenders

POS Age Name Games Started W/L Record Shutouts GAA Save %
G 27 Braden Holtby 63 42-13-6 9 2.07 .925
G 25 Philipp Grubauer 19 13-6-2 3 2.05 .926

Trades Made During the Season

What They Acquired Team They Traded With In Exchange For
D Cody Corbett Colorado Avalanche G Joe Cannata
D Kevin Shattenkirk

G Pheonix Copley

St. Louis Blues F Zach Sanford

F Brad Malone

2017 1st RD Pick

Conditional 2019 

2nd RD Pick

D Tom Gilbert Los Angeles Kings Conditional 2017 

5th RD Pick

Impending Free Agents

POS Age Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
D 28 Kevin Shattenkirk $4,250,000
RW 30 T.J. Oshie $4,175,000
RW 35 Justin Williams $3,250,000
D 28 Karl Alzner $2,800,000
C 32 Daniel Winnik $2,250,000
D 34 Tom Gilbert $1,120,000
RW 25 Brett Connolly $850,000
G 25 Phoenix Copley $708,750
RW 25 Garrett Mitchell $587,500
C 28 Paul Carey $575,000
LW 25 Stanislav Galiev $575,000
RW 24 Christian Thomas $575,000
LW 31 Chris Bourque $575,000

Draft Needs

  • The Capitals have just four picks in the draft and no picks before the fourth round.  That is the price teams pay in order to acquire talent to help an already-competitive team.  With the players the NHL roster figures to lose this offseason, the team will have to do a good job drafting or signing college free agents in order to replenish their depth.  Losing at least one defenseman this offseason means they will have to call one up from the minors, taking a prospect from an already thin defense depth.  I think that is the position group Washington needs to target in this year’s draft.

What I Said About Them Before the Season

  • Before the season, I discussed the team’s issues on defense and how having Brooks Orpik under contract through 2018-19 is going to be a liability for the team going forward.  I also thought that their defense as a whole was going to be their biggest weakness and could be what holds them back this season.  I also highlighted the struggle that the team will have this offseason when they have to re-sign Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Karl Alzner, and Nate Schmidt.  I projected that the Capitals would once again be really good but that they wouldn’t match the 120 points they put up last season but that regular season success is only so good for the franchise but their true success is measured  in the playoffs.

Success/Failure

  • Failure – It was widely known that this season was going to be the team’s best chance to win a Stanley Cup since the start of the Ovechkin era.  They had incredible offensive depth, elite goaltending, and if they could add a piece, a solid defense.  They were going to have to go all-in on this season and try to take advantage of this opportunity before Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky both reach free agency this offseason.  The Capitals did go all-in on this season by acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline, which was meant to solve some of the team’s struggles on defense.  It ended up costing them two draft picks, including a first rounder, and a forward prospect.  Their moves were successful in the regular season as they finished with the most points in the NHL, winning the President’s Trophy.  They failed, once again, to advance in the playoffs and were eliminated before the Conference Finals.  This means that the team has yet to advance past the second round since Alex Ovechkin has been on the roster.  In the playoffs, they faced a young Maple Leafs team in the first round who played a style of game (speed) that highlighted the weaknesses of the Capitals, whose defensemen aren’t as fleet-footed as they should be.  Washington was still able to eliminate Toronto but were ousted by the Penguins in the second round in seven games.  Although they came up short in the series, the Capitals were the better team in the series, outshooting Pittsburgh in every game and controlling play for long stretches of the series.  Their issue was that they ran into a goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, who was as hot as any goaltender can be, as Fleury had a .921 save percentage in the series.  There’s not much the Capitals can do in that situation except that they have to be better since they are one of the most elite teams in the league.  There were some reasons in the regular season to expect this letdown to take place, one of which was that they had the highest shooting percentage in the regular season, at 10.5%.  They did this was only attempting the 13th most shots in the league.  When their shooting percentage began to collapse, they very quickly regressed as a team.  I think a big reason for this is Alex Ovechkin’s slow regression as a goalscorer, especially in even strength situations.  This is not to say that Ovechkin is the reason for the Capitals collapse in the playoffs, but far from it.  Just that in the playoffs, his opportunities are going to be limited and there are fewer powerplay chances, and when he isn’t scoring as often during five on five situations, the Capitals are going to struggle more to score goals.  Finally, a big reason for their collapse is that Braden Holtby had just a .905 save percentage in the series and a .909 save percentage in the playoffs.  This is a major problem when he has a .922 career save percentage in the regular season and a regression of that magnitude is enough to cause problems in the playoffs.

Offseason Needs

  • The Capitals have a lot of work to do this offseason in order to get back to being close to the same caliber of team they were this season.  Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, Andre Burakovsky, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are all RFAs this offseason and all four are vital members of the team. These don’t even include their unrestricted free agents, who are T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, and Kevin Shattenkirk.  The Capitals do have $22 million in cap space for next season but that will disappear very quickly with the contracts they give to Burakovsky and Kuznetsov.  There hasn’t been much made about how much Kuznetsov expects to earn in his upcoming contract, but it will certainly be a raise compared to his current $3 million cap hit and he has hinted that the contract the Lightning gave Nikita Kucherov wouldn’t suffice and that has an AAV of just under $5 million.  The Capitals should probably expect to pay Kuznetsov at least $6 million per season most likely for the maximum number of years of eight.  As far as Burakovsky’s contract, I’m uncertain how much he will expect, but I think it could end up being a short bridge contract worth between $3 and $4 million per season. They will also need to determine who they want to keep on defense because they certainly won’t have enough to keep all three of Alzner, Orlov, and Schmidt.  I think they try and work out long-term deals for Orlov and Schmidt and let Alzner walk as he is almost guaranteed to be overpaid on the open market. Orlov and Schmidt are both due raises on their next contracts and Orlov should probably be paid close to $5 million per season and Schmidt approaching $4 million.  They also have to re-sign backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer or sign someone to replace him.  Grubauer was excellent in relief of Holtby and I think there is a chance that Vegas takes him in the Expansion Draft. However, I’m certain that Washington GM, Brian MacLellan, does everything possible to prevent that from happening and even will try to convince Vegas to take Brooks Orpik’s contract.  Losing Orpik’s $5.5 million cap hit would allow Washington to have a lot more flexibility with their spending this offseason.  I feel confident that the Capitals allow Oshie and Williams to walk as Oshie is looking for his last big contract and Washington needs to get younger.  They will also lose Shattenkirk as he is going to price himself out of Washington’s range and he wasn’t very good for them after the trade deadline.  The Capitals will need to find a solid defenseman on the market to replace Alzner and Shattenkirk and I think that they may be in the market for Kris Russell or Michael Stone if they can sign either of them to cheap contracts.  Finally, I have read and heard people discussing the possibility of the Capitals looking to trade Ovechkin this offseason since it hasn’t been working in the playoffs thus far and a change could be useful.  People have pointed out his regression as a goalscorer in recent seasons, especially in even strength situations and that looking to move him now would be a good idea.  I do not agree with that sentiment, however, and think that trading the franchise’s greatest player in history would be a huge mistake.  He isn’t the reason they continue to lose in the playoffs and been nearly a point per game player in the playoffs throughout his career.  He also has a no-trade clause which would make moving him very difficult, plus the Capitals would never get enough value in return to make that trade worth it.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, NHL.com, hockeydb.com, capfriendly.com, tsn.ca, and eliteprospects.com*

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