What should the Washington Capitals do now?
It’s a popular question today, for obvious reasons. Last night, the Caps fell painfully short of their postseason expectations, falling in the second round to Pittsburgh.
But if what Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said in February is to be believed, don’t expect massive changes to the roster.
“I view it as a two-year window,” MacLellan said. “We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at.”
Looking at their payroll, the Caps don’t have many expiring contracts. Marcus Johansson, Tom Wilson, and Dmitry Orlov are pending restricted free agents, while Jason Chimera, Mike Richards, and Mike Weber are unrestricted.
So there’s a bit of work for MacLellan to do this offseason, but nothing too drastic.
It’s the following summer that the tough decisions will need to be made. That’s when Evgeny Kuznetsov will need a big, new deal, and also when T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, and Karl Alzner can become UFAs.
Now, this is not to say that MacLellan won’t try to tinker this summer. There are some who feel he should try and upgrade the blue line, that the Penguins exposed it with their speed. But then, even if the defense could stand to be improved, that’s no easy task, as it’s probably easier to list the teams that won’t be trying to upgrade their blue line this summer.
The real improvement may have to come from within. Kuznetsov, for instance, had a great regular season, but just two points in 12 playoff games. Andre Burakovsky is still only 21; he has room to grow. Wilson, 22, wasn’t drafted in the first round to be a career fourth-liner; do the Caps still expect more from him? On the back end, Orlov, 24, probably has the most upside.
So, the Caps window hasn’t closed yet. If they can get past this latest disappointment, they should be back for another legitimate shot next year.
After that, though, all bets are off.