What will Capitals roster look like next season?

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The Washington Capitals have been the Stanley Cup Champions for a few hours, which means it’s time for us to move on to next season (that’s just what we do). Anytime a team wins a championship, their roster goes through some changes because they can’t afford to keep everyone under the salary cap. It won’t be any different for the Caps.

Let’s begin by mentioning that this team already lost Marcus Johansson (trade), Justin Williams (free agency), Nate Schmidt (expansion draft) and Karl Alzner (free agency) last season. That’s a significant chunk of the roster that they simply couldn’t keep around heading into 2017-18.

This summer should be an interesting one for the Caps, as they have some key contracts to settle. We know that Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are all locked up, but number one defenseman John Carlson is the biggest name that might be on his way out the door on July 1st.

Defense

This was the final year of Carlson’s contract that paid him a shade under $4 million per season. To keep him in Washington, the Capitals will likely have to shell out close to double that amount. After all, the 28-year-old is coming off a season in which he scored 15 goals and an incredible 68 points in 82 contests. He picked up another 20 points in 24 games during the postseason. Carlson also ate up some big minutes throughout the year, as he averaged 24:47 in the regular season and 25:38 in the playoffs.

He’s also shown that he can take a solid defense partner like Karl Alzner or Michal Kempny and turn them into something more (Alzner struggled mightily without him this year). Clearly, Carlson has to be the top priority for Washington GM Brian MacLellan heading into the off-season.

The Caps have $63.78 million committed to the cap next season. If reports suggesting the cap will jump to anywhere between $78-82 million, they’ll have the money to get it done. The issue, is that they only have 10 forwards and four defensemen under contract, so they still have to fill out a roster.

If they can bring Carlson back, they’ll have to find someone to play alongside him on the top pairing. Kempny had a strong postseason there, but how much will it cost to bring him back into the fold, and is that the type player they want playing that role for 82 games? Kempny, 27, made $900,000 this year. He can probably expect a raise based on his performance in the playoffs. Fellow free agent Jakub Jerabek may or may not be back. He was a healthy scratch for the final 22 games of Washington’s postseason run, anyway. And RFA Madison Bowey will also factor into the mix at some point.

Goalies

Things will also get interesting between the pipes. Braden Holtby struggled at times throughout the season, but he managed to find his game at the perfect moment. Holtby isn’t going anywhere. He has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $6.1 million per year and the Caps will likely look to extend him as soon as he’s eligible to sign a new contract on July 1st, 2019.

But backup netminder Philipp Grubauer is likely on his way out of Washington. Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the Islanders and Hurricanes were both interested in acquiring the 26-year-old. He’ll never be the full-time starter in Washington, so this could be his chance to become a number one goalie in the NHL. Also, re-signing a quality goaltender to be a backup will likely cost the Caps more than they’re willing to spend on that position.

The Caps could use Pheonix Copley as a backup until top prospect Ilya Samsonov is ready for the NHL, but what happens if Holtby struggles again? Grubauer stepped up in a big way when Holtby couldn’t find his game. They may not be able to survive another subpar season from their starter next year.

Forwards

The shake up with the forwards will likely be a lot less eventful. As we mentioned before, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller and Andrei Burakovsky are all under contract. Some of the regulars that need new contracts are: Devante Smith-Pelly (RFA), Tom Wilson (RFA) and Jay Beagle (UFA).

Smith-Pelly, who emerged as a playoff hero, only made $650,000 last season. If they want to keep him, they’ll have to give him a slight raise (something in the 1.2 to 1.5 million range, maybe?).

Having Beagle as a fourth-line center is an incredible luxury, as he’s able to win faceoffs and kill penalties at a high level. But those are services that another NHL team might overpay for come July 1st, which means the Caps might have to look elsewhere for that type of player. Beagle is useful, but replacing him shouldn’t keep MacLellan up at night.

The interesting deal will be Wilson’s. There’s no doubt that they’re going to keep him because after all, he skated on a line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov in the playoffs. The AAV on his next contract will be intriguing to say the least. The 24-year-old chipped in with a respectable 14 goals and 35 points 78 games, but he brings much more to the table than just points. His ability to bring a physical element to the game is also valuable. Wilson is coming off a two-year deal worth a total of $4 million. Don’t be surprised if his next cap number is in the $3.5-$4 million range.

Coach

And we can’t forget that head coach Barry Trotz is another key free agent. The Caps rolled the dice by not extending him during the season, so bringing him back will cost them more than it would have a few months ago, but that likely won’t matter to them now.

MacLellan has a ton of work to do if he wants to make sure the Caps are legitimate contenders again next season, but he can probably just enjoy his team’s Stanley Cup triumph for the next few days.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.