The Washington Capitals will have you believe the value that Tom Wilson brings to their team is more than what you see on the stat sheet.
The classic “you can not always put a number on it” kind of player.
He is not a goal-scorer. He is not a big point-producer. He is probably never really going to score like a true top-line player. What he does do is kill penalties, and play a physical, defensive game where he throws his weight around and gets under the skin of opponents.
While it may not always be measured on the stat sheet, you can certainly put a dollar amount on it. At least as far as the Capitals are concerned.
That dollar amount is apparently a little more than $31 million over six years.
That is the contract the Capitals signed Wilson, a restricted free agent, to on Friday night. That contract comes out to a salary cap hit of $5.17 million per season and reportedly carries a modified no-trade clause years three through six of the contract.
“Tom is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased that he will play a great part in our foreseeable future,” General manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement released by the team. “Tom is a unique player in this League. At 24 years of age, he has an impressive amount of experience and we believe that he will only continue to grow and improve as a player. With his ability to play in virtually any game situation, teams need players like Tom in order to succeed in the NHL.”
By re-signing Wilson the Capitals are bringing back almost all of the roster that won the Stanley Cup this past season (minus center Jay Beagle and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer). It is also a significant number for Wilson as it pays him almost $2 million more per season than playoff hero Lars Eller, and just a few hundred thousand less than T.J. Oshie.
The 2017-18 season was Wilson’s most productive in the NHL as he finished with a career-high 14 goals and 35 total points, while getting a significant amount of time on the team’s top line alongside Alex Ovechkin. It was the first time in his career that he scored more than seven goals and only the second time he topped 20 points (his previous career high before this season was 23).
If you are the Capitals the argument in favor of the contract is, again, that Wilson does other things that do not always show up on the stat sheet, and that at age 24 he might still be developing as a player. The former argument probably carries some weight (whether those things are worth more than $5 million per season is certainly up for debate), but the latter would probably be a tough sell. Wilson is entering what should be his prime years in the NHL and, including playoffs, has over 400 games of experience. While he may not be an older player, he is not exactly young when it comes to his development. What you see at this point is probably what you are going to get.
Again: These should be his peak years, and his best year offensively to this point while spending a lot of time alongside a living NHL legend was 14 goals and 35 points. How much more development is there?
When you pay a player more than $31 million over six years you are paying that player like a top-liner. There should be an expectation for top-line production along with the other stuff (defensive play, penalty killing, whatever other intangibles you want to talk about).
He is also one of the game’s … let’s say … controversial players given his style of play. He is not only physical, he often times skates a fine line with the NHL’s department of player safety that can get him into trouble. He was involved in a number of controversial plays in the Stanley Cup playoffs, including hits on Columbus’ Alexander Wennberg, Pittsburgh’s Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese, and Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault. The hit on Aston-Reese earned him a three-game suspension, was his third suspension of the 2017-18 season.
Still, he is a good defensive player, and he is a good penalty killer, and he is obviously a player the Capitals highly value.
How much his game continues to evolve offensively in future seasons will go a long way toward determining whether or not they are correct in that valuation of what he provides.