What is next for Capitals after another First Round exit?


In 2018 the Capitals finally conquered their demons and successfully made the climb to the top of the NHL’s tallest mountain, winning their first Stanley Cup.

It was a long time coming for an organization that had known nothing but playoff frustration and disappointment for its entire existence, and for a core that was being defined more for second round losses than the all-time great superstar that headlined the lineup.

In the three years since they successfully raised the cup, the Capitals have maintained their status as one of the top teams in the league.

Their 125 regular season wins are the third most in the league (behind only Tampa Bay at 141 and Boston at 126), they have won two division titles, and finished in second place this season by way of a tiebreaker. They are still good. Really good. But as their core starts to get another year older, and another year slower, and another year removed from that championship, the postseason success has dried up almost entirely.


Their 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Sunday resulted in a five-game First Round exit, the third consecutive year they have failed to advance in the playoffs, something that had never previously happened in the Alex Ovechkin era. What is more concerning than the losses is the way they have lost, progressively getting worse and more punchless each year.

They have won just five of the 17 playoff games they have played since raising the cup, and at times looked to be two steps behind the teams that eliminated them.

So what is next?

You know Ovechkin will be back (even if he is technically a free agent). You know Nicklas Backstrom will be back. As long as those two are on the roster you can be sure Capitals management is going to be doing whatever it can to try to win again. And frankly, it is the only way to operate in that situation. But how do they build a roster around those two that can win again? There are some big questions to address this offseason.

The Evgeny Kuznetsov situation

This might be the most interesting situation to watch this offseason.

Kuznetsov is 29 years old, has four years remaining on a contract that carries a $7.58M cap hit, and around the time he went on the COVID list for the second time this season there were rumblings that the Capitals were perhaps willing to consider listening to trade offers this offseason.

This is a tricky one.

There is reason for the Capitals to have some frustration here. When he has been in the lineup over the past two years he has not been the impactful player he once was. His offense has dropped, defense has never been a significant part of his game, and his overall play has just been relatively ordinary. At least by the standard he set for himself at his peak. If you trade him now you are doing so at what might be his lowest possible value and the return might not be what you expect. There is probably not a huge list of teams lining up to trade for a one-dimensional, 29-year-old forward with a big salary cap hit that has not been a game-breaker offensively for two years. That is especially true when the salary cap is not increasing this offseason.

So with that in mind…

How about something bold

While Kuznetsov’s value is probably at rock bottom, there is another player on the roster whose value might be at its peak.

Maybe you explore that?

That player — Tom Wilson.

Capitals fans will riot at the suggestion of this, but hear me out.

While opposing fans, media, and everybody not associated with the Capitals loathe Wilson’s style of play, there is one group of people in the sport that absolutely love it and love him. There are 31 of them, and they are the NHL’s general managers.

Every single one of them would crawl over miles of jagged rocks and broken glass to have a player like Tom Wilson on their team. They can not get enough of this guy. A big, 6-4, 220-pound power forward that rattles cages, defends, and scores 20-plus goals? You are talking a dream player for hockey people. Every one of them, particularly those in the Eastern Conference, are always looking for somebody to counter Tom Wilson. What if the Capitals put the actual Tom Wilson on the market?

Not saying they have to trade him. Not even suggesting they should trade him.

But does it hurt to put out some feelers and see if some overly aggressive general manager loses their mind. I bet at least one of them would.

For all of the talk about “heavy hockey” and how players like him are key in the playoffs, he has not made much of an impact in the past three postseasons, and you also have the X-factor of him being one poorly placed or ill-timed hit away from taking himself out of the lineup for a long time.

The Capitals need a spark. They need to get younger and faster, and they need to do it on the cheap given the salary cap situation. Ovechkin and Backstrom are going nowhere. Same could probably be said for John Carlson. Kuznetsov (contract, recent play) and T.J. Oshie (age and contract) might not bring you huge returns. So what else do you have?

Whenever a player’s perceived value exceeds their actual on-ice value that is probably the time to consider shopping them. Wilson might be at that point in the eyes of opposing general managers. So why not explore?

Worst case scenario is you do not get an offer you like and you simply keep a good player.

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Is the right goalie on the roster?

Then there is the goalie situation. After a decade of dependability and consistency with Braden Holtby, the Capitals came into this season with the uncertainty of an unproven starter (Ilya Samsonov) and a haphazardly thrown together backup situation that nobody planned for.

Overall, their play could probably best be described as “fine.” They were not a liability, but they were not game-stealers, either. Coach Peter Laviolette said in the aftermath of their playoff loss that goaltending was not the reason they are not moving on. But it also did not really do much to prevent them from losing. Samsonov is a restricted free agent, so some kind of a decision is going to have be made here. How confident are you that he is the guy? Do you gamble on the raw talent and natural ability and commit to the goalie you have penciled in as your long-term starter for years? Or do you explore outside options? Old friend Philipp Grubauer would be interesting if the Avalanche can not re-sign him.

The Capitals still have the core to compete, even if it is older and getting closer to the end of its run. But there are still some big questions to address this offseason to help get them back out of the First Round.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

“We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

“I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

“Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

“We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

“It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

“I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

“We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

“I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

“It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

“It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

“We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

“I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.