How much longer will this Capitals’ Stanley Cup window remain open?

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Barring some sort of unforeseen blockbuster move in the coming weeks, it seems as if the Capitals are prepared to enter next season with largely the same roster they had during the 2020-21 season.

Evgeny Kuznetsov has not been traded.

T.J. Oshie did not end up in Seattle. Actually, nobody ended up in Seattle after they sent a second-round pick to the Kraken to reacquire goalie Vitek Vanecek (Seattle’s initial pick).

Alex Ovechkin re-signed, as expected, and the rest of the team’s core remains in place.

The only real changes have been to trade Brenden Dillon to Winnipeg for two second-round draft picks and allow Michael Raffl to leave in free agency. Otherwise, it is the exact same team. That is not necessarily a bad thing. (We’ll see what happens with Zdeno Chara, a current UFA)

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

It is a very good team. Excellent, even. A team that finished this past season tied for first place in its division and over the past three seasons has the third best points percentage in the league behind only the Lightning and Bruins.

But it is also a team that has lost in the First Round of the playoffs three years in a row, winning just two total games the past two years. If you break each series down individually you can easily explain each of them away. In 2019 they were coming off a Stanley Cup run and lost an overtime Game 7 to an on-the-rise Hurricanes team that was just starting to become a contender. Nobody should fault them for that. The next year was the bubble year where, quite honestly, no result should be overanalyzed. Things were weird. Then this past season they got a brutal opening round draw against one of the best teams in the league (Bruins). Sometimes somebody is just better than you on the ice. It happens.

But three years without a series win for a franchise that had won at least won series (including a Cup) in each of the previous four years is still a little eye-opening. Especially given the success the team has had during the regular season, so it is understandable that sweeping changes are not viewed as necessary.

This is an old team

If there is a concern for the short-term future in terms of a “Stanley Cup window” it is the simple fact that this is one of the oldest rosters in the NHL. And when it comes to the skaters it is really not even close to the rest of the leaggue. As rosters stand right now the Capitals are the only team in the league whose forwards and defense both have an average age of 30 or older. Most teams sit in the 26-28 range for both groups, and there are only one or two other groups in the entire league over 30 years of age.

Not only that, every defender currently under contract and on the NHL roster is over the age of 30. That is an old group by NHL standards.

The only forwards on the team currently under contract that are under the age of 29 are Tom Wilson (27), Anthony Mantha (26), and Daniel Sprong (24).

[Related: Tom Wilson’s undeniable impact on Metropolitan Division]

Age is obviously far from the only deciding factor into whether or not a team wins, but it is at least somewhat of a factor. Older players are not as productive as they decline, they get injured more, they are not in their prime, they are not as fast. There is a reason teams that win the Cup and go deeper into the playoffs are not usually among the oldest teams in the league. They usually have an average in the 27-28 range.

Given all of that you cannot help but wonder if this is sort of a “one more run” with this current group. They are obviously not getting any younger, and there is going to have to be a point where some changes have to be made if they keep losing in the First Round of the playoffs.

Kuznetsov and the goalies will be the X-factors

Even with all of the aforementioned concerns there are two things that can dramatically change the shape of the Capitals’ season.

The first is Kuznetsov rebounding and once again being an impact player. Even though his name was floated in trade speculation for a while it should not be a major surprise that he is still on the roster. Or if he opens the season on the roster. Trading him right now would be a massive risk for the Capitals because the return would almost certainly fail to match the potential impact he can still make. Yeah, he has struggled (by his standard) the past two years. He has seemingly been a source of frustration for the organization at times. But he is still Evgeny Kuznetsov, he still has impact ability, and trading him now would have been a lowest possible value move, especially given his remaining contract. Who is paying a premium price for that right now?

You do not want to move that guy for pennies on the dollar and then watch him return to being a point-per-game impact player for somebody else.

Along with (apparently) bringing back Kuznetsov, the Capitals also seem prepared to use the same goaltending duo of Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. There was nothing really wrong with the way they played a year ago, but they were not game-changers, either. Samsonov is the player with the potential, but we have not yet consistently seen it. He is still only 24 years old and has only 48 games of NHL experience on his resume. He is far from a finished product. If he becomes the player the Capitals have hoped he could be, that changes a lot. Combine that with Kuznetsov returning to form and suddenly an old, very good team could again be a major threat come playoff time.

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    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced Wednesday.

    The Knights termed the procedure Tuesday 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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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning 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 later Wednesday 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

    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.