T.J. Oshie

Long-term outlook Washington Capitals Ovechkin Holtby
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Long-term outlook for Washington Capitals: Key cap questions coming

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Washington Capitals.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Barring two very big names (which we’ll discuss in the next section), the Capitals have a lot of their name-brand players signed long-term.

It remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon how each integral player ages. Nicklas Backstrom is already 32, making a five-year extension with a $9.2M AAV pretty scary. Looking at other players with term, T.J. Oshie is 33, Lars Eller is 30, and John Carlson is 30.

Of course, Carlson looks like a steal at $8M so far, and those players have aged like fine wine — at least at this point.

If this group sustains reasonably well as they hit 30 and beyond, then the Capitals should be able to put puzzle pieces together to compete. At some point, you’d expect the run of division titles to end. Then again, like Alex Ovechkin scoring all of the goals, it just seems to keep happening.

Long-term needs for Capitals

I hesitated ever so slightly to put Ovechkin in the core section because, frankly, his future is a little bit unsettled.

The 34-year-old sees what felt like a lifetime contract end after 2020-21. Will the Capitals ask Ovechkin to take a pay cut from $9.54M? Would Ovechkin demand even more money? He’d certainly have options in the hard-to-imagine scenario where the situation gets sticky.

But there are certainly a number of scenarios where this plays out poorly for the Capitals and/or Ovechkin. Including if he stays, but steeply declines with an aging team.

The Capitals also need to settle their situation in net. It’s difficult to shake the impression that pending UFA Braden Holtby might be out. The 30-year-old’s best chance at a big payday likely lies somewhere other than D.C.

I mean … I think. The Capitals have shown an eagerness to keep key players together, sometimes producing some surprises. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with Backstrom, and I also was mildly surprised when they brought Oshie back. None of this is to say that the moves were foolish; it’s just sometimes difficult to tell when a team might make the painful, cap-forced decision to let a cherished player walk away.

Because the danger is that the Capitals might squeeze out a much-needed injection of youth if they try to wrangle everyone. At his current trajectory, 24-year-old Jakub Vrana sure looks like he’ll be in line for a massive raise from $3.35M after 2020-21.

Letting Holtby go — and maybe getting lucky to shake loose a problem contract to Seattle — might be key in replenishing the ranks.

The Capitals either need to get creative to stay younger, or they might need to search for the Fountain of Youth.

Long-term strengths for Capitals

No doubt about it, the aging curve worries me for Washington. That said, it might not be ominous at the “guillotine hanging over your head” level.

For one thing, players like Backstrom could conceivably age well. He distinguishes himself as much for his hockey IQ as he does for his talent, so maybe Backstrom will parallel, say, Patrice Bergeron over the years.

Ilya Samsonov also represents a possible solution. He could end up being better than Holtby going forward, and as a 23-year-old who would be an RFA after 2020-21, the Capitals may also be able to extend Samsonov for a team-friendly price.

OK, the Capitals might be forced into such a scenario by cap realities. But, when you look at, say, the Blue Jackets waving goodbye to Sergei Bobrovsky and getting a better deal with young, cheap netminders, it’s certainly not a given that Washington won’t come out of the situation as winners.

In all honesty, Capitals management has earned a solid level of trust.

Yes, the Capitals’ farm system isn’t the greatest, as Scott Wheeler ranked it 29th back in January (sub required).

But considering how infrequently they’ve picked even as high as the teens in drafts, they’ve been able to unearth some gems here and there. And Brian MacLellan isn’t even trading them away as perilously as the Capitals once did with Filip Forsberg.

My guess is that the “bill is coming” for years of win-now approaches, so maybe that shrewdness will only go so far. Still, this franchise has consistently found ways to stay in the picture, and there’s some reason to believe that the party might go a few years longer.

MORE ON THE CAPITALS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: Teams with the best long-term outlook

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the teams with the best long-term outlook.

How are we defining long-term outlook? Pretty simple, and it comes down to one fairly important question: Does this team have a chance to win the Stanley Cup (or two Stanley Cups) over the next five years.

That takes into account talent currently on the roster, talent coming through the farm system, salary cap situation, and pretty much everything else that is required to win it all.

Where does your favorite team sit?

To the rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche. Unless they royally screw it up somehow this is the ideal situation in both the short-and long-term. They could win the Stanley Cup as soon as this season, and should be a constant contender for the next five years (and more). They have superstar players just now entering their prime, they have great young players on cheap deals and a nice pipeline of talent coming through the system, and they have a great cast of complementary players around the stars. Nearly every core player is signed long-term and they have a ton of salary cap flexibility to add players where needed.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have been one of the best teams in the NHL for more than five seasons now and are still searching for that championship for this particular core. Even with their recent postseason shortcomings this core is still absolutely good enough to get it done, they are still mostly in their primes, and signed long-term. Salary cap situation will be tight, but they have elite players at every position on the ice and plenty of depth.

3. Boston Bruins. A Stanley Cup Finalist a year ago and the best team in the NHL this season. The Bruins are one of the league’s elite teams and well positioned to compete for the foreseeable future. The only thing that might start to slow them down is the age of some of their top players and a few questions beyond this season (contract status for their goalies, adding depth within the salary cap).

4. Pittsburgh Penguins. As long as they still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel performing the way they have been they are going to be in a position to compete. There will come a time in the next few years where the former three really start to slow down (or maybe even retire) but that time is not here yet.

5. Washington Capitals. Similar outlook as the Penguins, where as long as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, and T.J. Oshie are doing their thing they are going to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup. They also have a really nice wave young talent starting to emerge with players like Ilya Samsonov and Jakub Vrana.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs. At some point they have to get through Round 1 of the playoffs, and until they do they will be a postseason punchline. But I like to bet on talent, and Toronto, even for all of its flaws, has a ton of talent. Championship talent. The big contracts at the top will require some creative salary cap maneuvering, but every team that wins a Stanley Cup has a similar roster construction with a small number of players eating up a significant portion of salary cap space. That concern is overblown.

7. St. Louis Blues. I like the Blues in the short-term. I like their chances to repeat this season, especially in the Western Conference. But they have some big free agents to deal with in the coming years and that creates at least a little bit of long-term uncertainty. They are not going away yet. But they do have some big questions to answer down the line (Alex Pietrangelo, the goalies, Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, etc.)

8. Carolina Hurricanes. A team that has been on the rise for a while and arrived last season with a stunning trip to the Eastern Conference Final. The Hurricanes have a great young nucleus in place with a sensational defense and a handful of outstanding young forwards led by Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and an emerging superstar in Andrei Svechnikov.

9. Philadelphia Flyers. There is a lot to like in Philadelphia right now. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracak can still be impact players in the short-term, while they have two front-line players in Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny in the prime of their careers. The X-factors here are the trio of Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, and Carter Hart. If they progress and become the players the Flyers hope they will that can be a game-changer in Philadelphia. That is especially true as it relates to Hart.

10. Vegas Golden Knights. An outstanding team in a very winnable division. The big concern here is that it is a little bit of an older team with several players in their core starting to approach age 30 and beyond.

11. New York Rangers. Artemi Panarin is one of the league’s most best offensive players, but what truly makes this team fascinating going forward is the young talent around him. They have two outstanding young goalies (Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev), an emerging star on defense in Adam Fox, and a potential superstar in Kaapo Kakko.

12. Edmonton Oilers. It is very tempting to put them higher on the list because Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are that good. They are the best 1-2 punch in the league, and in theory that should give them a great window to compete in. But there remains a lot of questions after them.

13. Calgary Flames. They are not as good as their 2018-19 record and they are probably a little better than they have showed this season. There is a good core in place, as long as they do not do something outrageous like trade Johnny Gaudreau, or something.

14. Vancouver Canucks. Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes is a potential championship trio, and 2019 first-round pick Vasili Podkolzin has enormous potential for when he makes the jump to North America. They still have a lot of work to do around that young core, though.

15. Florida Panthers. This season has been a massive disappointment, but Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are an amazing steals at the top of the lineup which gives them a huge advantage.

16. Nashville Predators. A tough team to get a feel for long-term. I like their talent, I think they still have a chance to compete for a title, but I also wonder if they already missed their best opportunity.

17. Columbus Blue Jackets. There is some really good talent here, and the defense duo of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski is tremendous. The performance of the goalies in the short-term will dictate a lot.

18. Dallas Stars. I feel like they need more impact talent at forward. Tyler Seguin is still really good, but Alexander Radulov isn’t getting any younger. John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen are the long-term faces of the franchise. A lot of their success this season is goaltending driven, and that’s fine in the short-term, but you can’t rely on that every single season.

19. New York Islanders. Given the current construction of the roster the Islanders are positioned to be a fringe playoff team, but lacking the superstar talent to really become a true Stanley Cup contender.

20. New Jersey Devils. Sometimes timing is everything. The Devils have had two of the past three No. 1 overall picks, but they did not have them in a year where there wasn’t a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, or even a Steven Stamkos available. Nico Hischier is outstanding, and Jack Hughes has the potential to be there, but there are some big questions around them.

21. Winnipeg Jets. Love the forward talent, really like the goalie, but have some serious concerns on defense. Like Nashville, I think we may have seen this team miss its best shot.

22. Chicago Blackhawks. The window slammed shut rapidly and brutally. They still have some high-end players, and Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach have big-time potential, but this is going to be three consecutive non-playoff seasons and five years without a playoff series win. Not sure if the window opens backup anytime soon. By the time Dach and Boqvist become stars, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews might be slowing down.

23. San Jose Sharks. I could see the Sharks rebounding next season and being a playoff team again, but the age of their core and the salary cap situation with some of those contracts is a long-term concern.

24. Minnesota Wild. I’m still having a hard time seeing the long-term direction here or where this team is going. Not a bad team. Not a great team. Just sort of stuck in the middle.

25. Arizona Coyotes. This is not a bad team, and there is definitely upside here, but if they can not re-sign Taylor Hall they will have a glaring lack of impact talent at forward and without some significant luck in the draft lottery will not be in a position to add any anytime soon.

26. Montreal Canadiens. They have good players and Marc Bergevin has made his share of good moves, but the end result is never anything other than mediocrity. That is a difficult cycle to get out of.

27. Buffalo Sabres. Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin should be a reason for optimism, but there is no sign that ownership or management knows how to properly build around them.

28. Detroit Red Wings. The current roster is not good but they have draft assets and one of the most respected general managers in the league. The salary cap situation is also better than it looked a year or two ago. They are still a LONG way from contention.

29. Los Angeles Kings. They are finally starting to lean into the rebuild and have an interesting farm system, but it is going to take some time.

30. Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have had a pretty great run throughout the salary cap era, winning a Stanley Cup, making three other Western Conference Finals, and almost always being a playoff team. But that chapter has closed and it is time for a new beginning and a rebuild.

31. Ottawa Senators. There should be reason for optimism here. There are some really good young players in place, they have salary cap space, but it all starts at the top with ownership. It is really tough to buy into them long-term for that reason.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Where will Byfuglien land?; Tarasenko’s return

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Here’s three potential landing spots for Dustin Byfuglien. (Sportsnet)

• Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko should dominate when he gets back into the lineup. (Bleedin Blue)

• Check out T.J. Oshie‘s draft story from 2005. You’ll get a kick out of it. (The Hockey News)

James Reimer wants to see NHL teams play exhibition games if play resumes. (TSN)

Brad Marchand believes the older teams are going to struggle if the season resumes. (NBC Sports Boston)

Darcy Kuemper explains what it’s like for him to be stuck at home during the pandemic. (AZ Family)

• On the Forecheck did an interview did an interview with SC Bern GM Florence Schelling. (On the Forecheck)

• The covid-19 pandemic is hitting women’s hockey at a pivotal time. (Lethbridge News Now)

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.

NBC Sports presents Hockey Week in America

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As we wait for the NHL to return, NBC Sports will be filling your hockey fix this week with Hockey Week in America on NBCSN. We’ll be reliving some of the top games and moments from the last decade, including Stanley Cup clinchers, Game 7 overtime thrillers, outdoor games, memorable playoff performances, and the very best of the Sidney CrosbyAlex Ovechkin rivalry.

NBCSN will feature 12 hours of hockey programming from March 23 through March 26 from 3 p.m. ET – 3 a.m. ET with each night focusing on a specific theme. From March 27 through March 29, NBCSN will showcase seven hours of hockey programming in primetime from 8 p.m. ET – 3 a.m. ET.

Here are themes for each day of Hockey Week in America:

Monday, March 23: Game 7 overtime thrillers
Tuesday, March 24: Notable playoff rivalry games
Wednesday, March 25: NHL outdoor games
Thursday, March 26: Stanley Cup Final clinching games
Friday, March 27: Notable playoff performances
Saturday, March 28: Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin playoff showdowns
Sunday, March 29: Game 7 overtime thrillers

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Monday, March 23: Game 7 overtime thrillers

NBCSN will present four notable Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 overtime matchups from the past decade, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. These matchups include the Bruins unlikely third-period comeback against the Maple Leafs in the opening round in 2013 and Alec Martinez’ OT game-winner to send the Kings to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

• Capitals vs. New York Rangers (2015 Round 2) – 3 p.m. ET
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (2014 Western Conference Final) – 5 p.m. ET
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (2013 Round 1) – 7 p.m. ET
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (2019 Round 1) – 9 p.m. ET
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (2013 Round 1) – 11 p.m. ET
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (2014 Western Conference Final) – 1 a.m. ET

Tuesday, March 24: Notable playoff rivalry games

NBCSN will showcase four memorable playoff rivalry games beginning at 3 p.m. ET. These matchups include Game 3 of the 2012 Penguins-Flyers, which saw a combined 12 goals and more than 150 combined penalty minutes, as well as Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final between the Rangers and Devils that sent New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Final.

• Kings vs. Sharks (2014 Round 1, Game 7) – 3 p.m. ET
• N.Y. Rangers vs. Devils (2012 Eastern Conference Final, Game 6) – 5 p.m. ET
• Penguins vs. Flyers (2012 Round 1, Game 3) – 7 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Blues (2014 Round 1, Game 2) – 9 p.m. ET
• N.Y. Rangers vs. Devils (2012 Eastern Conference Final, Game 6) – 11 p.m. ET
• Penguins vs. Flyers (2012 Round 1, Game 3) – 1 a.m.

Wednesday, March 25: NHL outdoor games

NBC Sports will present four NHL outdoor games, including this year’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day between the Stars and Predators at 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET. Wednesday’s programming is highlighted by the inaugural Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y, in 2008, at 8 p.m. ET, as Sidney Crosby punctuated the event with his shootout goal in the snow. Wednesday’s coverage continues at 10 p.m. ET with the Maple Leafs-Red Wings 2014 Winter Classic, which was also played in the snow in front of 100,000-plus fans at Michigan Stadium.

• 2019 Stadium Series: Penguins vs. Flyers – 3 p.m. ET
Wired: Stadium Series – Penguins vs. Flyers (2019) – 5 p.m. ET
• 2008 Winter Classic: Penguins vs. Sabres – 6 p.m. ET
• 2020 Winter Classic: Predators vs. Stars – 8 p.m. ET
• 2014 Winter Classic: Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings – 10 p.m. ET
• 2020 Winter Classic: Predators vs. Stars – 12 a.m. ET
Road to 2020 Winter Classic – 2 a.m. ET

Thursday, March 26: Stanley Cup Final clinching games

Four Stanley Cup clinching games will be presented on NBCSN, including the Capitals’ first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018, the beginning of the Blackhawks’ dynasty with their 2010 Stanley Cup victory, and an iconic Stanley Cup Final Game 7 from 2009 between the Penguins and Red Wings.

• Penguins vs. Red Wings (2009 Game 7) – 3 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Flyers (2010 Game 6) – 5 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Bruins (2013 Game 6) – 7 p.m. ET
• Capitals vs. Golden Knights (2018 Game 5) – 9 p.m. ET
• Penguins vs. Red Wings (2009 Game 7) – 11 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Flyers (2010 Game 6) – 1 a.m. ET

Friday, March 27: Notable playoff performances

Three notable individual Stanley Cup Playoffs performances will be showcased on NBCSN including John Tavares leading the Islanders to a playoff series win in 2016 for the first time in 23 years, Ben Bishop’s 52 saves in a Game 7 that nearly derailed the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup run and Patrick Kane’s series-clinching hat trick to send Chicago to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

• Panthers vs. Islanders (2016 Round 1, Game 6) – 8 p.m. ET
• Stars vs. Blues (2019 Round 2, Game 7) – 10 p.m. ET
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final, Game 5) – 12 a.m. ET
Gamechangers: All-Time Greats – 2 a.m. ET
Top 10: All-Time Records – 2:30 a.m. ET

Saturday, March 28: Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin playoff showdowns

The rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin will be on full display for seven hours on NBCSN on Saturday, with three of their most memorable playoff matchups: the “dueling hat trick” game in 2009 will air at 8 p.m. ET, followed by a pair of OT series clinchers in 2016 and 2018. In all three instances, the winner of these series went on to win the Stanley Cup.

• Penguins vs. Capitals (2009 Round 2, Game 2) – 8 p.m. ET
• Capitals vs. Penguins (2016 Round 2, Game 6) – 10 a.m. ET
• Capitals vs. Penguins (2018 Round 2, Game 6) – 12:30 a.m. ET

Sunday, March 29: Game 7 overtime and Olympic thrillers

• USA vs. Canada (2018 Olympic women’s hockey gold medal game) – 1 p.m. ET on NBC
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (2013 Round 1) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (2019 Round 1) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (2014 Western Conference Final) 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Wired: Stadium Series – Kings vs. Avalanche (2020) – 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Wednesday Night Hockey: Will Flyers win Metropolitan Division?

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

If there was ever going to be a race at the top of the Metropolitan Division standings, it was supposed to be between the Capitals and Penguins. Well, things haven’t exactly materialized that way lately. The Caps are very much in the mix, but the Flyers have jumped into the race.

The Flyers are just three points behind the Caps for the division crown thanks to a six-game winning streak. They’ll have a chance to cut that down to one point tonight.

“Everyone on the team has bought into the new systems, the new approach that our coaching staff has brought to us,” forward Travis Konecny said. “And it’s been awesome seeing the top guys doing whatever they can to win games.”

The experienced coaching staff the Flyers assembled with Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo has come through for them in their first year. They’ve also watched as young players like Konecny have turned into stars.

The 22-year-old has 23 goals and 60 points in 62 games this season, but he’s also been ripping it up during this six-game win streak. Konecny has put up 12 points during the streak and it doesn’t look like he’s about to slow down either.

“I’ve learned a lot from [Giroux] on the ice and off the ice,” added Konecny. “When I see him coming to the rink every day… I’m sore. I’m not putting in the effort. But he’s already stretched out, doing a workout and pushing sleds… I’m thinking if my captain can be doing that, working that hard, then everyone else on the team should be doing the same thing.”

There’s two reasons why the Flyers have been able to close the gap between themselves and the Capitals. Clearly, they’ve been doing a lot of winning of their own. They’ve also benefitted from Washington’s recent slide.

Since losing, 7-2, to the Flyers on home ice on Feb. 8, the Caps have a 4-6-1 record. Every teams is going to go through ups and downs over the course of an 82-game season, but they need to stop the slide soon if they want to avoid finishing second or third in the Metro. Veterans like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and others should be able to stop the bleeding.

“The more experience you can have, the better,” Oshie said. “Especially when times get tough. When you have older guys — when things aren’t going your way — that aren’t freaking out and they are keeping their cool, it makes it very hard for the young guys not to follow that, so it’s important… I like our veteran leadership going into the playoffs here.”

After tonight’s game, the Capitals will play three road games against the Rangers, Penguins and Sabres over five days. Once that road trip is completed next week, they’ll have two home dates against the Red Wings and Blackhawks. It’s crucial that they come up with a good amount of points during this stretch.

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.