During the Washington Capitals parade on Tuesday, T.J. Oshie got up to give a speech and proclaimed this.
“There’s been lots of chants — there’s been ‘Let’s Go Caps’. There’s been ‘We Want The Cup’, we’ve heard in the streets ‘We Got The Cup’. We got a new one for ya tonight…’Back To Back!'”
This got every single person on the National Mall pumped up at the prospect of the Capitals repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. Everyone immediately thinks of the most recent team to repeat as champs: the Pittsburgh Penguins who were able to win in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, respectively. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 1996-97 and 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings, led by Steve Yzerman. Yzerman, at the time, was criticized for never being able to finish in big games or get far in the postseason despite being a great player. Sound familiar?
It is no easy task at all to repeat as champions in any sport, let alone the NHL. We criticize the Warriors for making the NBA their punching bag but they have been able to do what so few teams have done: become a dynasty in less than 5 seasons.
Now, obviously, the big worry here is that you never are able to keep the same exact team year in and year out, especially in a sport with salary caps like the NHL. Players come and go in trades, players no longer have spots on the team due to cap restrictions, you name it. However, the Caps might be able to field a very similar team to the one they just had this past season.
The biggest potential losses for the Caps this upcoming offseason are John Carlson and Jay Beagle with trade deadline acquisitions Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek included on the short list of unrestricted free agents.
As for restricted free agents, a process that works similarly to qualifying offers and arbitration in MLB, you have guys like Tom Wilson, Philipp Grubauer, Madison Bowey, and new cult hero Devante Smith-Pelly on that list.
You also have the worry regarding head coach Barry Trotz, who’s contract expired at the end of this season. He has stated though that he would like to return, as reported by Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.
We have reports today from the Washington Post’s Samantha Peel that the Caps are looking to possibly trade backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer started 28 games for the Caps this past season going 15-10 with a .923 SV% and a 2.35 GAA. He even gained the trust early on in the playoffs from head coach Barry Trotz to start games 1 & 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately for Grubauer, he was pulled before the start of the 3rd period in Game 2 for regular starter Braden Holtby.
Grubauer definitely garnishes well deserved attention to start elsewhere in the league and thanks to the potential rise of Phoenix Copley from Hershey to backup Braden Holtby, it will be an easy transition period.
As for the Capitals biggest task this postseason, that relies on what to do in regards to John Carlson. Carlson has said that he would like to return to DC but understands “there’s more to it than that.” One thing working in the Capitals favor is that the NHL’s salary cap will rise and be anywhere between $79-82 million. That also would work out in regards to guys like Wilson, Smith-Pelly, Beagle, and Kempny who have all become valuable assets to the team as a whole.
As a lifelong Caps fan, I surely want this to happen. They certainly have a window for at least 2-3 more Cup runs with the current core. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, and Braden Holtby are all guaranteed to be here for at least two more seasons. Guys like Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, and Christian Djoos are all restricted free agents following the 2018-19 season.
GM Brian MacLellan certainly has his work cut out for him and he has certainly gained the trust of Capitals fans everywhere after this past season. Only time will tell if the team can follow in the likes of the Blackhawks, Kings, and Penguins of recent and win multiple championships with the same core.
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