Fantasy

Washington Capitals Offseason Focus

Alex Ovechkin has been in the league for 11 years. He’s won the Hart trophy (MVP) twice, the Rocket Richard, goal leader, 6 times and is 26th all-time in goals scored. He’s definitely the best goal-scorer in the post-lockout NHL era. However, Ovechkin has never made it past the 2nd round. He is 31 years old. He’s gotten some help along the way. Namely, Braden Holtby, who joined the team 5 years ago and has been dominant ever since. For a long time, Nicklas Backstrom was the Capitals only other weapon. Now, the Capitals have a depth of great forwards Kuznetsov, Johansen, Burakovsky, and TJ Oshie. Because of these guys, the Capitals have won the Presidents Trophy for two consecutive seasons. However, the Capitals have a lot of free agents in the offseason and Washington will be forced to change. Losing again in the second round, now makes the Capitals the most interesting team in the offseason and could have a great effect on fantasy hockey in the future.

The good news for the Capitals is they still have Braden Holtby. With a 2.07 GAA and a .925 SV %, Holtby’s been nominated for Vezina for the 3rd straight year. Nicklas Backstrom had a great year too with 86 points, 4th most in the league. However, the team will look a lot different than it did in the 2016-2017 season. For one, TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Karl Alzner and  Kevin Shattenkirk will all be unrestricted free agents come July 1st. As well as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky will be restricted free agents in the summer. Added on the expansion draft, which will guarantee 1 Caps player to be taken. It is nearly impossible for Washington to keep all these players. A change will have to come. But with the inevitable, will the Capitals still be relied upon to be a good fantasy team? 

It all depends on who the Capitals keep. Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are the Capitals’ best young players. Although they both are restricted free agents, who have little control over the team, the Capitals should sign these two as their top priority. I could see Kuznetsov getting 5 to 6 million for 6 years. Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau, comparable forwards to Kuznetsov, got similar deals. Burakovsky should get just a little less than Kuznetsov. I’d guess 4 to 5 million for 2 to 3 years.

As for the unrestricted free agents, T.J Oshie, and Karl Alzner should be kept. Oshie has been rather good in his 2 seasons with the Capitals. He has 107 points in 148  games, that’s .72 points per game. Oshie will be one of the most sought-after free agents, so he’ll cost a lot and the Caps may not give him what he wants. As for Alzner, he is an underrated defensive defenseman and because of this, the Capitals could get good value for him. 

As for the other free agents, Shattenkirk wants a bigger role on a team. It could be Washington, it could not be. However, with loads of good right-handed defensemen in Carlson and Niskanen, it might make sense to not keep Shattenkirk. Michael Del Zotto or Michael Stone could be cheaper, albeit, riskier replacements for Shattenkirk. Justin Williams didn’t really deliver this time for Game 7s. Although he is a good depth player, he may not be worth it. Same with Daniel Winnik, who is a good depth player, the Caps can get better elsewhere.

The Capitals aren’t young with Backstrom, Oshie, and Ovechkin, who are over or near 30. To make matters worse, the Capitals don’t have a 1st, 2nd or 3rd pick in this year’s draft. So they can’t use their picks as a bargaining chip to get younger. Washington mortgaged their future to have their team win now, which is fine if it works and it made sense in hindsight, but it backfired in the end and now the Capitals are paying for it.

This playoff drought has happened time and time again and it’s not surprising anymore. Because Ovechkin is the captain and the face of this franchise, people have been calling to trade him to switch it up. Ovechkin had his worst season, by far, and was playing on the third line towards the end of the Pittsburgh series. To be fair, Ovechkin was playing with knee and hamstring injuries and, ultimately, couldn’t play to what we expected of him. This season could be an aberration for him, depending on how hurt Ovechkin actually was during the season, but this could be the start of his decline.

Having said that, it wouldn’t make sense to trade Ovechkin. He is the sole reason the Capitals became relevant, to begin with. He’s the heart and soul of the team. If GM Brian McLellan does decide to trade him, he’s signaling that he is blowing up the team. I know that the last two playoffs have been discouraging for the team, but trading Ovechkin would be counter-productive to their ultimate goal. The best thing about Ovechkin is he is really durable. Although he might not be as productive as he once was, he still is a valuable asset to have and can still be productive.

The Capitals went all-in this season and it didn’t work. But they had a really good season so they are on the right track. The team will look a little different next season, but ultimately they still have Holtby, Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson and will add stability. So, unless Washington does something crazy, they are not going to be terrible next season. However, they can’t stand still, they have to make a change. They can’t just accept that 2nd round exits are all they are capable of. The Capitals will be a team to watch this offseason.

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