The Washington Capitals.
Let me start this off by saying I was rooting for Washington this year in that Pittsburgh series. I have liked them since they drafted Ovechkin onto the team and stopped their slide into oblivion. Yet the road has not been kind to these Capitals. This is a team that has had repeatedly showed makings of greatness only to be met with repeated playoff failures and numerous rebuilt identities. All the while similarly era drafted Sidney Crosby and his Penguins have won numerous cups.
This year I really thought Washington had the pieces to make a deep push.
Yet we all know how that went.
They struggled with a feisty and speedy Toronto team and were fortunate to come away with the series. Unfortunately they met their draft star rival Pittsburgh in the next round and were pushed out yet again by Crosby and his Penguins.
Faced with yet another lost season they face a dilemma. Washington must retool in the wake of their loss and already has found themselves confronted by difficulties.
Lets take a look at the collateral damage.
They lost a large portion of their D corp in the shape of Karl Alzner to UFA and Nate Schmidt to the Vegas Knights. Everyone knew Shattenkirk was going to test the waters come free agency but losing two actual quality homegrown defencemen for nothing definitely leaves a sting. They are not easily replaceable. Its not like the UFA market is teeming with possible options either. The best players are going to be the ex-Capitals and after them...I donno... Andrei Markov? It will definitely be tough to fill those holes. I think the Capitals take a step back in D-corps reliability next year.
Now lets talk about Justin Williams for a second as well. The man is overdue for some credit. I mean can we give this guy some credit. He is just a smart hockey player. Plain and simple. His 273 career goals and 662 points in 1080 GP shows consistent production of a top six winger. His three Stanley cup rings show he knows how to win. He was an excellent addition to the Caps. I think he gave them something they lacked in the locker room and on the ice. I realllllllly thought they were gonna sign this guy.
This is a shot to the kidneys for Washington.
Production wise alone it will be difficult to fill from a cap perspective, but the intangibles are something far more severe to them. This hurts in a big way.
Washington did manage to resign Oshie... I mean.. I like it.. Sort of. I think Oshie is going to put up points for the Capitals. Especially given a full off season and camp to adapt to the system. Its not outrageous to assume he can hit 70-80 pts. Most likely I think he will hover in the 60-70 range but it wouldn't shock me to see higher. The cap hit is manageable as well @ 5.75mil per year. Given the rise in cap it is actually almost less than market value for a top six winger. Its the best you can pay for anyone not on a ELC or giving you surprise production value.
The term is the only eyebrow raiser. 8 years.. That's a long time to remain productive. There was a reason it was only 5.75. Its because Washington gave security on the term. If Oshie holds up for 3/4 of that contract length, than its not too bad for them. If he drops off early... It starts to look grim.
Washington did do a little bit more housecleaning in the resigning of Brett Connolly. The former 6th overall pick had a steady season and seemed to be comfortable for the first time in an up and down career. The contract is worth 3 million over two years and is hoped to be a diamond in the rough signing. Connolly put up 15 G and 23 PTS with a +20 rating in 66 GP. He will be expected to build on his success from this year and hopefully will reward the team on its investment. He will probably be relied on to play more than his 11 minutes last season.
Even with those signings they are far from done though. With just under 12.5 million (As per capfriendly) they still have RFAs Kuznestov and Burakovsky to resign to contracts. Both will be looking to be in line for a raise. That's going to leave few dollars for the fleshing out of the D-corps. Not to mention any depth signings to replace Williams and Winnik.
So while Free Agency can still provide the caps with a winning signing, I think they still come up as losers in 2016-17. Hopefully they get the bang for their buck they need in their signings.