Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today’s player: No. 4 T.J. Oshie
Brian MacLellan had a tough choice at the end of the season. With several key players on expiring contracts and the team facing a serious cap crunch, who if anyone would the team try to re-sign? Coming off a season in which he was tied for the team lead with 33 goals despite playing in only 68 games, Oshie was poised to be one of the most sought after free agents this summer. But even if MacLellan wanted him, could he even afford to re-sign him?
The answer was a resound...sort of. Oshie did indeed re-sign with Washington and at a fairly modest cap hit of $5.75 million, but it took an eight-year deal to get him which is a steep price for a player already 30 years old. Whether the team ends up regretting that contract in the later years of the deal remains to be seen, but the good news is the Caps get one of their top playmakers back in the lineup for this season.
Oshie's 33 goals last season were a career-high. It was the first time since 2004 that Alex Ovechkin was not the team's sole leader in goals. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Capitals lost a lot of goal production in the offseason and will need Oshie to continue to produce at the same level he did last year.
We have talked a lot in this countdown about players the Caps are hoping can help make up for the 48 goals they lost from their lineup with Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams' departure. That number, however, assumes Oshie is still scoring 30+ goals. Last season was the first and only time Oshie has managed to pass the 30-goal mark in his career. His previous career high was 26 which he set in his first year in Washington.
Clearly, Oshie has thrived with the Caps, but the team is still asking a player who is about to turn 31 to continue producing at a career-high level.
But Oshie's impact is about more than just numbers.
Prior to the injury problems he faced last season, Oshie was the team's MVP. He was an emotional leader on the ice and someone the team could count on to give 100-percent on each and every shift. For a team with young prospects, Oshie is the kind of person a coach can point to and tell his prospects that is the level of effort that is expected each and every night.
Oshie was a player MacLellan determined the team could not afford to lose this offseason. Whether the contract haunts them is a question for the future. For now, the Caps need Oshie to keep playing at the elite level he has played in his first two seasons in Washington.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov