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Capitals' 'two-year plan' now reduced to just one

Capitals' 'two-year plan' now reduced to just one

Back in late February, in an informal sit-down with reporters, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he believed the Caps had a “two-year window” to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

“We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to have some decisions to make as far as veteran players, and our young guys are going to be due for some pay raises.”

Year One, it is safe to assume, just blew through the curtains and onto the sidewalk below.

Which leads us to Year Two.

RELATED: Is the new NHL Playoff format unfair?

For those of you who think sweeping changes are in store for the Capitals this offseason after failing to get past the second round of the playoffs, think again.

As MacLellan pointed out in February – and as he will reiterate when he meets with reporters on Monday – the Capitals are committed to this coach and this team, at least financially, for another season.

FORWARDS 

Nine of the forwards on the Caps’ current roster are signed through next season for roughly $32 million. That does not include restricted free agents Marcus Johansson ($3.75 million), Tom Wilson ($894,166) and Michael Latta ($575,000) or unrestricted free agents Jason Chimera ($2 million) and Mike Richards ($1 million).

DEFENSE

On the back end, the Caps have roughly $19.6 million committed to six defensemen, excluding restricted free agent Dmitry Orlov ($2 million) and unrestricted free agent Mike Weber ($833,333).

GOALTENDING

And between the pipes the Caps have $6.85 million committed to Braden Holtby ($6.1 million) and Philipp Grubauer ($750,000).

Assuming the NHL salary cap rises to its projected $74 million next season, that would leave the Caps with roughly $18.5 million of cap space to sign (or re-sign) three forwards and one defenseman.     

As for Year Three, that’s when things get interesting.

As of today, the Caps have just three forwards from their current roster – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle – under contract for the 2017-18 season. They also have four defensemen – Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney – and one goalie, Holtby.

With a 2017 NHL expansion draft likely next year, Orpik could find himself taken by an expansion team looking to get close to the salary floor. Stan Galiev or Beagle might also be left exposed.

It’s safe to assume that by 2017 Kuznetsov will be playing under a long-term deal and players like Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos will be having bigger roles on the Caps.

By then, the Capitals’ window of opportunity may be closer to the sill than it is to the ceiling. Which is why the Capitals’ time to win it all is … next year.

Or bust.

RELATED: Ovechkin's heartbreaking reaction to Game 6 loss

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.