Capitals

Quick Links

T.J. Oshie admits he's thought about next contract but remains 'extremley present'

T.J. Oshie admits he's thought about next contract but remains 'extremley present'

T.J. Oshie picked a good time to set a career-high in goals. With 29 goals, Oshie currently leads the team. Should that hold, he will be the first player other than Alex Ovechkin to lead the Caps in goals since Robert Lang in 2003-04, before Ovechkin was drafted. In fact, Oshie has set a career-high in goals in each of his two seasons in Washington.

Why is that good timing? Because Oshie is currently in the final year of his contract and the need to re-sign him was made clear on Saturday with his hat trick performance.

As a top-line caliber winger who will likely hit the 30-goal mark this season, Oshie will not lack for suitors this summer. Getting a deal done before he reaches free agency will likely be high on the Caps’ to-do list after the season.

While Oshie acknowledged after practice on Monday that he has thought about his contract status, he was also quick to say he is keeping his mind on the task at hand.

“When you have a wife and two kids, you have to think about it a little bit, but anyone that knows me knows that I'm extremely present,” Oshie said.

“It's always in the back of your mind where you're going to be because I have a family to think about,” he added, “But, same token, I'm just approaching every day to come have fun at the rink, get better and do something special.”

RELATED: NHL Power Rankings: Coming down to the wire

Right wing on the top line was a bit of a revolving door before the Caps traded for Oshie in the summer of 2015 to fill that void. He has since cemented himself in that position with his strong play beside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

But the fact that he has played so well could potentially be an issue after the season. Oshie’s salary this season is $4.5 million and, as he stands to be one of the top free agents in the NHL, he will be due a significant raise. At 30 years old, this is also likely going to be his last “big” contract. That means he will be looking for term and looking for money.

An article published by NHL Numbers estimates Oshie’s next contract on the open market will be worth $6 million for six years, but even acknowledges that is a “conservative” estimate. Re-signing Oshie was already not going to come cheap, but considering the money he stands to gain if he reaches free agency, it may take a very hefty contract to keep him in Washington.

But there are other potential factors that could work in the Caps’ favor.

Oshie’s production in Washington is no accident, clearly this team and coach are a good fit for him. His family also seems to have settled in well with the area.

“I don't think it could have worked any better,” Oshie said. “My wife loves all the other wives and girlfriends. Lila's became best friends with a couple of the young girls on the team. I couldn't have asked for a better fit, I don't think.”

That’s encouraging for the Caps, but even if Oshie is willing to take a discount to remain in Washington, it’s not likely to be a significant one.

Whether the Caps would be willing to offer him what it will take to keep him here is also a point worth considering. Oshie is, after all, on the wrong side of 30. If he does get $6 to 7 million per year, how much longer will he be able to play up to those numbers?

Landing a player in free agency almost always requires overpaying them. Whatever the Caps will be willing to pay Oshie, chances are another team will be willing to pay more. Whether the Caps will be able to keep him from getting to that point where he can start listening to other offers remains to be seen.

MORE CAPITALS: Penguins, Blue Jackets keep up the pressure on Caps

Quick Links

First quarter grades: 20 games into the season, how do the Caps look?

usatsi_10402169.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

First quarter grades: 20 games into the season, how do the Caps look?

The Capitals have hit the quarter mark of their season with 20 games under their belts. The last two games put a sour taste on the first quarter, but overall how have they looked?

Let's harken back to our school days when the first quarter of the year brought about the first report card and hand out some grades.

(Note: I don't grade coaching. How a team performs in every area is a reflection of the coaching so all of these grades can be considered "coaching" grades)

Offense: C

By the numbers: Washington ranks 21st in the NHL with 2.80 goals per game (one spot ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins interestingly enough)

Consistency is the biggest problem for the Caps offensively. First, they were too top heavy with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie carrying the load by themselves with no secondary scoring. Since then, the top players have struggled to produce, especially Backstrom. Backstrom is being utilized more as a shutdown forward, but the Capitals need him to produce as well in order to be successful, especially when he is playing on a line with Oshie. The Caps need consistent scoring from their top players and consistent secondary production. The good news is that Ovechkin looks as good as ever with 13 goals already. After scoring 33 last season, many wondered if his days of being a top scoring threat were over. That does not appear to be the case. 

I would be remiss if I did not include one note on Kuznetsov: Please, please shoot the puck.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS LOST TO COLORADO

Defense: C

By the numbers: Washington ranks 24th in the NHL with 3.25 goals against per game

I can already hear your bewildered screams and angry questions. "How does a team that ranks 24th in the NHL get a C grade?" Let's take a step back and look at the players who have been playing. This is not the same defense from last season. Matt Niskanen, the team's best all-around defenseman, missed 13 games. The 37-year-old Brooks Orpik, who was a third-pair defenseman last season, is third on the team in average time on ice with 22:17 per game. Rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have played 16 and 14 games respectively. With all of that in mind, it's no surprise that the defense has struggled. All things considered, the defense has not been good, but it has not been terrible either. You cannot allow 3.25 goals per game all season and hope to be a contender which is why they get a C, but with continued improvement from the rookies and Niskanen's return, the blue line should certainly improve throughout the season.

Goaltending: A-

By the numbers:
Braden Holtby:  .918 save percentage, 2.68 GAA ,10-4-0
Philipp Grubauer .876 save percentage, 3.86 GAA, 0-5-1

Holtby has been phenomenal and there is no question that he has stolen a good number of those 10 wins with this performance. He gets high marks for that. Grubauer's numbers are not good, but for anyone who has been watching this team, it is hard to fault him for any of those losses. He is not getting much support from his teammates when he steps into the crease. Starting goalies, however, need to be able to steal some wins. Grubauer wants to be a starter, so the fact that he has been unable to steal a win knocks the grade down to an A-, but overall, you cannot convince me goaltending has been an issue for the Caps this season.

Special Teams: C-

By the numbers:
Power play: Washington ranks 15th in the NHL at 19.4-percent
Penalty kill: Washington ranks 27th in the NHL at 77.8-percent

Let's start with the penalty kill. The bottom line is that it has not been good enough this season. The silver lining is that while the numbers are bad, they play much better in critical moments when the game is on the line. We saw that in the third period of the team's wins over the Islanders and the Coyotes. Overall, the PK has not been good enough, but when it really matters they step up which means there is some hope for improvement. The power play numbers are average, but here are the players who have scored on the power play this season: Oshie, Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov. See a pattern? They are all top-unit players. Barry Trotz has not been using his top unit for 1:30-1:45 as we've seen in previous years. He is giving much more time to his second unit. If you do that, they have to produce and they just have not been up to the task this season.

First Quarter Team MVP

1. Braden Holtby

As mentioned above, Holtby has 10 wins and he was the team's best player in most of those games. The fact that Washington does not have a single win without him shows just how important he is. He gives the team a measure of confidence that they do not have with Grubauer. Not only has he played great, but the entire team also seems to play better around him.

2. John Carlson

This team asked a lot of Carlson this season when Niskanen went on LTIR and Carlson delivered. He is second in the entire NHL in time on ice with 27:07 per game, just two seconds from the leader Rasmus Ristolainen. His play has not suffered as a result of the increased minutes. In fact, he has gotten better and better and the season progressed.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Whether Ovechkin is declining is a question we seem to ask every year. We should know better by now. The man is inhuman. His 13 goals may not lead the league, but it still puts him among the elite scorers of the NHL. Yes, I am not blind to the fact that he scored seven of those goals in two games and has only six in the last 18, but, call me crazy, I still consider seven goals in two games to be a pretty darn good sign of his scoring abilities.

MORE CAPITALS: LISTEN TO THE CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE LOSS TO COLORADO

Overall grade: B-

Let's remember who is under the microscope here. This is not a grade for Washington's 2016-17 roster. If it was, it would be closer to a D or F. That roster was too talented to struggle the way this team has, but that was last year. If I were to tell you before the season that this team with its current roster would be 10-9-1 and in playoff position through 20 games with Niskanen missing 13 games, Andre Burakovsky missing 11, Brett Connolly missing seven and Tom Wilson suspended for four, are you telling me you would not have taken that? I would have. The last two losses are a concern for sure and you could argue that the team is trending downward, but overall they have done well to get to where they are now. They must improve in a number of areas over the course of the next 20 games, but 10-9-1 with the injuries they have faced is not too bad at all.

Quick Links

4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Avalanche

usatsi_10417049.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Avalanche

The Caps were handed an ugly 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and Washington will now return home with zero points on their two-game road swing. Here's why they lost to Colorado.

Another early goal

The Capitals had a rough start to their game Tuesday against Nashville. The Predators hit the post with their first shot and scored their first goal at 11:48. Their start on Thursday was worse. Washington did not get any help from the post and Gabriel Landeskog made Colorado’s first shot count just 17 seconds in. That set the tone for the entire game.

RELATED: BARRY TROTZ ON THURSDAY'S GAME, 'IT WAS ALL JUNK'

The late first period goal

Despite the bad start, the Caps kept it 1-0 through the first and looked like they would have a chance to regroup in the locker room before the second…but they allowed a Nathan MacKinnon goal with just seven seconds left in the first. That is a backbreaker.

Mistakes with the puck

For years, the Capitals were criticized for being “too cute,” for not making the simple plays. As a highly skilled team, they could pull off some of those beautiful plays. They are not that team anymore. Washington made a lot of mistakes on Thursday and a lot of them came because they would not make the simple, easy play.

You can read more about Washington’s mistakes with the puck here.

The Caps frequently turned the puck over because they would not make easy passes electing instead to go for the home runs. They could not get sustained offense because they kept turning the puck over in the neutral zone.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF CAPS-AVALANCHE

Missed third period power play opportunity

It looked like the Caps would trail 4-1 heading into the third period, but Washington somehow won a coach’s challenge on a goal by Nikita Zadorov for goalie interference. With a second chance at life and down by only two heading into the third period, the Caps had a golden opportunity less than three minutes into the final frame when they were given a power play opportunity. They did not take advantage. A goal in that situation would have pulled Washington within one with a lot of time left to play. T.J. Oshie came close as he hit the post, but the Caps ultimately failed to score and gave up a fourth goal on a penalty shot just 16 seconds after Colorado returned to full strength.