The Washington Capitals set high expectations for the 2018-2019 season, but their aspirations fell short.
After a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Capitals regrouped at the NHL Draft and during free agency and are looking to top the Metropolitan Division and hoist the Stanley Cup again.
In this series, our Caps Insiders answer 20 burning questions they have this offseason about how the Capitals will handle the 2019-2020 campaign. Every weekday until August 9, the list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain future and every Wednesday we'll post a new podcast with our analysis.
1: Can Ovechkin score 50 goals again?
Alex Ovechkin notched 51 goals this season, marking the eighth time he's reached the 50-goal plateau in his 14-year NHL career.
Even more impressive, "The Great 8" has scored at least 50 goals in four of his last six seasons.
Can Ovechkin register his ninth career 50-goal season, doing so at 34 years old?
2: Can the new-look third line score?
J.J. Regan breaks down how a Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller and Richard Panik third line fits in with the Capitals.
3: Is Nick Jensen ready for more minutes?
With Brooks Orpik hanging up his skates and retiring after 15 years, rising blue-liner Michal Kempny back to full health and the acquisition of Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen, Washington's defense will certainly look different than the last few iterations.
Nick Jensen needed some extra time to adapt to the Capitals following an acquisition at the trade deadline. Jensen is in position to receive more minutes in 2019-2020, but is he ready for it?
Here's our take on Jensen's ability to play top-4 defensive minutes.
4: What adjustments does Reirden make?
In his second season as the Capitals bench boss, Todd Reirden should look more comfortable making tough decisions. How will he tinker with the lineup this coming season?
Brian McNally explains where Reirden could improve in his sophomore season.
5: Will the power play improve?
Washington had one of the deadliest power plays for the last decade. What will get it back to that elite level?
Check out our take that systems and tactics should give the unit a fresh start.
6: Is Radko Gudas an upgrade?
The Capitals dealt Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas before the free agency window. Can Gudas provide essential minutes for the squad?
Brian McNally explains that it could come down to how good Nick Jensen is.
7: Will the Caps depth hold up?
The Caps have managed to stay relatively healthy over the last few seasons. Does that trend continue with an aging lineup?
J.J. Regan explains that there are differences for that scenario based on offense or defense.
8: Do the Caps face a contract crunch next season?
Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby's contracts expire at the end of the 2019-2020 season. Will either of them take team-friendly contracts?
9: Was re-signing Carl Hagelin the right move?
The Caps were able to bring back speedy winger Carl Hagelin on a team-friendly deal. However, they let Brett Connolly walk in free agency due to cap constraints. Was that the right move?
Brian McNally explains why the move makes sense.
10: Can the Caps revamp their penalty kill?
Washington's penalty woes in the 2018-19 season were obvious. They took the sixth most penalties of any NHL team, and had a 23rd ranked penalty kill. Can that penalty kill be remedied next season?
11: Will Evgeny Kuznetsov return to form?
Evgeny Kuznetsov will be expected to carry a heavier load as the rest of the team around him hits their 30's. Is he ready for that responsibility?
Kuzy's ceiling is high, but it's up to him to reach those lofty expectations.
12: How will Michal Kempny recover from his injury?
After an awkward scrap with Cedric Paquette, Michal Kempny was done for the rest of the season. How will he re-integrate into the Caps lineup?
Easing Kempny back from his hamstring injury will be crucial to helping the Caps d-corps.
13: Who challenges the Caps at the top?
The Metropolitan is a notoriously difficult division, but the Caps have managed to come out on top for four years. Can anyone dethrone them?
14: Did the Caps upgrade their fourth line?
After a season that saw over ten different fourth line combinations from the coaching staff, will the Caps new off-season acquisitions improve their fourth line and help it find consistency?
15: Is Ilya Samsonov ready for primetime?
The Caps scored one of the most coveted goaltending prospects in the 2015 draft, and Ilya Samsonov is widely considered the teams best prospect. Should he get NHL starts next season?
16: What is Lucas Johansen's future with the Capitals?
2016 defensive prospect Lucas Johansen is still looking for his first NHL minutes. Will he get them next season?
17: Can the Caps hang in October?
The Capitals have a brutal schedule to start their season, including facing down the Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues to start and taking on the Carolina Hurricanes as their home opener. Can the squad make it through the slog relatively unscathed?
18: Will Dmitry Orlov rebound?
On defense, much more was expected of Dmitry Orlov. As injuries hampered the left side, Orlov had a flagging season. Can he recover?
19: Does age finally catch up with the Caps?
Most of Washington's top forwards will hit their 30's this season. With an age curve that isn't favorable, does it finally hit the Capitals this season?
20: Which prospect could help the Caps the most?
With an aging veteran core, the Caps have gone all-in for draft picks to shore up their prospect pool. Who among them is ready for primetime?
BONUS! 21: Who plays more, Djoos or Siegenthaler?
With two young and promising defensemen and only six players that get a sweater each night, what do the Caps do with Christian Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler?
There's a chance that salary arbitration forces the Caps to move one of them now that they're over the salary cap.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Mailbag: Did the Caps address all their needs?
- Game-Changer: How Vrana can step up for Caps
- Fresh Take: Retire Bondra and Kolzig's numbers?