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The biggest offseason questions facing the Capitals

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The biggest offseason questions facing the Capitals

The Stanley Cup has been won, the parade has been had and the party is finally coming to a close on Wednesday as the players have their exit interviews and final media availability.

The offseason is officially upon us meaning the team now must focus its attention away from celebrating the Cup and start the business of defending it.

As the team enters the offseason, there are some glaring questions the Caps will need to answer. Here are the biggest questions the team faces this summer:

Will Barry Trotz be back?

It's rare that you see head coach be a question mark for a team that just won the Cup, but that is the position the Capitals find themselves in as this was the final year of Trotz's contract.

Trotz has certainly said all the right things since winning the Cup and it certainly sounds like he intends to return, but until pen is put to paper on a new deal, this will remain a question.

For now, there is only one head coach opening in the league, that of the New York Islanders. It seems doubtful Trotz would leave a team in which he just won the Cup for an Islanders team that does not yet know if franchise player John Tavares will be returning. Alternatively, if Trotz left the Caps he could potentially wait until the season begins for the next available job. With a Cup-winning coach available, some teams may be quick to pull the trigger on a coaching change early in the season.

The point is, if Trotz wants to leave, he will have some options.

Can the Caps afford to re-sign John Carlson? Can they afford not to?

The Caps will have to make some tough decisions on several restricted and unrestricted free agents, but the biggest name among them is Carlson.

Carlson just completed a career year with career highs in both the regular season and the playoffs. He also proved himself to be capable of being a top defensive player, something that was widely considered to be the weakness in his game.

With his performance, Carlson's stock has certainly risen across the NHL. Tavares may be the biggest name on the market this summer, but it's not a stretch to believe Carlson will be second on that list and the top defenseman on the market. If he gets to free agency, teams are going to be throwing a lot of years and a lot of money around to acquire his services.

The good news for the Caps is that the salary cap is expected to rise from $75 million to somewhere between $78-82 million and that's before the NHLPA decides whether or not to use its escalator clause to increase the cap a further 5-percent. That could provide the team with enough cap room to make Carlson a significant offer.

But are the Caps willing to give Carlson a contract that will carry a cap hit of $7, 8 or even 9 million per year? How much is too much?

Someone is going to be willing to offer Carlson some crazy money this summer. At what point does he become too expensive to keep or has his season made him so valuable to the franchise that the Caps will have no choice but to sign him at whatever price?

Whatever deal he makes will have a trickle down on the rest of the team's free agent decisions.

What will the team do with Philipp Grubauer?

Grubauer is set to become a free agent, but as a restricted free agent, the Capitals still own his rights. The NHL has shown time and time again that having a dependable backup goaltending can be vital to a team's success. Just where would the Caps be this season without Grubauer there to pick up the slack during Braden Holtby's late-season reset?

But Grubauer has not been shy about his desire to be a No. 1 goalie and, after Holtby's playoff rebound and with prospect Ilya Samsonov set to come to North America next season, it does not look like that chance will come in Washington.

While he was not able to win either of his two starts in the playoffs, Grubauer did show he can carry the load as a No. 1 with a strong regular season in which he posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage.

At 26 years old, the clock is ticking on his chances to be a No. 1 in the NHL and Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic has already reported both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders have interest in the German netminder.

Are the Caps ready to part with one of the most dependable backups in the NHL and sell him to the highest bidder or will they look to keep that safety blanket on the roster for another season?

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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

WASHINGTON – The Capitals entered the NHL when the Philadelphia Flyers were at the height of their powers. 

The "Broad Street Bullies" pummeled Washington in the 1970s. It took the Capitals seven years to even win a game in regulation against their I-95 rivals. Even when they finally built a consistent winner in the early 1980s, the Flyers were almost always good, too. 

Philadelphia made the Stanley Cup playoffs 34 times in 43 years, reached the Cup Final eight times and has won it twice. So only once before has Washington done what it has a chance to do Sunday when the two teams meet at Capital One Arena: sweep the season series. 

The Capitals (43-24-8, 94 points) lead the Metropolitan Division by one point and need a win to maintain that position after consecutive losses at home. The game is at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. 

The one and only time Washington swept Philadelphia came in 2006-07 – Alex Ovechkin’s second season in the NHL. That was a particularly bad year for the Flyers, who went 22-48-12 and with 56 points finished with the worst record in the NHL. The organization had made the Stanley Cup playoffs 28 times in the previous 33 years. It wasn’t used to losing and certainly not that often to the Capitals. 

Washington went 4-0 that season against the Flyers and outscored them 20-9. Ovechkin had six goals and five assists in those games. This year’s version is nowhere near that bad. Philadelphia is 36-31-8, but after Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders they are stuck on 80 points, which is five out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just seven games to go. 

If they do miss, as expected, the losses to the Capitals will hurt. The Flyers are 0-3-0 and have allowed 15 goals to Washington. And that is despite holding Ovechkin to a goal and two assists. Here are other things to watch for in Sunday's game: 

Capitals recall Lewington

With defenseman Michal Kempny out indefinitely, Washington recalled Tyler Lewington from AHL Hershey on Saturday. But will he have to play? Maybe not on Sunday. Christian Djoos took Kempny’s spot in the lineup in Friday’s loss to Minnesota and is expected to remain in the lineup. But Lewington's presence provides insurance on a team where illness has struck in recent days. This is Lewington’s second call-up this season. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 22 and in a Dec. 29 game at Ottawa had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight. 

Kuznetsov’s health

One of those players who have fallen ill is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed practice Saturday with an illness and was sent home. If he isn’t able to play then Lars Eller would bump to the second line to play center with Carl Hagelin and T.J Oshie. Hagelin was on the ice on Saturday, but the veteran winger was a late scratch with an illness against the Wild on Friday. The third line could be Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly with Travis Boyd taking over for Eller.  Keep an eye on Kuznetsov’s energy level if he does play. Capitals coach Todd Reirden didn’t rule him out. 

Ovechkin’s chase for 50

The chase continues for Ovechkin, who sits at 48 goals to lead the NHL. Ovechkin has two assists in the past three games, but no goals. Washington is 1-1-1 during this stretch. Ovechkin is seven points away from his first 90-point season since 2009-10. 

Scoreboard watch

With the lead over the Islanders down to one point with seven games to go, keep an eye on New York’s home game Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes. That is a 3 p.m. start. The Capitals are seeking their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division crown. 

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Capitals vs. Flyers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Flyers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals are facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, March 24 at 12:30 p.m. The Capitals are recovering from a 1-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild, and the Philadelphia Flyers are playing the Islanders at 1 p.m. on Saturday, but beat the Blackhawks 3-1 on Thursday.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch the Flyers play the Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS PRESEASON HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 12:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Flyers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS TV SCHEDULE

10:00 AM: Capitals Championship Parade 
11:00 AM: 2019 Caps Journey to the Cup Part 1
11:30 AM: Caps FaceOff Live
12:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live [NBC Sports Washington Plus]
3:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live
3:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
3:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live [NBC Sports Washington Plus]

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS INJURY REPORT:

CAPITALS: 
Michal Kempny, lower body injury as of March 19

FLYERS: 
Michael Raffl, undisclosed injury as of March 20
Samuel Morin, illness as of March 18
Michal Neuvirth, lower body injury as of Jan. 3

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brett Connolly (20 goal, 22 assists, 42 points): Connolly was the only Capital to put a point on the board during Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He scored in the second period, tying the game going into the third. He’s scored three goals in the team’s last five games and has contributed with three assists.

Christian Djoos (1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points): Djoos played against Minnesota on Friday following Michal Kempny’s “indefinite” injury leave. Djoos didn’t contribute to the Caps with any key stats, though he played for almost 17 minutes and had two shots on goal. 

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 247 games
Regular Season Record: Flyers lead 127-101-19
Last Meeting: Capitals won 5-2 on March 14

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