Capitals

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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