The Atlantic Division may have won the All-Star Game, but the true winners of the All-Star Break were nowhere near FLA Live Arena this weekend. Taking advantage of their 10-day gap between games, the Capitals ensured two young forwards would be part of their core in 2024 and beyond by working out extensions with Dylan Strome and Sonny Milano.
Washington announced the deals in consecutive days, retaining Strome on a five-year, $25 million deal and coming to terms with Milano for three years and $5.7 million. Both players originally signed with the Capitals on prove-it deals after their former teams declined to make them qualifying offers and they took advantage of the opportunity to earn minutes in D.C.
Strome, 25, has spent most of the season as the Capitals’ top center on Alex Ovechkin’s line, ranking third on the team with 36 points including 14 on the power play. The 26-year-old Milano joined the team on Nov. 5 and gradually took on more responsibilities as the season progressed. He went into the All-Star Break with eight goals and 14 assists in 40 games.
Considering the two forwards are earning a combined $4.25 million this season, their contributions have been massive for a Washington team brushing up against the $82.5 million salary cap. Now, they’re being rewarded with long-term security on a roster that developed into one of the oldest groups in the NHL.
Among the eight other players the Capitals have signed through 2024-25, the youngest is goaltender Charlie Lindgren at 29 years old. Evgeny Kuznetsov, the youngest skater, is a year older. Not only are the Strome and Milano signings relatively team-friendly, but they also present serious upside as players whose best years could still be in front of them.
Strome and Milano were each first-round picks who reached the NHL as teenagers. Despite mostly playing for teams that lacked a strong stable of talent around them, they each showed plenty of promise even as they were traded from one rebuilding club to another.
In Washington, the two former top prospects have had the chance to play alongside established stars. Strome has assisted on seven of Ovechkin’s goals this season while Milano has often found himself on lines with T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov. All four of those forwards will now be back again next season along with Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and others.
As much as Strome and Milano have impressed already, their extensions are more about what the Capitals believe they’re capable of moving forward. They present insurance in the event players like Oshie or Backstrom continue to struggle with injuries and could end up outplaying their deals should they take another step or two forward in their development.
The Capitals will go into the second half with the same roster they finished the first half with last week. Their path to contention next year and beyond, however, has become much clearer.