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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What's the plan in net beyond 2020-21?

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What's the plan in net beyond 2020-21?

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Justin Cade writes: It seems like the general consensus between the pipes for 2020-21 is that Braden Holtby walks and a proven backup comes in to help Ilya Samsonov settle in as an NHL #1. How do you see the future of the goaltender position in Washington beyond next season? If Samsonov proves to be a reliable starter, do the Caps call up Vanecek to back him up for years to come?

The Caps’ goalie pipeline currently consists of Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek in Hershey and Mitchell Gibson who is playing college hockey at Harvard. I am not really sure what to make of Gibson yet. He was OK, but not great in the USHL, but was really good in his freshman year at Harvard. I don’t know what the potential is there yet.

As for Copley and Vanecek, I see the ceiling for both as being NHL backups, at least in the traditional sense. As the NHL goes more and more toward tandems, that complicates things. I think Copley is a traditional backup, but I don’t want a situation where he is playing 30+ games per year. I think Vanecek has the higher ceiling, but I don’t see him as an NHL starter so I think there could be potential for a Samsonov-Vanecek tandem in the future with Samsonov being the primary starter. But I don’t know if that’s how the Caps see it.

If the team does indeed go the experienced backup route for next season, just how long that backup is signed for could be an indication for what Brian MacLellan views Vanecek’s future with the franchise will be. A three-year deal for an established No. 2 probably means Vanecek will be playing somewhere else before too long.

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Scott Egbert writes: Would Alex Ovechkin retire soon?

Ovechkin has given no indication that he is going to retire soon or that he is even fading as he currently sits tied with David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals with 48. Could he be a Barry Sanders and walk away while still being one of the best in the game? I really don’t see it. I think his love for the game of hockey and fierce competitiveness will drive him to continue on. He may not want to talk about it, but he has laid the groundwork for a possible run at Wayne Gretzky's goal record. It is going to be really hard for him to walk away from that.

When Nicklas Backstrom discussed his five-year extension, he mentioned that Ovechkin was asking him all the time about it. I don’t think that was because he wanted to make sure Backstrom was around just next season. I think he was looking down the road.

No, I do not see Ovechkin retiring any time soon. Then again, he is 34 so we are definitely on the back-end of his career so it is fair to wonder just how many more years he has left.

Justin Cade writes: Which Caps player do you think is most likely to be lost to Seattle in the expansion draft?

Assuming that Washington elects the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, my best guess would be we see the Caps protect Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana. Notice that is only six forwards. I don’t really see any other forwards they would really need to protect. They may have the flexibility to protect T.J. Oshie if they wanted, but he will be 34 years old at that point and still have an additional four years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million. He is a marketable player that I think Seattle could have some interest in, especially given his ties to the area, but only if his production hasn’t fallen off a cliff by that point.

On defense, the situation is a bit hazier.

First, per my understanding, neither Alex Alexeyev nor Martin Fehervary will be eligible to be selected so Washington won’t need to protect either of them. John Carlson absolutely will be protected, but the two players after him are a question mark. If it were me, I would protect Jonas Siegenthaler and I ultimately believe that is what they will do. Then it is a choice between Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny.

I think Orlov is a very good, top-four puck-moving defenseman who is frequently underrated by fans who just point to his turnovers and see nothing else. To me, he is worth protecting. That seems like an easy call now with how much Kempny has struggled this year, but this becomes much more difficult if Kempny returns to form.

So to summarize, I believe the two most likely players to be taken will be either Oshie or Kempny.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

Over the past six seasons, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has been one of the biggest reasons for the Capitals' success.

Kuzy has been extremely durable for the Capitals, playing in at least 76 games over the past six seasons, excluding the 2019-20 shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winger has been one of Washington's best attacking players during that span, splitting time between both Washington's first and second lines. 

No. 92 has also found a knack for playing his best hockey on the sport's biggest stages. Kuznetsov netted arguably the most important goal in Capitals history, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2018 Eastern Conference semi-finals in overtime to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins, "exorcising the demons" for a franchise that previously could not get past the second round. We all know how that story ends, with the Capitals hoisting the Stanley Cup just over a month later.

On Sunday, NBC Sports Washington is airing four of Kuznetsov's best regular-season performances. At 9 a.m., tune in to watch the Caps 6-5 overtime thriller over the Tampa Bay Maple Leafs from January 3, 2017. In that contest, Kuzy totaled four points, netting one goal and notching three assists, including one that set up Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal.

Following that, we travel back to October of 2018, when Kuznetsov turned in another four-point performance in a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in a rematch of the 2018 Stanley Cup. Kuzy started the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal and would tally three assists later on in the match as the Caps cruised to a dominating win.

At 2 p.m., the Caps 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings from February 11, 2019, will re-air. In this matchup, Kuznetsov finished with four points once again, this time finding the back of the net twice to go along with a pair of assists. To close out the day, tune in to see Kuznetsov net two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes at 4:30 p.m.

A trip down memory lane that highlights Kuznetsov's greatest games is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

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When:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where:

Broadcast Schedule:

9:00 a.m.: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals from January 3, 2017

11:30 a.m.: Vegas Golden Knights @ Capitals from October 10, 2018

2:00 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings @ Capitals from February 11, 2019

4:30 p.m.: Arizona Coyotes @ Capitals from November 11, 2019 

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Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

The current Washington Capitals jersey design — the red home sweaters with the white away ones — has been the defining look for the team throughout much of the Alex Ovechkin era.

During the summer of the 2007 season, the Caps rebranded. The franchise changed its colors from black and blue back to the organization's original design scheme of red, white, and blue. The jerseys that followed were similar to Washington's old-school look, having plenty of similarities with the uniform they wore from 1974-1994.

However, when the Caps unveiled their new look in 2007, there was one big difference from their old uniforms. The new-look had three stars on the front, compared to the six stars that had been across the top of the old sweaters.

Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman spoke with NBC Sports Washington and explained why the franchise chose to go with just three stars, and it's because each star has a specific meaning.

"The three stars on our current Capitals jersey represent the three jurisdictions: Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.," Fishman said.

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While cutting the number of stars from six to three on the front of the sweater was a big change, Fishman explained that the new uniform was designed to be a modernized version of the franchise's original look.

"It was sort of meant to update and modernize the original Caps jersey, beautiful, old-school, 1970's work hard," Fishman said. "That jersey had six stars and was even on the jerseys in the 90s with the blue and black jersey. So we wanted to keep that concept of the stars, but we didn't want to keep that exact same look. So instead, we redid three stars right on the wordmark. The three stars seemed perfect."

The uniform change also marked the beginning of an incredible postseason run the Capitals have gone on since.

In 2007, the team's first year with the new look, the franchise made the playoffs for the first time in the Ovechkin era. Since then, they've made the postseason 11 of the past 12 seasons and won their first Stanley Cup in 2018.

For Fishman and many Caps fans, the red and white uniforms will always remind them of Washington's first championship and the franchise's biggest star.

"I think it's neat how this redesign will always be linked to Ovechkin and the Capitals' first Stanley Cup," Fishman said.

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