One of the Capitals' top priorities for the offseason was to re-sign forward Tom Wilson and now finally they can cross that item off their to-do list. The Caps re-signed the bruising winger to a six-year contract with an average annual value of $5.17 million, the team announced Friday.
Wilson enjoyed a career year in 2017-18 and found a role playing alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. He provided balance to the team's top line, but also showed he could chip in offensively with 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points, all career highs. He also ranked fourth in the league in both hits (250) and penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.78).
"Tom is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased that he will play a great part in our foreseeable future," general manager Brian MacLellan said via a release from the team. "Tom is a unique player in this League. At 24 years of age, he has an impressive amount of experience and we believe that he will only continue to grow and improve as a player. With his ability in virtually any game situation, teams need players like Tom in order to succeed in the NHL."
The only issue is staying in the lineup.
Never afraid to throw his body around, Wilson also set a career high in penalty minutes with 187 and was suspended three times in 2017-18, once in the preseason, the regular season and the postseason.
After two suspensions early in the season, MacLellan and Wilson met with the head of the Department of Player Safety, George Parros, in an effort to learn what made certain hits suspendable.
"[Wilson's] spent a lot of time educating himself on what they're looking at and how they look at it and what's the certain things they look for," MacLellan told reporters in April. "So, I give him a lot of credit for how he's evolved with that."
At only 24, however, the Toronto native and 2012 first-round draft pick has become an integral part of the team.
After being utilized sparingly by Adam Oates on the fourth line early in his career, it took time for Wilson to begin to live up to his first-round potential. Last season finally offered a glimpse of the type of player the Caps hoped they were getting when they drafted him 16th overall and the team is hopeful he will continue to develop offensively.
"He's proven he's a good penalty killer, he's a good 5-on-5 player, he's a good forechecker," MacLellan said. "Just play around the net, I think the next level for him is how do I create tips and screens? How do I find loose pucks around the net? How do I create more off cycles? I think that's the next level for him offensively."
Wilson was the last of the team's remaining free agents in need of a new contract. With him back in the fold, the Caps return almost the exact same roster that won the Stanley Cup last season with the only losses being forward Jay Beagle and goalie Philipp Grubauer.
A very familiar looking team is going to take the ice in October and Wilson is poised to serve a pretty sizable role on that team.
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