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Celebrating the Stanley Cup with the fans meant everything to the Caps

Celebrating the Stanley Cup with the fans meant everything to the Caps

The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup on Thursday and the party went non-stop all the way to Tuesday's parade.

One of the best aspects of that party has been the team's genuine desire to share the celebration with the fans. On Tuesday, the Capitals victory parade gave them the opportunity to open up the party to the hundreds of thousands of fans who filled the streets and the National Mall.

"There's a love affair between the city and the players, it's so fantastic," Barry Trotz said to the media.

"It's been a long time since we had a championship here in this city," Nicklas Backstrom said. "To be able to after all these years to bring it, it's great."

The team rode through the streets of Washington with their adoring fans lined en masse on either side throughout the parade route. As the team arrived at the stage on the Mall, a throng of red-clad fans awaited them stretching as far as the eye could see.

"I couldn't see the end of people from the stage," Tom Wilson said. "This is home, this city has made us feel so welcome. It's unbelievable to give back the least we could and just celebrate with them."

The postseason heartbreak of recent years was not just felt by the players. There were many fans who lived and died in the stands and watching from near and far.

But just as the team was able to get over the postseason hump, so was a home crowd that approached every playoff game with a sense to trepidation. The difference in the atmosphere at Capital One Arena after Washington's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was a noticeable one and the players credited the fans with helping them finish the job and bring home the Cup.

"It takes every piece of the city, it takes every piece of the team," Wilson said. "You don't just win a Stanley Cup. It's the hardest thing maybe in sports to win. Just to see the atmosphere, see everybody out here, and to celebrate with each other because everybody earned it."

"These fans have lived through a lot with us, too," John Carlson said. "We're all in this together."

And that was why Tuesday's parade was so important. 

Despite all the years of heartbreak and the team failing to live up to its lofty expectations, the fans kept coming back hoping things would be different. When the team needed that boost from the crowd to help carry them through four grueling rounds of playoff hockey, Washington was there for them helping to push to the team on.

The Stanley Cup will mean a lot to Alex Ovechkin's legacy. It likely saved Trotz's job. It cemented Braden Holtby's place as the team's No. 1 netminder after a difficult season. It validated the oft-criticized Brooks Orpik's place in the lineup. It turned Michal Kempny into a top-four defenseman.

But despite all the individual benefits that come with winning the Cup, the team has never lost sight of the fact that they also won this for the fans and the city they play for.

"It's sort of a life-changing moment for every one of these players and their families and myself and hopefully for the fans who had to endure a lot of time," Trotz said. "We're glad to bring a championship to Washington."

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Alex Ovechkin selling ‘We Will Skate Again’ t-shirts and masks to help local community

Alex Ovechkin selling ‘We Will Skate Again’ t-shirts and masks to help local community

Alex Ovechkin will be selling custom "We Will Skate Again" t-shirts, face masks and neck gaiters with all proceeds going toward foundations in the DMV community, the Capitals announced in a press release Thursday.

The products, which can be purchased at the Ovechkin's online store, feature his signature logo. The shirts also have the phrase "We Will Skate Again" written across the front. Here's a look at some of the designs from the press release:

Money raised from t-shirt sales will be donated to the Tucker Road Ducks and The Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization. The youth hockey team from Prince George’s County, Md., tragically lost their ice rink in 2017 due to a fire. The organization is working to rebuild it, while also striving to make hockey available for kids of any economic background. 

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Proceeds from the masks and neck gaiters will go to the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation's “Feeding the Frontlines” fund, which was created as a way to help those in the community who are dealing with the negative impact of COVID-19.

Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals are gearing up for the beginning of training camp on July 13 as the NHL gets closer to a return.

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How a flat cap could affect the Capitals' approach to the Seattle expansion draft

How a flat cap could affect the Capitals' approach to the Seattle expansion draft

The NHL salary cap is going to remain at $81.5 million for next two years at least. That is going to make life difficult for Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. With the team already tight against the cap ceiling, he won't even get the annual relief of the cap rising. One way in which the team could find a modicum of relief, however, is through the 2021 expansion draft. Every team in the NHL will lose a player to Seattle which means taking a contract off the books. Given the team's cap situation, there is one player specifically to keep in mind when it comes to the expansion draft: T.J. Oshie.

For the expansion, each team will be able to protect eight skaters and a goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. It seems safe to assume Washington will choose the latter. Here are the forwards that will still be under contract after the 2020-21 season: Nicklas Backstrom, Nic Dowd, Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Oshie, Richard Panik and Tom Wilson. The contracts for both Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana expire at the end of the 2020-21 season, but both will almost certainly be re-signed so we can add them to the list.

Of the forwards the team would want to protect, the most obvious choices are Backstrom, Eller, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Vrana and Wilson. Most would assume that the seventh spot should go to Oshie, but should it?

As I wrote yesterday, one of the issues for Washington is that the team has several long-term deals on the books. For a team with little room under the cap, MacLellan had to offer longer-term deals instead of big money ones to remain competitive in the gree agent market. The risk is that it ties you to a player for longer, but even if a player is not living up to his contract, the percentage of his cap hit would decrease every year with a steadily rising salary cap. Well, now the cap is no longer rising and that means players on long deals, like Oshie, are not getting better as the players age.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to Oshie. First, he will be 34 at the time of the expansion draft and will only be halfway through an eight-year contract that carries a cap hit of $5.75 million. Obviously, the chances that Oshie would be living up to that cap hit when he was 37 or 38 were low when Oshie first signed the deal, but that's OK because with a steadily rising cap, the percentage would probably be low enough at that point that it would not be a significant issue. But now the salary cap is flat which means MacLellan is going to have to take a hard look at all of the team's long-term deals and project out what the team can expect from those players towards the end of their contracts.

Oshie is having a great season with 26 goals and 23 assists. He was on pace for 58 points which would have been his best in Washington. He is a leader on the team and a real boost to the locker room. No one could question his value to Washington now, but the question is what will his value be in the second half of his contract?

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Granted, Seattle knows all of this, but there are three reasons why Oshie would still be an attractive acquisition. First, Oshie's cap hit is essentially a non-factor for a team starting from scratch. The Caps have very little room to work with under the cap while Seattle has all of the room to work with. A cap hit of $5.75 million would hardly be a deterrent. Second, Oshie is actually from Washington state. While most fans remember Oshie taking the Cup to his hometown of Warroad, Minn., Oshie was born in Washington and lived there until moving to Minnesota in 2002. Third, when building a team, you need players like Oshie who are personable and charismatic. He is the life of the locker room and a natural leader. He would be Washington's native son, returning to lead the team in its inaugural season.

To me, it is not a stretch to think that if Oshie is indeed selected, he would be in the running to be Seattle's first captain. His departure would also provide some cap relief to a Washington team in need of the extra room. Losing Oshie would mean losing that spark in the locker room, however, and MacLellan will have to decide whether that is a fair trade-off.

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