With a flat salary cap, some expiring contracts and the Seattle expansion draft, this is going to be a busy offseason for the Capitals. To get you ready, Capitals writers Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan are breaking down the biggest offseason questions with their thoughts.
Today's question: Will the Caps look to add on offense?
Andrew: This question is absolutely dependent on two factors: Whether Evgeny Kuznetsov is in Washington next season, and whomever the Seattle Kraken decide to take in the expansion draft.
If the Capitals keep their top nine together for next season (all of whom are signed now, except for Alex Ovechkin), then I’m not sure there’s room to add anything of note on offense with the exception of Connor McMichael. Which, if he plays well enough, they'll find a spot for him.
The top six, if everyone stays, will be a combination of Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom centering Ovechkin and Anthony Mantha on the left side and Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie on the right. Both Connor Sheary and Daniel Sprong are signed for next year and are great assets on the third line with center Lars Eller.
There is always a need for more offense in today’s NHL, but if the Capitals keep the gang together for another year, I’m not sure how they pull off any major offensive additions. Heck, I’m not sure if they’d be able to pull off any smaller ones.
If Kuznetsov isn’t a Capital next season, then look for the Capitals to be very aggressive in adding more scoring and playmaking into the lineup by any means necessary. But unless that happens, I think the Capitals like their top nine paired with a defensive shutdown line of Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway.
JJ: The answer to this question may well depend on what happens with Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the team moves him, they will have no choice but to add on offense. For all his struggles, Kuznetsov remains an exceptional offensive talent. You can't get rid of that and do nothing to address the absence he leaves in your lineup.
Even if Kuznetsov stays put, however, the team may still make a move. Center depth is one of the big weaknesses of this Washington team and it did not look like Michael Raffl earned enough trust at the position from the coaching staff during his brief tenure in Washington to warrant a return.
If there is one position the cash-strapped Caps try to add depth to, it will be at center. The question is whether or not they see Connor McMichael and Garret Pilon as enough center depth behind their current top four to allow them to pass on free agency or if general manager Brian MacLellan will still look to see who is available to bolster the team down the middle.