Four years ago Tuesday, the Capitals hoisted the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup in one of Washington D.C.’s most iconic sports moments.
With a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals closed out the Final in five games — winning the last four games of the series — to put a stamp on a wildly impressive run through the playoffs. The Capitals have since failed to win a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the banner at Capital One Arena will hang forever.
In that 2018 playoff run, 23 different skaters, and two goalies, played at least one game for the team en route to the Cup victory. Here’s a look at what’s happened to the since-departed players in the last four years:
The Capitals still have 10 players left in the organization from that Cup run: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Lars Eller, Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, Shane Gersich.
All of those players, sans Gersich, played at least 15 NHL games for the team in the 2021-22 season as the chunk of the team’s core has stayed together as of now.
Forward Brett Connolly
Connolly was instrumental in the Capitals’ Cup run and helped the team’s third line bring depth scoring to the ice each night. He scored six goals and nine points in 24 playoff games and was the primary assist on Lars Eller’s Cup-winning goal in Game 5 in Vegas.
He left the organization after the 2019 season and spent the 2021-22 season split between the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen
Niskanen was part of the team’s pair with Orlov and played in 24 playoff games, helping create one of two shutdown pairs coach Barry Trotz utilized in the postseason.
He was traded to the Flyers in June 2019 and announced his retirement from the NHL in October 2020 at age 33, citing concerns over COVID-19 uncertainty.
Forward Devante Smith-Pelly
The phrase “unsung playoff heroes” certainly invokes an image of Smith-Pelly. The rugged winger scored seven goals, which matched his entire regular season total, in 24 playoff games. He scored in the final three games of the Cup Final, including the game-tying goal in Game 5 where he scored while diving to his right to knock the puck into the net.
Smith-Pelly left the organization after the 18-19 season and has bounced around the globe for his hockey career in seasons since. He played 24 games in the 21-22 season with Laval Rocket in the AHL, an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.
Center Chandler Stephenson
Stephenson was the speedy fourth-liner that the Capitals relied upon for strong fourth-line minutes.
He was traded to, ironically, the Golden Knights in late 2019 and has since enjoyed a breakout NHL career with Vegas. In the 21-22 season, he scored 21 goals and had 43 assists in 79 games played. All were career-best numbers.
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Defenseman Brooks Orpik
Orpik was the veteran and vocal leader for the Capitals on the blue line for his five years in Washington, and in Game 2 of the Cup Final, he scored the game-winning goal for the team’s first-ever victory in the Stanley Cup Final.
He played one more season as a Capital before his retirement from hockey. He is currently in the Capitals’ organization as a development coach and is also an assistant coach for the Boston College men’s hockey team.
Forward Jakub Vrana
The speedy and talented winger scored three goals and had eight points in 23 playoff games for the Capitals, including the opening goal in Game 5 against the Golden Knights.
He was traded to the Red Wings at the trade deadline in 2021 in a massive deal that brought the Capitals back Anthony Mantha in return. In the 21-22 season in Detroit, he scored 13 goals in 26 games.
Center Jay Beagle
A fan favorite during his time in Washington, Beagle was the team’s valued fourth-line center throughout his many years as a Capital. Renowned for his faceoff and penalty-killing ability, he was easy for fans to fall in love with.
Beagle left the organization after the team’s Cup win and signed a four-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks. He was traded to the Coyotes last summer and, at 36 years old, is currently considering retirement from hockey.
Defenseman Christian Djoos
Often paired with Orpik on the team’s third pair, Djoos’ first-ever season in the NHL resulted in a Cup victory. He tallied one assist during the team’s Cup run.
He was traded to the Ducks in exchange for Daniel Sprong in February 2020, and after a season with the Red Wings, he played the 21-22 season with EV Zug in Switzerland.
Forward Alex Chiasson
Chiasson played a smaller, but certainly important, role on the Capitals’ Cup team as he registered the only goal in regulation of the team’s Game 6 win over the Penguins in the second round — Kuznetsov scored his famed winner in overtime that night. That goal for Chiasson was his only of the postseason.
Chiasson left the organization after the Cup win and joined the Edmonton Oilers where he scored 22 goals in his first of three eventual seasons as an Oiler. He played the 21-22 season with the Canucks and scored 13 goals in 67 games.
Forward Andre Burakovsky
Burakovsky struggled with an injury during the 2018 postseason but returned to score two of the most important goals in franchise history, as he netted two second-period tallies to put the Capitals safely ahead of the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Burakovsky played one more season with the Capitals before being traded to the Avalanche in June 2019. Soon, Burakovsky will get a chance to compete for his second Stanley Cup in the coming days and weeks.
Defenseman Jakub Jerabek
Jerabek, a deadline acquisition for the Capitals that season, played early in the postseason but was scratched after the first two games played.
He played just one more NHL game after that season (with the Blues) and played the 21-22 season with Spartak Moscow in the KHL.
Forward Nathan Walker
Walker played just one playoff game for the Capitals. Notably, he was the first Australian ever selected in the NHL Draft, as well as the first from his country to score an NHL goal.
He played 30 games for the Blues in the 21-22 season after leaving the Capitals’ organization after the 18-19 season.
Forward Travis Boyd
Boyd also played just one game for the Capitals in the postseason.
He played two more seasons in Washington before joining Toronto for the 20-21 season. He spent the entirety of the 21-22 season with the Coyotes, where he scored 17 goals in 74 games played. He recently signed a two-year contract extension.
Goalie Philipp Grubauer
Grubauer started the playoffs for the Capitals, but was pulled in Game 2 of the team’s first-round series against the Blue Jackets. He never played another minute for the team in the playoffs.
He was traded, along with Orpik, to the Avalanche in June 2018 and immediately signed a three-year deal. Last summer, he signed a six-year deal with the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Goalie Braden Holtby
A franchise icon, Holtby was the team’s savior in the 2018 playoffs. He entered the net in relief of Grubauer during Game 2 of the first-round series and never looked back. He won 16 of his 22 starts and posted a .922 save percentage with a 2.16 goals-against average.
He also made “The Save” during Game 2 of the Cup Final, which remains an iconic image in not just Capitals history, but Stanley Cup Final history.
Holtby played two more seasons in Washington and signed with the Canucks for the 20-21 season. He spent the 21-22 season with the Stars, and in his first game back in Washington this March, was honored with a rousing ovation by his former hometown fans.