Capitals fans likely breathed a sigh of relief when the team protected T.J. Oshie from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft this past summer.
The veteran winger was a fan-favorite in Washington and a core member of the Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2018, but he was thought as a prime candidate to get scooped up by the NHL's newest franchise due to Washington's salary cap situation and his family ties to the Seattle area. However, his teammates weren't exactly worried about it.
"[Oshie] really is such a good person, such a good friend, teammate," Tom Wilson told the Sports Junkies Wednesday. "Those weird expansion drafts come out every once in a while but I think nobody had any doubt that he was going to be a Capital. He came here and helped change the culture and really make us the team that we were and are. He's second to none. I wasn't surprised to see him protected at all. I was expecting him to be around. He's just part of that core."
Oshie's play during the shortened 2021 campaign had to make it an easier decision on Washington. He scored 22 goals and tallied 43 points in 53 games. That kind of production isn't easy to replace, especially for a Capitals team that would've been right up against the salary cap with or without Oshie on the roster.
Now, he can return for his seventh season in Washington with another four years left on his contract. The core that won the franchise its only Stanley Cup remains intact with six other long-time teammates still with him and hoping to make another Cup run.
"There's so many great leaders," Wilson said. "I mean, we're pretty lucky to have [Ovechkin] and [Backstrom] and [Oshie], [Carlson]. For the young guys, you don't have to look far to see the measure of success and what you want to be when you grow up into a veteran player. It's a great dynamic in our room we've been lucky to have some really good quality guys and [Oshie] definitely leads the way in a lot of those categories."
Oshie and the Capitals will return to the ice for their second preseason game of the year on Wednesday against the Devils.