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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason.

Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

There’s no denying what T.J. Oshie has meant to the Capitals over the past two seasons; his goal production spells it out quite clearly.

Since 2015, in fact, Oshie’s 59 tallies are second to only Alex Ovechkin’s 83. So, yeah, he’s a critical part of Washington’s potent offense. Oshie’s coaches and teammates also laud the impact his energy has on the ice, bench and dressing room. But that doesn’t mean Oshie is a slam dunk to be back in red next season.

He’s going to be expensive to re-sign and the Caps don’t have a lot of room under the salary cap ceiling.   

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Oshie?

Sorenson: This is an easy one. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I love spending other people’s money!  Absolutely the Capitals need to find a way to make this happen. T.J. Oshie has a young family who loves it here in the DMV, and I would imagine that a longer term deal would trump any kind of short term money another team may offer. In the past, the Caps have been loathe to offer contracts longer than three years, but they did it for two cornerstones on the blue line three years ago in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, who were also unrestricted free agents at the time. Oshie reached career highs in goals in both of his years here in Washington (26, in his first year, 33 in his second), but I believe the intangibles he brings are just as valuable. Oshie is a guy who is almost always smiling, he loves hockey, loves his teammates, and seems to find joy coming to the rink every day.This is an important perspective to have in this day and age when professional sports quickly become a pressure-filled business. Oshie also helps draw some of the attention away from the other stars on the team, which means that pressure is spread around more equally, which is better for everyone.

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El-Bashir: Let’s weigh the pros and cons. (When considering this season’s stats, remember Oshie missed 14 games). First, the pros: As I mentioned in the intro, Oshie is the second best goal scorer on the Caps. He’s an integral piece on the league’s third-ranked power play (7 ppg) and can be dangerous on the penalty kill, as well. He brings it every shift of every game. In fact, I’d argue that no Cap plays harder on a nightly basis. Oshie does the small things, too. He ranked first among Caps forwards in blocked shots (50), second in takeaways (49), third in hits (95) and third in penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.14). In the playoffs, Oshie’s 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) were second only to Nicklas Backstrom’s 13. Now for the cons: Oshie, at age 30, ain’t getting any younger. He was one of five 30-somethings to hit the 30-goal plateau last season (out of the 26 players who netted 30 or more goals). Additionally, the miles on Oshie’s generously listed 6-foot, 189-pound frame are hard miles and his injury history shows that he tends to get banged up and miss games. Considering all the above factors, here’s my take: if the plan is to contend next year, the Caps need to figure this one out, even if it means he’s the only UFA they retain and it forces a tough decision with regard to another player (or even two). The free agent market does not appear to be a great option and no one currently on the roster is ready to replicate Oshie’s production.    

Regan: If there was no such thing as a salary cap, absolutely they should re-sign T.J. Oshie. The Caps searched for years for a top line winger to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and Oshie was the best answer this team has had since Mike Knuble. But there is a salary cap and Washington is going to be up against it. Oshie has made it clear he wants to stay, but there is no way Washington can afford to pay him anywhere close to what he can command on the open market and every player has that point where there is just too much money left on the table to ignore. If you can somehow make the numbers work, I am all for it, but I also do not think the Caps should handcuff their entire offseason plans so they can re-sign a 30-year-old winger who surpassed 30 goals for the first time in his career in a contract year. You always have to overpay for free agents and honestly, if you give Oshie something like a five-year deal for $6 or 7 million per year, I have a hard time believing he will still be living up to that contract in years four and five. If there's any way to bring him back for a reasonable number, do it, but I am not about to get into a bidding war for him.

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Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

The Capitals enter the All-Star break losers of seven straight after a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

In desperate need of a win before the All-Star Break, the Capitals kept Alex Ovechkin in the lineup delaying his one-game suspension and started Braden Holtby for the second consecutive night. Yet, the result was the same as they gave up six goals for the third straight game and for the fourth time during the current losing streak. Washington has been outscored 36-18 during the streak.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri is always a thorn in the side of the Caps, most notably for his knee-on-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs back in 2017. He was again a pest against Washington with a hat trick for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The Caps scored late in the first period, but Kadri scored with 26 seconds remaining to even the game at one. Kadri also extended Toronto’s lead to two goals for the first time at the 2:10 mark into the second period of a one-timer from the high slot. He completed the hat trick later in the third as William Nylander shot the puck, hit both posts and the puck went straight to the stick of Kardi who had an empty net yawning.

Washington has now given up a hat trick in three straight games and in four of their last five.

A quick response

A growing problem for Washington during this losing streak is allowing quick response goals. Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps on the board with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first period.

Great, Washington is headed to the locker room up 1-0, right? Not so fast.

Morgan Rielly dumped the puck and tried to pass it to the middle. Nylander kicked it back behind the net and the play should have been dead, but Michal Kempny tipped it back out to center and no one seemed to know where it was except Kadri who came streaking in and tapped it past Holtby to tie the game.

The goal came just 47 seconds after Backstrom put Washington on the board.

An untimely penalty

Ovechkin is doing just about everything he can to keep the Caps in this games and he scored again on Wednesday. But tonight's game really turned on an Ovechkin penalty in the second period.

Ovechkin was called for cross-checking Kaspari Kapanen about two minutes after Nikita Zaitsev tied the game at 2. At that point, Washington had never trailed in the game. They had yielded leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but overall were playing significantly better than they did on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Auston Matthews would go on to score on the resulting power play. That would be the first of three unanswered goals for Toronto.

A rough penalty kill for John Carlson

The Leafs were able to cash in on the penalty kill because of a rough shift for defenseman John Carlson. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Carlson did not try clearing the puck around the boards. Instead, he turned up ice and fired it right to John Tavares. Tavares blocked the clear and kept the puck in. Later on in the shift, Matthews was skating in looking for a shot. Carlson dropped to a knee looking for the shot block, but he was too quick. Matthews curled it around a now helpless Carlson, then fired the puck through Holtby to give Toronto a lead they would not relinquish.

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Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period

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Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period

A nasty collision between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie resulted in Ovechkin getting pulled into the locker room in the first period of Wednesday’s Capitals game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Early in the first period, Oshie skated past Morgan Rielly attempting to chip the puck away from him along the boards. As he kept skating, he came directly into the path of Ovechkin and the two collided violently in the neutral zone. Oshie popped up quickly, but Ovechkin stayed down on the ice.

After a few nervous moments, Ovechkin got back onto his feet and was seen smiling on the bench and joking with Oshie about the hit. He also appeared to be grabbing his chest.

A few moments later, head athletic trainer Jason Serbus was seen talking to Ovechkin and Ovechkin got up off the bench and walked into the locker room.

It was later confirmed by the NBCSN broadcast that Ovechkin was pulled by the concussion spotter after it appeared Ovechkin’s face crashed directly into Oshie’s shoulder.

Concussion spotters are authorized to require a player’s removal from play in order to evaluate them for a concussion following a blow to the head. If the player passes all concussion tests and is deemed not to have suffered a concussion, he is able to return.

While it appeared Ovechkin was fine after the hit, the concussion spotter saw enough on the hit to believe Ovechkin needed to be evaluated. It may be an inconvenience, but could prevent players from remaining on the ice after suffering a concussion.

Luckily for the Caps, Ovechkin returned late in the first literally just in time for Washington’s first power play of the game. The Caps did score on the power play, though Ovechkin did not record a point on the play.