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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 4 T.J. Oshie

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 4 T.J. Oshie

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 4 T.J. Oshie

Brian MacLellan had a tough choice at the end of the season. With several key players on expiring contracts and the team facing a serious cap crunch, who if anyone would the team try to re-sign? Coming off a season in which he was tied for the team lead with 33 goals despite playing in only 68 games, Oshie was poised to be one of the most sought after free agents this summer. But even if MacLellan wanted him, could he even afford to re-sign him?

The answer was a resound...sort of. Oshie did indeed re-sign with Washington and at a fairly modest cap hit of $5.75 million, but it took an eight-year deal to get him which is a steep price for a player already 30 years old. Whether the team ends up regretting that contract in the later years of the deal remains to be seen, but the good news is the Caps get one of their top playmakers back in the lineup for this season.

Oshie's 33 goals last season were a career-high. It was the first time since 2004 that Alex Ovechkin was not the team's sole leader in goals. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Capitals lost a lot of goal production in the offseason and will need Oshie to continue to produce at the same level he did last year.

We have talked a lot in this countdown about players the Caps are hoping can help make up for the 48 goals they lost from their lineup with Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams' departure. That number, however, assumes Oshie is still scoring 30+ goals. Last season was the first and only time Oshie has managed to pass the 30-goal mark in his career. His previous career high was 26 which he set in his first year in Washington.

Clearly, Oshie has thrived with the Caps, but the team is still asking a player who is about to turn 31 to continue producing at a career-high level.

But Oshie's impact is about more than just numbers.

Prior to the injury problems he faced last season, Oshie was the team's MVP. He was an emotional leader on the ice and someone the team could count on to give 100-percent on each and every shift. For a team with young prospects, Oshie is the kind of person a coach can point to and tell his prospects that is the level of effort that is expected each and every night.

Oshie was a player MacLellan determined the team could not afford to lose this offseason. Whether the contract haunts them is a question for the future. For now, the Caps need Oshie to keep playing at the elite level he has played in his first two seasons in Washington.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Commentator Don Cherry fired after 'divisive remarks'

Commentator Don Cherry fired after 'divisive remarks'

Don Cherry has been fired from Sportsnet after making controversial comments about immigrants on-air Saturday evening.

Cherry, 85, criticized the decreasing amount of Canadians wearing poppies to honor fallen Canadian soldiers on Remembrance Day, singling out Toronto immigrants. 

“You people . . . you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said on his show, Coach's Corner. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Sportsnet, the Canadian sports network, released a statement Monday announcing that Cherry would be stepping down.

Ron MacLean, Cherry's co-host, apologized Sunday on his own show, Hometown Hockey, for Cherry's comments.

“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory — which were flat out wrong," MacLean said.

Cherry, the host of Coach's Corner since 1982, has been a prominent hockey personality for decades.

He drew the ire of Caps fans last year when he called Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov a "jerk" for his bird-walk celebration.

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With Panik’s return, the Caps strip roster down to the bone and enter Monday’s game with no spare players

With Panik’s return, the Caps strip roster down to the bone and enter Monday’s game with no spare players

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Get out the bubble wrap, the Capitals need to keep their lineup healthy or they could be in trouble. Richard Panik will make his return to the lineup on Monday after spending 10 games on LTIR with an upper-body injury. His return will mean the Caps lose the cap benefit that comes with LTIR and will have to fit his $2.75 million cap hit under the ceiling. That has forced the team into tough moves to cut the roster down to make it cap compliant.

Travis Boyd was held off the ice for Monday’s morning skate as the team made sure it had a healthy lineup for Monday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. Todd Reirden confirmed afterward that Boyd will be sent to Hershey. Because he was on the NHL roster for fewer than 30 days and 10 games, he does not have to go through waivers to be sent back to the AHL.

Tyler Lewington did have to pass through waivers and cleared Monday after being placed on Sunday. He was reassigned to Hershey as well.

While these moves were necessary for the team to get cap compliant, it also leaves the Caps in a bind. With Carl Hagelin still day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Washington now has no healthy spares on the roster.

None.

Zip.

Nada.

The Caps roster has just six defensemen and 12 healthy forwards, excluding Hagelin.

Have you ever gone to work feeling fine and had to leave before the end of the day because you suddenly got sick? If that happens to the Caps, or if someone twists an ankle walking to the rink or suffers some other sort of freak illness or injury, then Washington will be playing the Coyotes down a man on Monday.

This is not ideal, but the cap situation is what it is. For now, the Caps probably can get away with it until the end of the month. Once Hagelin returns it gives the team an extra forward. Of greater concern is the defense, but with the only road cames coming in Philadelphia, Boston and New York, easily drivable from Hershey, so long as there are no unforeseen injuries right before a game it should not hurt the team. On Nov. 30, however, the Caps travel to play the Detroit Red Wings then play three games in California. They have to have a seventh defenseman by that point.

The good news is that Lewington has a low cap hit at just $675,000, lower even than the league minimum. Perhaps the team can bank enough space by the end of the month to fit him back under the cap. If not, then general manager Brian MacLellan will have to get creative yet again and move a piece or two to fit in that seventh defenseman.

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