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Capitals' 'two-year plan' now reduced to just one

Capitals' 'two-year plan' now reduced to just one

Back in late February, in an informal sit-down with reporters, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he believed the Caps had a “two-year window” to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

“We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to have some decisions to make as far as veteran players, and our young guys are going to be due for some pay raises.”

Year One, it is safe to assume, just blew through the curtains and onto the sidewalk below.

Which leads us to Year Two.

RELATED: Is the new NHL Playoff format unfair?

For those of you who think sweeping changes are in store for the Capitals this offseason after failing to get past the second round of the playoffs, think again.

As MacLellan pointed out in February – and as he will reiterate when he meets with reporters on Monday – the Capitals are committed to this coach and this team, at least financially, for another season.

FORWARDS 

Nine of the forwards on the Caps’ current roster are signed through next season for roughly $32 million. That does not include restricted free agents Marcus Johansson ($3.75 million), Tom Wilson ($894,166) and Michael Latta ($575,000) or unrestricted free agents Jason Chimera ($2 million) and Mike Richards ($1 million).

DEFENSE

On the back end, the Caps have roughly $19.6 million committed to six defensemen, excluding restricted free agent Dmitry Orlov ($2 million) and unrestricted free agent Mike Weber ($833,333).

GOALTENDING

And between the pipes the Caps have $6.85 million committed to Braden Holtby ($6.1 million) and Philipp Grubauer ($750,000).

Assuming the NHL salary cap rises to its projected $74 million next season, that would leave the Caps with roughly $18.5 million of cap space to sign (or re-sign) three forwards and one defenseman.     

As for Year Three, that’s when things get interesting.

As of today, the Caps have just three forwards from their current roster – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle – under contract for the 2017-18 season. They also have four defensemen – Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney – and one goalie, Holtby.

With a 2017 NHL expansion draft likely next year, Orpik could find himself taken by an expansion team looking to get close to the salary floor. Stan Galiev or Beagle might also be left exposed.

It’s safe to assume that by 2017 Kuznetsov will be playing under a long-term deal and players like Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos will be having bigger roles on the Caps.

By then, the Capitals’ window of opportunity may be closer to the sill than it is to the ceiling. Which is why the Capitals’ time to win it all is … next year.

Or bust.

RELATED: Ovechkin's heartbreaking reaction to Game 6 loss

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Capitals vs. Canadiens preseason Game 3: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

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Capitals vs. Canadiens preseason Game 3: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Coming off two preseason losses to the Bruins, the Capitals look to secure their first win of the preseason in Montreal against the Canadiens on Thursday night.

The Canadiens are one of the four teams the Capitals will face in preseason play, along with the Bruins, Hurricanes, and Blues.

The next time the Capitals and Canadiens will meet again will be the first of November back in Montreal.  

But first, it's time to get back on the ice for Game 3 of the seven-game preseason schedule.

CAPITALS-CANADIENS PRESEASON GAME 3: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Canadiens 

Where: Videotron Centre, Quebec City, QC, Canada

When: Thursday, September, 20, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Canadiens preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens preseason on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-CANADIENS PRESEASON TV SCHEDULE:

6:30 PM: Beyond the Scoreboard: Zach Leonsis 
7:00 PM: Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: DC Sports Live

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    Sending Alexeyev back to his junior team is not a reflection of his play, it’s about timing

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    Sending Alexeyev back to his junior team is not a reflection of his play, it’s about timing

    The Capitals made their first roster cuts of training camp on Wednesday with the most notable name being the young defenseman Alex Alexeyev, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018. A high draft pick getting sent back to his junior team less than a week into training camp could lead fans to jump to the conclusion that he has not performed well, but that would be incorrect. The reality is that the team has been very impressed with his performance.

    Alexeyev recorded an assist in his lone preseason performance on Tuesday. He admitted to having some nerves at the beginning of the game to NHL.com writer Tom Gulitti, but he was able to settle down after that and managed very strong [performance overall.

    “[Alexeyev] continues to show his ability to play in a number of different ways,” head coach Todd Reirden said after the game. “Just really some high skill plays in tight areas where he’s executing passes that normally guys at that size and that age probably don’t do as defensemen.”

    Roster cuts have a negative connotation for most as they think in terms of NFL cuts (or this). To see Alexeyev cut this early may make some worry that it was because he was not good enough to make the team. That’s true, but only partially.

    Alexeyev is not good enough to make the team…yet.

    With John Carlson, Michal Kempny, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey and Brooks Orpik all returning, the Capitals’ defense is set for this season. There are also players like Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all competing to show they are ready for the NHL in case of a call-up. There is just no room for Alexeyev yet, but he has shown clear future NHL potential.

    But why send him back if they see potential in him? Wouldn’t he benefit from more time practicing with NHL coaches and players?

    Yes if the coaches are focused purely on development. As training camp progresses, however, and the upcoming season draws closer and closer, Reirden and his coaching staff will focus more and more primarily on preparing for the season. That means more time working with the NHL players and less time for the young prospects.

    The best thing for a player’s development is playing. Alexeyev’s junior team, the Red Deer Rebels, played its final game of the preseason on Saturday and will begin the regular season on Friday. The time to send junior players who are not going to make the NHL roster is now so that they can go back to their teams and get game action.

    There’s a lot of excitement around Alexeyev and for good reason. His play in development camp, the rookie tournament and the preseason have, thus far, justified the faith the Caps showed in him when they drafted him in the first round. Sending him back to the WHL now is what is best for the development of a promising young player who is not ready quite yet to make the NHL.

    Said Reirden, “[Alexeyev’s] a guy that has a bright future ahead of him and continuing to learn and grow every day."

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