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.
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.
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).
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).
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.