The Capitals’ Game 7 loss did not just end the season, it may have also ended Daniel Winnik’s time in Washington. Winnik is among the pending free agents coming off the books for the Capitals this offseason.
Winnik became a Capital in 2016 as part of a trade deadline deal and cemented a spot on the fourth line. In his first full season with Washington, he had 25 points and set a career-high in goals with 12.
While he did mention that he would like to return to the Caps, the possibility of playing for another team is not an unfamiliar situation for Winnik who has played on seven different teams already in his career. After a solid season numbers wise, he is confident he has earned himself a new deal.
“I think I've been pretty steady my whole career numbers wise,” Winnik said. “I think I've kind of maintained the same area and obviously this year set a career high for goals. I don't know if that'll come to account come free agency time if I get there, but I hope it does.”
Despite how many different teams he has played on in the past, however, that doesn’t mean Winnik, who is now 32 years old, is looking forward to the process.
“It sucks. There's a lot of guys in the league that are in the same boat. I'm older now, but I don't think my game's declined at all so hopefully that helps me come free agency if I get there.”
But will it come to free agency for Winnik?
One of Washington’s biggest weaknesses in the playoffs was its scoring depth. Alex Ovechkin was the only player from the third or fourth line to score against Pittsburgh and, come on, he doesn’t count. A dependable fourth-line veteran like Winnik, who also said he would like to return to the Caps next season, is an underrated piece that Washington does not have enough of.
But the team’s salary cap situation will likely leave them with no choice but to let Winnik walk. With Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, Philipp Grubauer and possibly T.J. Oshie all in need of new contracts, they may not have the money for a 32-year-old fourth liner who has yet to score a single goal in the playoffs in his career.
Said Winnik, “They've got bigger questions than myself going into this offseason.”
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