Although the playoffs ended with Brett Connolly watching from the sidelines, the Caps forward says he hopes to be back in Washington next season after enjoying a career year in terms of goal production.
The 25-year-old restricted free agent also acknowledged that there have been discussions regarding a contract extension between his agent and the club.
GM Brian MacLellan “and my agent had some conversations before the playoffs about being back,” Connolly said on breakdown day. “So we’ll see. I’m sure we’ll talk in the next little bit.”
“I would love to be back,” Connolly added. “I loved my time here. Thought it was a good fit.”
Connolly’s first season in Washington was an up-and-down one. He began the campaign as a healthy scratch. From the start of January through mid-February, he was one of the team’s most productive goal scorers. Then he finished the Pittsburgh series as the odd man out as Coach Barry Trotz turned to journeyman Paul Carey before going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Connolly did not register a point in seven playoff games—six of which came against Toronto.
Trotz “had to make decisions and we win a couple of games after that decision is made,” Connolly said. “In the playoffs, it’s all about winning. It’s a team game. I understood where I was [on the depth chart]. I was being positive and encouraging my teammates. I was ready to go if I needed to go back in. It was my first playoff experience and I think for the next time I’m in the playoffs, I’ll be a little more ready and know what to expect—hopefully that can be sooner rather than later.”
As disappointed as he was with how things wrapped up, Connolly said he's making an effort to focus on the positives.
The biggest positive? He scored a career-high 15 goals in 66 regular season games. His goal total was the seventh highest on the team, despite the fact that he ranked 22nd in average ice time per game (10:41).
“Obviously, it’s very disappointing for everyone here about how we finished,” he said. “But there are positives to take for myself. I think I proved to myself and proved to a lot of people that I can score at this level. Now it’s time to get ready for next season and try to build on that, and we’ll see where that goes.”
Connolly added: “Obviously, throughout the year, you want to play a little more, get a little bit more minutes. So we’ll see how it all shakes out with guys leaving and who’s going to be back and who’s not with the [salary] cap [constraints].”
Indeed, there figures to be a lot of turnover due, in large part, to expiring contracts. And that turnover coupled with Connolly’s price tag (he made $850,000 last season, the lowest salary for a rostered forward) could make him an attractive option as the Caps seek to fill out their depth.
“Again, I’d love to be back,” he said. “I thought it was a good fit, and I feel that I can take the next step with this organization and be a better player next year than I was this year.”
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