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Justin Williams wants to return to the Caps, but he knows it's not that simple

Justin Williams wants to return to the Caps, but he knows it's not that simple

Justin Williams just completed his 16th NHL season. He’ll be 36 in October and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

What’s next? Williams says he’s not sure. He wants to return to Washington, but he’s been around long enough to know it’s not that simple.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Williams said, asked if he hopes to re-sign with the Caps.

“But,” he added, “saying something doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen. There’s a lot of things that go into the offseason here, which I’m sure is not going to be too quiet. So there’s a lot of factors that go into everything, and I’ll probably have a clearer picture in a couple of months.”

The dejection could be seen on Williams’ face and heard in his voice as he spoke to reporters Friday, another earlier-than-anyone-anticpated Breakdown Day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

The second line winger believed he had a good opportunity this spring to add a fourth Stanley Cup to his resume. Instead, he suffered the most gut-wrenching postseason exit of his NHL career. After handling the Penguins in Games 5 and 6, he said, the defending champions turned the tables on the Caps in Game 7, won all of the small battles and advanced to the conference final with a 2-0 victory.

It was Williams' first taste of defeat in a Game 7 in eight tries.    

“This one has been the hardest one for me to take, probably just because of where I’m at in my career,” Williams said. “Being so sure of something and having it taken away, I’m still going to be sulking for a little while here. I haven’t really processed anything yet.”

“I was playing a prominent role on a Stanley Cup favorite,” Williams said. “Those opportunities don’t come along all the time. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know this was a really big opportunity lost.”

Overall, Williams had a good year after getting off to a slow start.

He finished 24 goals and 24 assists in 80 games. The goal total was his highest since 2006-07, when he potted 33 with the Carolina Hurricanes.

In the playoffs, Williams amassed three goals and three assists against Toronto. He did not find the net against the Penguins, though he did chip in with three helpers.

What the Caps must weigh in the coming weeks and months is how much they believe Williams can help in the locker room and on the ice next season vs. the team’s need to get faster and begin integrating some of its prospects into the lineup. He earned $3.25 million this season—the sixth highest total among Caps forwards.

It’ll be a tough call, no doubt.

But what isn’t up for debate is this: Williams’ desire to continue playing and performing at a high level.

“My drive is there,” he said. “It’s always there. I think the majority of people saw it this year.”

He added: “We’ll see what happens. You’ll talk with your family and figure out your next steps. We’ll see. I was a big part of this team. I felt wanted, needed, relied upon. As a player, that’s all you want.”

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Alex Ovechkin teaching his son hockey might be the most adorable thing ever

Alex Ovechkin teaching his son hockey might be the most adorable thing ever

The Capitals had an off day on Sunday ahead of their Monday matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving the opportunity for Alex Ovechkin to spend some time with his son.

Sergei and his dad came across a baby hockey stick and Ovechkin decided to teach his son a few moves.

The 2035 NHL mock drafts have yet to be released, but we have an early pick for No. 1…


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Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

ARLINGTON, Va -- The Capitals are riding a six-game win streak and already have the most points in the NHL and now they will be adding one of their best players back into the lineup. Nicklas Backstrom said Sunday after practice that he is "ready to go" for Monday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It will be his first game since Nov. 18.

An upper-body injury forced Backstrom out of the lineup for the last eight games. Despite returning to practice during the team's road trip through California, he did not get into a game as the team preached caution with its star center. As the team returned home, Backstrom took line rushes on Sunday and both he and head coach Todd Reirden confirmed he would be back in for Monday's game.

"It was good to see him out there in full practice," Reirden said. "Did some drills specifically to help prepare him for tomorrow. He's good to go for tomorrow."

Backstrom said he knew when he woke up on Sunday that he was ready.

"As of today I'm good to go," he said. "I woke up and felt good. It's like that guy in 'Mighty Ducks,' I woke up, no pain."

It does not appear as if Backstrom will be eased back into the lineup as he skated on the top line in practice alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. Evgeny Kuznetsov had been playing in that spot, but the top line had grown stagnant. Ovechkin, Wilson and Kuznetsov combined for only one even-strength point in the past three games.

Barring something unexpected, the return of Backstrom should give the Caps their full lineup for the first time all season. Considering what the team has been able to accomplish thus far while having to shuffle the lineup because of injuries and suspensions, this has been an impressive start.

"I think that shows the depth that we have all the way through our lineup: forward, defenseman and our goaltending has been strong," Reirden said. "I think it's a clear understanding that it's a competitive situation that we've had since training camp that players are ready to take advantage of their opportunities that they get and they know that they need to otherwise there's a chance they could find themselves on the outside. The inner-competition we've had has probably helped push that a little bit. That's been a good problem to have, and it's allowed us to see some other players get opportunities and showcase some of the abilities they have."