Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the best and worst Washington Capitals free agent signings.
Washington Capitals Free Agent Hits and Misses
Even though the franchise dates back to 1974, in this edition, it’ll have to be limited to after the lockout of 2004. This is due to the fact that this series is dealing with contracts, and the pre- lockout deals are hard to judge. Now, let’s look at contracts that they signed during the awkward 2000’s period of the team, and contracts that helped them in the playoffs (and stuck around long term).
This may seem like a weird choice, but the Washington Capitals free agent signings are not all fantastic – they barely have any, to be honest. That doesn’t mean that Ward is a bad signing by any means, he put up a career-high 49 points which is no easy feat. In the 2011 offseason, Joel Ward signed a 4 year $12 million with the Capitals. That April, he scored one of the clutches goals in Capitals history, snuffing out the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He spent all 4 years of that contract with Washington, and it remains the longest-tenured team of his career.
Honourable Mention: Justin Williams
Justin Williams, or Mr. Game 7 as he is affectionately known, signed a three-year $6.5 million deal with the team in the 2015 offseason. With Washington, Williams had a complete career revival, recording his highest point total since the 2012 season with 52 points. In 2017 he recorded a slightly lesser total of 48 points which is still better than his last few years with the Los Angeles Kings. he spent only 2 years in Washington because he was traded back to Carolina in the 2017 offseason, but in his short tenure, he left a massive impact with the squad and turned his career around which allowed him to play for 21 seasons.
Some would think signing a guy who recorded 83 points in 79 games would be a smart idea, but for the Capitals, it went the complete opposite. Michael Nylander wasn’t horrible but he went from being over a point per game to barely even putting up half that. The worst part? Washington signed him to a four-year, $19.5 million deal, which put him at an AAV of 4.875 million. Yikes.
In two seasons with the Capitals, he recorded 37 points in 40 games, and 33 points in 72 games. All of that for almost 5 million a year. He was assigned to Jokerit Helsinki of the Finnish Liiga in 2010.
Honourable Mention: Sergei Fedorov
It’s hard to even remember that Sergei Fedorov spent two years playing for Washington. In the 2008 offseason, he signed a 1 year $4 million deal with the Capitals. He was not worth 4 million. Yes, he had 13 points in 18 games but he only played 18 games out of an 82-game season. The worst part is, that Washington re-signed him for the 2009-2010 season, where he had 33 points in 52 games. Not bad but still, for around 4 million dollars a year, there are higher expectations than only 33 points. This is also considering that he recorded 42, 43, and 28-point seasons leading up to his departure from Columbus.
Considering that he could do so much more even at his age, this signing is pretty disappointing. He left more of an impact as a Blue Jacket, and most people often forget he even played there. And they only got roughly 70 games of service from Fedorov over two years. That’s not even enough to make up a full season.