As the race for the record continues, everyone knows that’s all the Washington Capitals are going for. They’ve got Alex Ovechkin his cup and now it’s time to score goals upon goals. No one would complain if the Great 8 adds another cup to his resume, though. The Washington Capitals’ success may be surprising to some due to the arsenal of injuries they’ve faced. The Metropolitan is known to be one of the hardest divisions in hockey. With the New Jersey Devils window opening, the never-going-away Pittsburgh Penguins, the loaded Carolina Hurricanes, and the Igor Shesterkin-led New York Rangers, many weren’t sure what the Capitals off-season would be like. The Capitals proved they still have the desire to be in the playoff hunt. Sitting fourth in their division, the Capitals need to continue scoring if they wanna stay in the race.
Washington Capitals Success is Product of Off-Season Moves
You likely won’t find a third-line center better than former Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome. At only $3.5 million, Strome is on a 57-point pace, which would be a career-high. His production has led to him being a staple on the Capitals’ second powerplay unit, collecting 13 points on the man advantage, only three less than Ovechkin. Playing the minutes of a second-line center, Strome’s two-way play has allowed him to gain the coaching staff’s trust, resulting in playing against top competition.
Strome is a very efficient player when it comes to exiting his own zone and once arriving in the opponent’s zone, his playmaking allows him to create high-quality chances. With a ton of business to take care of this summer, the Capitals may not be able to resign the Mississauga native. If he’s not resigned, you can bet he’ll attract a lot of attention in addition to a raise.
It’s hard to analyze goalie contracts. According to many, goalies are voodoo. At 32 years old, Darcy Kuemper has been one of the biggest reasons for the Washington Capitals’ success. Four more years is indeed a long time. The Capitals’ ability to be a consistent defensive team adds some stability to the position. According to Dom Luszczyszyn’s model, Kuemper has a market value of $6.9 million, making it a good deal in its first year. With an AAV of $5.25 million, Kuemper’s contract is moveable in the final few years with an actual salary under $3 million. Kuemper has been everything the Capitals have needed him to be. With three years left, there could be some regression, but no one expects the Capitals to be a playoff team a few years from now. As Ovechkin and company make their final push, Kuemper is the best bet.
Few, if any, predicted Swedish native Erik Gustafsson to be a top 10-point producer in the NHL. The Capitals sure aren’t complaining. On the first day of free agency, Gustafsson was signed to a one-year, $800k contract by the Capitals, that sure is paying off now. Gustafsson’s ability to play both sides on the back end makes him a very valuable player. All of Gustafsson’s numbers are what you’d want in an $800k defenseman. One of Gustafsson’s greatest qualities is his ability to prevent scoring chances off of zone entries. With a team-high 25 entry targets per game, only 2.4 targets a game lead to scoring chances, another team-high. Making only $800k, it would’ve been hard for Gustafsson to play below expectations. You can expect the Capitals defender to gain a lot of attention as he hits free agency this summer.