The Washington Capitals did a lot of moving and shaking on Sunday and it was all because of one big domino falling in the re-signing of forward Evgeny Kuznetsov.
It had been pretty well-documented on this blog, that both Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky were going to put serious pressure on the Capitals salary cap number and on Sunday, the Russian's new contract did just that. A new 8-year, $62.4 million deal will do just that, taking up $7.8 million against the cap in each one of those seasons. The team had to move out Marcus Johansson in a deal later in the day, which I will touch on in its own post afterwards, but it all is considered to be a necessary evil.
The 25-year old Russian has certainly established himself as a productive offensive force for the Capitals and he did pretty well in the 2017 season, but may have left a little bit more to be desired. In all 82 games played, Kuznetsov finished with 19 goals and 59 points, finishing 60th overall in pool scoring, 40th among all forwards. That should make him into a solid 3rd round hockey pool draft pick, with 2nd round upside.
Last season, Wes took the up-and-coming Russian in the 2nd round, 40th overall, expecting some big numbers, but he was one of a number of players on his team that fell short of the mark.
|Alex Ovechkin||9.538||Matt Niskanen||5.750||Braden Holtby||5.100|
|Evgeny Kuznetsov||7.800||Brooks Orpik||5.500||Pheonix Copley||0.650|
|Nicklas Backstrom||6.700||Dmitry Orlov||5.100|
|T.J. Oshie||5.750||John Carlson||3.967|
|Lars Eller||3.500||Taylor Chorney||0.800|
|Tom Wilson||2.000||Madison Bowey||0.695|
|Jay Beagle||1.750||Aaron Ness||0.613|
So, now it comes down to the math for the Capitals. Signing Kuznetsov to a big contract extension, shipping out Johansson to New Jersey and then adding Devante Smith-Pelly on a cheap deal, the Capitals, by my early count, still leave themselves $3.96 million underneath the cap ceiling, with still Burakovsky and back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer left to sign on the dotted lines. For a team that has struggled to make it past the second round of the playoffs, they are not doing themselves many favours with this math.
In the regular season, it may be fair to expect that any team that boasts this much offense in their top four, a fairly potent blueline and one of the best goalies in the league, will do very well and provide us hockey poolies with lots of those sweet, sweet points, but are you still going to buy them as a viable option in the playoffs? I'm not. Not right now, anyways. They will get there, no doubt, but there doesn't appear to be much on paper that lifts them over top of a number of teams, especially the favourites in the Eastern Conference.