2021-22 Washington Capitals preview: bringing him back to Washington

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It was a rather quiet offseason for the Washington Capitals, choosing to stay primarily with the squad they have, and for good reason – in their last five seasons they haven’t finished below second in their division, having only finished in second place the previous season when they moved to the East Division. , in line with the temporary realignments of the NHL division due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, they also did not escape the first round of the Stanley cup Playoffs of the last three seasons. With the Great 8 himself, Alexander Ovechkin re-signing for five seasons, time will tell if the team formerly known as the “Sharks East” can make another deep playoff run.

Where they left off

The Caps started their season with a scorching January, not losing a single game in regulation with a 6-0-2 record, but were unable to maintain that magic in February when they did. struggled to stay above 0.500. They managed to turn the ship around in March, going 11-3-0, but it was obvious something was missing as the trade deadline approached. Evgeny Kuznetsov was not having the best of seasons on and off the ice – he had tested positive for COVID-19 twice and missed a team function, with Pierre LeBrun report that the team had become irritated with his behavior and were seeking to trade him for that reason. Kuznetsov finished the season with 29 points in 41 games, certainly nothing to sneeze at with the given sample size, but nonetheless, the lowest points total of his career since his rookie season.

When the trade deadline came in early April, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan acted by trading Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Anthony Mantha. It was certainly a high price to pay, but Mantha matched the Caps’ need to score in the top six. Mantha has scored 4 goals and collected 4 assists in 14 regular season games with the Capitals.

At the end of the regular season, the Capitals and their well-known rival Pittsburgh penguins tied on points for the top of the East Division, but Pittsburgh ended up winning the division crown, given they had more regulation and overtime wins (34) than the Capitals (33). Therefore, the Capitals faced the third Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals won Game 1 of the series with an overtime goal from Nic Dowd, but fell victim to the dreaded men’s sweep, losing the series 4-1.

2021 NHL Draft

Anthony Mantha’s trade meant the Capitals would have no picks on Day 1 of the 2021 NHL Draft. Their first pick came in the second round at No. 55 when they picked the Wheat defenseman. Kings of Brandon Vincent Iorio. Elite outlook obviously loved Iorio’s shot, saying “Iorio on the breakthrough is basically Han Solo with a blaster: a well-placed laser beam after a well-placed laser beam.” If your slap shot is compared to the blaster shot of the biggest smuggler in the Star Wars galaxy, then you must be doing something right.

The Capitals then drafted Sioux Falls Stampede defenseman Brent Johnson in the third round with the 80th pick overall. Johnson, who has no connection with the former Capitals goaltender of the same name, has been described as a “jack-of-all-trades defenseman” by Smah Scouting, noting his qualified transition play and power-play quarterback.

With six overall picks in this year’s draft, the Capitals have made sure to focus on strengthening their future defensive body – the majority of their draft picks have been on defense to some degree. In subsequent rounds, they targeted Joaquin Lemay of the BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks with the 119th overall pick, Eisbaren Berlin forward and defender Haakon Hanelt with 151 in the sixth round.

Listing

The stove wasn’t particularly hot in the District of Columbia during the offseason, with the Capitals choosing to mostly stick with the roster they have. They made a few minor changes to their roster, though: Sharks fan favorite Brenden Dillon was traded to the Winnipeg Jets two days before the start of free agency in exchange for two second-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 draft. They also lost goaltender Vitek Vanecek in the expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken for a week before he he wasn’t bought out by the Capitals, who sent the Kraken Jets second-round pick in 2023. Craig Anderson left to sign with the Buffalo Sabers, just like Michael Raffl with the Dallas Stars.

The few signings the Capitals made were in-depth signings. When a former Shark came out, another entered the Capitals organization: Matt Irwin signed the Capitals to a one-year two-pronged contract worth $ 750,000 at the NHL and NHL level. $ 350,000 at the AHL level. The Caps also signed a two-year bilateral contract with defenseman Dylan McIlrath ($ 750,000 / 450,000 in 2021-2022 and $ 750,000 / $ 425,000 in 2022-2023), signed a two-year contract with up-and-coming goalie Hunter Shepard. contract ($ 750,000 / $ 90,000 both years) and brought back in-depth defenseman Lucas Johansen on a one-year bilateral contract ($ 700,000 / $ 95,000).

DC’s biggest news during the offseason was the return of the greatest player to ever wear a Capitals jersey to Alex Ovechkin – not that it was ever in doubt, but he hit a free agency without a contract. . The contract, negotiated by Ovechkin himself, carries an average annual value (AAV) of $ 9.5 million over five years. It’s a bit long for someone turning 36 this month, but that’s Alex Ovechkin we’re talking about. With Ovechkin choosing to stay at DC, the question now is how close he can get to Wayne Gretzky’s record 894 career goals.

While this issue will be resolved over the next five years, in the meantime, Daily confrontation plans these to be the lines of the capitals on the opening night:

Before

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie
Conor Sheary – Lars Eller – Daniel Spron
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Defenders

Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson
Michal Kempny – Justin Schultz
Trevor Van Riemsdyk – Nick Jensen

Goalkeepers

Ilya Samsonov
Vitek Vanecek

What can we expect in 2021-2022?

It looks like the Capitals believe this team has another Stanley Cup in them, which is why they mostly kept their key players intact. I could spend this whole paragraph talking about Ovechkin, but it would rob players like John Carlson of their recognition in making the Capitals such a well-oiled machine. Carlson remains one of the best offensive defensemen in hockey, scoring 44 points in 52 games, and his partnership with Dmitry Orlov is set to prove to be one of the deadliest blue line duos in the league.

The Capitals forward corps remains top notch: TJ Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom provide extra points on the second line. Tom Wilson, despite his … let’s call it reckless behavior on the ice is always a threat to set up a 40-point season. The final six are made up of players like Lars Eller, Daniel Sprong and Carl Hagelin, who round out the field with score and defense.

Entering his second season as a DC starter, goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov will look to continue growing after a season in which he was on the COVID-19 protocol list. He will certainly be helped by the return of Vitek Vanecek, who replaced Samsonov during his stints on the COVID roster and had a strong rookie season with a .908 save percentage (SV%) and a goals against average of 2.69 (GAA).

The Sharks and Capitals will meet for the first time this season on Nov. 20 at the SAP Center in San Jose, with a face-off at 7:30 p.m. PT. They won’t see each other again until January 26, 2022, when the second of their meetings will take place at the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington. The puck that night will be at 4 p.m. PT.

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