WASHINGTON — Perhaps it’s premature to think beyond this season, but with the Capitals trailing the Penguins 3-1 in their second round playoff series, Washington is one loss away from facing a new, entirely different reality.
This is no surprise. Contractually, the Capitals heading into the 2016-17 season were built to win, and win now, and anything short of a Stanley Cup was always going to mean wholesale changes without the benefit of achieving their ultimate goal.
Just take a look at the players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in the offseason: Kevin Shattenkirk, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Daniel Winnik and Paul Carey.
Consider, too, their impending restricted free agents: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer.
Caps analyst Alan May helped put these forthcoming changes into better perspective Thursday morning on The Sports Junkies.
“The reality is they have to more or less do that with the contract status of a lot of these players,” he said of making wholesale changes. “How much money is Kuznetsov going to want? He’s going to demand an eight-year contract. I’m sure he’s going to ask for the moon.”
“You’ve got Dmitry Orlov, who just was lights-out this year how much he improved,” he said. “I’m looking at this playoff series and he might be the best defenseman and how he’s playing defensively. And last year, there were so many situations in this playoff series already where Orlov has contained [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby in one-on-one situations, which he couldn’t do a year ago, so his ask will be for more.”
“You have a T.J. Oshie contract,” he said. “You don’t want to lose him. Shattenkirk, he’s at a place where you can’t get him the ask that he wants right now. If they pull off a miracle, win this series and go on and do it… but there are drastic changes.
“Nate Schmidt will end up being a regular defenseman next year on this team, and he’ll play every single game that he’s healthy. Karl Alzner is a tough decision. You haven’t seen them talk once about signing him; you haven’t heard him talk about that.”
“So there are and will be drastic changes,” he said. “And the team will look dramatically different, but there’s no reason you can’t do a reboot right away with different players and a different mind, so I don’t think you can just throw in the towel, but there will be huge moves during the offseason.”
No pressure, guys.