Washington Capitals Must Keep T.J. Oshie

Mar 28, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie (77) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Capitals defeated the Wild 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie (77) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Capitals defeated the Wild 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

T.J. Oshie is a free agent the Washington Capitals can’t afford to lose.

Hardly anyone would argue that T.J. Oshie has been anything but a great addition to the Washington Capitals. He’s coming off of his best season as a pro, following his 2015-16 campaign which was arguably his previous best season as a pro. In two seasons in Washington, Oshie has set career highs in goals each season. This past season he hit a new high of 33 goals in spite of missing 14 games with injuries.

But there is a catch. Oshie has had back-to-back career seasons, skating primarily with Alex Ovechkin, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time, and Nicklas Backstrom, one of the premier centers in the NHL. He was a very good player for the St. Louis Blues, but his goal totals there would not have translated into the payday he’s looking at today.

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How much of Oshie’s success over the past two seasons is due to his elite line mates? It’s hard to argue that anyone on a line with Ovechkin doesn’t get more room to skate. Very few teams assign a single defenseman to cover The Great Eight with success. Most who try it end up getting burned. Teams instead cheat towards Ovechkin and away from the right wing in the process.

Likewise, very few teams want to let Backstrom go one on one, and those who do tend to get burned. Both players open up space for everyone else on the ice. Oshie is the perfect compliment and takes that line to a higher level by burying his scoring chances. But that line also takes him to a higher level by opening up scoring chances.

How would other options in free agency compare

First, there is no doubt that other teams will be able to offer more money. If it’s only about money, Oshie has played his last game with the Washington Capitals. The Caps cannot, and should not, break the bank to re-sign him. It’s just not in the team’s best interest long term.

But how would his new line mates likely compare? It’s fair to say that few teams in the NHL could provide line mates similar to what he has had in Washington. Those who could probably don’t have the cap space to be the highest bidder.

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If Oshie decides to move on, he will have to accept playing on a line with less talent. What won’t change is the expectations that will come with a big contract. Oshie would have to maintain his production in a much less favorable environment, or risk becoming the guy with the huge contract who can never quite deliver on the fans expectations.

That sets up a situation where the perennial fan favorite in St. Louis and Washington, could quickly become the target of unrealistic expectations in a new city. Sure, Oshie could resign and then regress in Washington. But he also has an existing fanbase there that loves him and a stable situation where he’s found great success in the past. The best predictor of future success is past success.

Why the Capitals and Oshie are right for each other

It’s simple. Oshie is a fan favorite, in the same situation where he has already proven he can be productive. The Washington Capitals know the production they’re getting. They know where and how he fits in with the team and the fans. His best seasons have been in Washington, with no reason to believe he can’t equal them in the future. By all accounts, Oshie’s family is happy in DC. No matter where he signs, he’ll make more money than he probably ever dreamed of making growing up.

Sure, he could make more money with another team. But that comes with a new environment, higher expectations and higher risk for all involved. The most obvious risk is not meeting those higher expectations in a less advantageous setting. But the biggest risk for Oshie is more personal. With a wife and two daughters that have by all accounts settled nicely into the Washington DC suburbs, a new team brings a new town and leaving friends and familiarity behind.

Why Oshie resigns with the Capitals

If you could make $5 million to $5.5 million a year, in a place where you’re comfortable, you’ve had success, the fans love you, your family is happy and you have a chance to win, would you gamble it all for $1 million per year more?

Oshie is a smart player on the ice and off of the ice and a family man. He’s stated his desire to stay in Washington, and the Capitals want him to stay. It’s the right match for both sides, and they both know it. Only the money and term remain to be settled. As long as both parties are reasonable, it’s a perfect match.