Washington Capitals: A new window

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The 2019-20 Washington Capitals will look different but not as different as they will in a couple of short years.

This core we’ve all watched as Washington Capitals fans might not be as intact in a few years, and we’ve gotten an early taste of some departures this offseason from the bottom-six forwards as well as a two of the biggest leaders on the defense.

Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly will be suiting up for the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers, respectively. Devante Smith-Pelly, a playoff hero and fan favorite, still remains unsigned.

On the defense, Brooks Orpik retired after a successful NHL career while Matt Niskanen was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas to shed some salary cap money. That’s seven players removed from the 2018 Stanley Cup team.

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However, there are still many key faces returning but some are on shorter timetables than others. The main core of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby may likely split up after this season.

Backstrom and Holtby each have one year remaining in their contracts and with a tight salary cap, the Capitals might only have to choose to extend one of the two contracts.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, has two years left on his massive 13-year deal he signed in 2008. Needless to say, it is a ride that was worth enjoying since Ovechkin entered the NHL in 2005 and it could come to an end after those two seasons. Nobody knows what will happen after that contract is up. Ovechkin will turn 34 this season so time is ticking regardless.

Whether this is a one-year or two-year window is up for debate. Looking at the roster construction of the 2019-20 team compared to those Capitals teams during the last “two-year window” (2015-16, 2016-17), it’s got a few similarities and differences. The fanbase has gotten behind players from those Capitals teams the last four years and the Capitals’ winning culture came full circle.

A big similarity is that it boosts star power. One difference is there’s more youth to the more recent “window”. Combined with the youth is the veteran core leadership anchored by Ovechkin, Holtby, and Backstrom to create a balanced lineup from top to bottom.

Another difference is some of the newest faces you’ll see. Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic, and Richard Panik are big holes to fill on the bottom six and will pack a one-two punch of offense and physicality.

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Combine those additions with re-signing Carl Hagelin and Jakub Vrana, and you got a balanced Capitals team ready to defend their spot atop the Metropolitan Division and vie for a deep playoff run.