Have The Capitals Had A Bad Offseason So Far?

Max Pacioretty, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Max Pacioretty, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Capitals are coming off of their worst season in quite some time. The 2022-23 season ended with the Capitals failing to qualify for the playoffs. That is the first time that had happened since 2014, and only the second time they had missed the postseason since 2008. It happens, the NHL is a tough league with a lot of good teams.

The problem the Capitals have is that this team is not talking about just making the playoffs. This is a team that is still talking about making a long run in the playoffs and hopefully winning a Stanley Cup after that long run.

Since winning the Cup in 2018 the Caps have had very little success, at least in the postseason. They were knocked out in the first round every year from 2019 to 2022. Some of those playoff appearances were very uninspiring at the same time. Unfortunately, as we have already said, that lack of success started a little earlier this past season with Washington not even making the dance in April and May.

This is a team that needs some major changes. Some big changes have been made. At least one or two anyways.

Last season at the trade deadline the Capitals traded away longtime Cap Dmitry Orlov. Not long after that trade they acquired a younger defenseman in Rasmus Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs. To close out the season Sandin looked good, at least offensively. That can give Capital fans some hope going forward.

The Capitals made some other moves but nothing you can call major.

Coming into this offseason I think some bigger moves were expected. A potential Evgeny Kuznetsov trade. Maybe an Anthony Mantha gets moved after his struggles in D.C. It wouldn’t be the biggest in terms of a shakeup, but maybe a Tom Wilson extension, which could still happen and likely will soon.

Maybe the biggest move that hasn’t happened is a trade for a impactful, prime aged, top six forward. Something General Manager Brian MacLellan said recently. They have apparently tried to make moves but nothing has developed.

Something else MacLellan said after last season was that the team also wanted to get younger. That can still happen obviously. We have no idea what the roster will look like on October 13th when the Capitals open their season vs the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But lets just recap here for a second. The Capitals have wanted to get younger. They have not done that yet, and have also kind of failed at that at the same time. We’ll talk about that in a second. But getting younger is still TBD. We’ll see what happens at the start of the season. They also wanted to make a few trades, and those have not yet happened either.

So, based on some things the General Manager has said, has this been a bad start to the offseason for Washington?

The team has not made a trade to either shake up the team, or bring in a new and younger impact top six forward. On top of not getting younger, as of yet, they started free agency by acquiring two older players. Not only two older players, two older players who have some injury questions.

The more headline making news was signing Max Pacioretty. That is a name every hockey fan should know. Over his 855 career games played he has well over 300 career goals. If you want to be specific, he has 326 goals. He has scored over thirty goals six times and came close to forty goals (39) back in 2013-14 when he was a part of the Canadiens.

In name, this is a terrific signing. But is it two, three or four years too late? Instead of signing Pacioretty at thirty, or thirty-one, or ideally even younger, they are signing him at thirty-four and by time he debuts for Washington he could already have turned thirty-five years old.

The reason he might debut after turning thirty-five in late November is he is injured. Pacioretty has gone through a couple of really nasty injuries in the last year or so. Before last season started he tore his Achilles tendon. He was able to return in January of the same season but then after playing in just five game he tore it again. That is what will keep him out of the lineup early season for the Capitals.

Lets point out the obvious about this signing. This is not a bad deal. He signed a one year $2 million dollar deal. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. It doesn’t break the bank and he won’t need to stick around long.

If it does work that Capitals signed a guy who could probably easily help you score at the very least twenty goals, maybe even thirty. That would be a bargain and one heck of a signing.

They call this kind of deal “low risk, high reward”. That’s what this is. Bad signing? No. Going against what the team needs and should do? A little bit. They need to get younger, instead they get older and potentially more injury prone on a team full of old guys who are maybe already injury prone if last season was any indication of what to expect going forward.

As a human, you have to root for Pacioretty. He has had an excellent career. You just hope it hasn’t been ruined by some nasty injuries later in his career. Hopefully he can have one or a couple of more very good seasons, and now Capitals fans are the ones hoping for that the most.

The Capitals also acquired Joel Edmundson from the Montreal Canadiens in a small trade. Edmundson is less flashy as a player and name compared to Pacioretty but he could be a solid addition as well.

It sounds like the thirty-year-old defenseman just ran out of room in Montreal with the young emerging defensemen on that team. The Caps did not give up much to get him and they potentially got a good defenseman who can jump up in the lineup if needed, but will probably be a solid third pair guy for Washington.

But again, you have to ask the question. Does this move go against what the Capitals need to be doing? Instead of getting younger and giving younger guys the chance, maybe their path has been blocked. Instead of having a young, potentially very good defensemen playing, maybe they have a thirty-year-old with back issues? The back problems apparently hindering him last season.

Is this a bad deal? Again, no, I don’t think so. This could be a cheap 7th defensemen with the young guys getting most of the time. Edmundson can come in and play a solid game, and give the young guys a break if they need it, or can be some very good injury insurance.

This is a Capitals team that continues to talk about competing. With the moves this team has made so far this offseason are they much better? I personally don’t think so. There are still a lot of teams in the east that are better than they are, I think.

New York is still very good, New Jersey only seems to be getting better, Carolina will still be very good. I don’t think these moves from the Capitals jumps those teams, and that is just their own division. Pittsburgh was also better than the Caps last season and they missed the playoffs. The Pens have been very active and I think gotten better as well. I don’t know how much better, but Washington will still have to jump them.

Then we can start talking about the Atlantic division. If the Caps can’t crack the top three in the metro division, which I wouldn’t pick them to do, can they fight off the strong and up and coming teams in the other eastern division. They’re not competing with Toronto right now. Tampa will still be good. Florida just made the Cup Final. Who knows what Boston will be. Can the Capitals fight off the up and coming Sabres, Senators and Red Wings. Those teams are coming. Montreal probably is as well.

The bottom line is simple. The Capitals signed two older guys with some injuries questions. This is already and older team and they also already have injury questions. They didn’t get younger and they still need to. They need to make a move to shake things up and they haven’t. Teams around them are getting better or just flat out are already much better.

This is a Capitals team that continues to talk about competing. Is this a Cup contending team right now? I’m not sure this is a playoff contending team right now. So if they’re not that great of a team, why make the moves they have made this offseason so far?

I’ve said this before, this feels like a desperate team. These feel like some desperate moves. Bring in a name that has had success and could help. But thanks to time that name might not be as helpful as some hope. The moves the Capitals have made recently feel like putting a band-aid over a wound that needs a lot more work than that.

This is the hope without a bigger move happening at some point this offseason. The young guys come into camp and do very well. They have good seasons and send the Capitals into the next era of competing.

There is no evidence of that happening yet so I am not banking on that, but it could happen. Without that happening this could be another long season in D.C.

Has this been a bad offseason so far for the Capitals? I don’t know if you can say that. If these two moves work then both deals could be steals. But at the same time, this is a roster that needs a lot of work and not a lot has been done. They continue to talk about competing. With what this roster did last season, and the teams around them, I just don’t know what this team will be competing for.

Must Read. Was Max Pacioretty brought on to replace Anthony Mantha?. light

There is still a lot of time this offseason. So lets hope some more moves will be made to help this Capitals franchise get back towards the top.