The Capitals Have Several Potentially Bad Contracts

Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Just a few days ago we talked about one of the contracts that the Washington Capitals have that is a potential steal. That contract belonging to Dylan Strome. Instead of wasting your time here you can just go ahead and click right here to read that if you would like.

Since we talked about which contract is very good for the Capitals, why not talk about the other end of the spectrum. If the Capitals have a very good contract with Strome and maybe another or two, notably Tom Wilson, How many bad or potentially bad contracts does the team have? Lets go ahead and take a look.

One name I think will be expected to be mentioned here. That name being Anthony Mantha. He is unfortunately a guy that has not had a great time in Washington, with the exception of his first few games with the team back in 2021.

The expectation for Mantha is that he scores goals. That is what people always say is his biggest strength, and he just has not done that enough as a member of the Capitals. He has played a total of 118 games for the team and he has scored 24 goals.

That is just not good enough, and it’s not good enough for the cap hit he brings. But is his contract among the worst for the Caps?

He makes too much for what he brings to the team. That is clear and obvious to say. But he does not really have to worst contract on the team anymore. While he does have a high cap hit of $5.7 million, his contract is up after this season. One way or another, the Capitals will not have to worry about this contract for much longer. I’m not sure you can have a bad contract that does not run that long.

It hasn’t worked in Washington, the contract has been bad for them, but going forward it’s about to end.

This is where some names could raise eyebrows.

What about Darcy Kuemper?

Kuemper is a guy who was brought in last off-season to turn their goaltending problem into a strength. That didn’t happen. It would be incredibly harsh to come out and say he had a bad season in his first season in Washington. He didn’t. He just didn’t have a great season.

He had a fine year. He was a fine goalie for the Capitals last season. But the Capitals did not sign him to a 5 year contract with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million to be fine. If the Caps wanted more fine or average goaltending play they probably could have stuck with Ilya Samsonov and/or Vitek Vanecek. Both of which went on to have nice seasons with their new teams last season.

Is Kuemper’s contract a bad contract? Probably not. With the cap likely going up, $5.25 probably won’t hurt the team too much in the future. But he needs to improve. The only thing that really concerns me about his deal is that it still has four years left on it and he is already 33-years-old. He will be on this deal until he is 37.

Can Kuemper improve his play? If or when he does, can he continue that into his late thirties? I don’t know if this is a bad contract, but going into this next season I think it’s one to keep an eye on.

What about the seemingly always disappointing Evgeny Kuznetsov? Is his $7.8 million a year a bad contract. It’s still not the worst. Especially when you consider that it only has two years left on it. If he still did not play up to his potential it might be an easier deal to move considering the length and the talent of the player.

But he still underperforms on more nights than not. Even with that being a fact he can still put up some points. You could and should call 2021-22 an up and down year for him. He started that year well and fell back into being a ghost on most nights during the second half of that season. Yet he still had 78 points in 79 games. Not too bad for a guy who only wanted to bring it for half a season.

Last season was, I suppose you could call it a disaster. When the team needed him most, again, most nights he just simply did not show up like a top of the lineup player needs to. Yet, even in a terrible season he was still able to put up 55 points. How many people would love their “disaster” season to be a 55 point season? Probably a lot of guys.

Does Kuznetsov have a bad contract? Not really. But if he has a season even close to last season it is a pretty big overpayment. You just cannot have a guy who looks as disinterested as Kuznetsov does as often as he does have as high of a cap hit as he does.

Finally, does Nicklas Backstrom have a bad contract? To me, this is maybe the biggest one to watch.

Backstrom has had a tremendous career with the Capitals. When talking about the best players in franchise history if he isn’t number two he isn’t much further down that list. Unfortunately you cannot pay guys for what they did for you, four, five or ten years ago. That’s a good way to get yourself in some cap problems.

Backstrom currently has a cap hit of $9.2 million a year. He still has injury concerns. The concern isn’t that he cannot stay healthy, it’s can he recover from his bad hip injury from a few seasons ago and be an impact player. If he isn’t an impact player, that cap hit hurts.

The weird thing is you might hope that cap hit hurts. You kind of hope Backstrom gets pushed down the lineup because that would mean young guys are coming in and taking the top spots away. That’s another discussion for another time though.

As for now, I think we have to wonder what Nicklas Backstrom is. Hopefully he can come into this season and have a fully healthy season and get back to something close to what he once was. But he is 35 or soon to be 36.

You have to hope Kuznetsov can find his game again. He would then be your number one center. We hope Strome can build off of his very good finish to the 22-23 season and be a no doubt top six center.

That means for the next two years the Capitals are paying their third line center $9.2 million. That is a heck of a cap hit for a 3C. And you hope he is a good third line center as well. If he still has issues getting around the rink and is as slow as he showed the last couple of seasons, he could hurt the team as much as he helps. Especially when going against the younger, faster and deeper, or maybe just as deep teams.

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Bad contract? Again, luckily it is just a deal with two more years. So the length won’t hurt you. But a 35-year-old with some health questions with a high cap hit isn’t the best thing to have. Of all of the iffy contracts the Capitals could have I think this is the one to watch out for.