Tuesday morning, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman released his latest 30 Thoughts column. Friedman had four bullet points about the Caps, including explanations into why this is the last chance for this current iteration of the team to win the Stanley Cup.
According to Friedman, Brian MacLellan is planning to offer new contracts for Karl Alzner and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it could get pricey.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” MacLellan told Friedman. “We’re not sure what the dynamic is going to be. There are so many questions…how we do (this season) is going to answer a lot of them.”
17. Washington GM Brian MacLellan on what he hopes to see from his team: “The biggest thing for me is for our guys to recognize big moments in the game and step up. That was the difference in the Pittsburgh series. They did it and we didn’t.” One week ago, the Capitals were up 2-1 on the Rangers with a double-minor for their lethal power play. “We had a chance to bear down and bury them,” MacLellan said. It didn’t happen. New York had a great kill, then scored three in a row to win. Last Wednesday, they cut Edmonton’s lead to 2-1, only to give it back 76 seconds later. They recovered with a weekend sweep in Vancouver and Calgary.
18. Other than that, MacLellan said, “I like what we’ve got. We’re as good as ever down the middle.” A key to that is Lars Eller. His previous GM, Bergevin, has a saying: “There are guys who get you there and guys who get you through.” There was a time he felt Eller was the latter. MacLellan hopes so. “He’s stronger and faster than we thought. He should be a producer of more offence. He’s a quiet guy but has the ability to elevate. Pittsburgh was his best game.” That was the opener, with the Penguins raising the banner.
19. Finally, the Capitals GM has said that new contracts for Karl Alzner and Evgeny Kuznetsov mean this could be the final run for this particular group. “There are a lot of moving parts. We’re not sure what the dynamic is going to be. There are so many questions…how we do is going to answer a lot of them.” A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Kuznetsov’s painful summer, mentally trying to get over a disappointing performance both personally and for the team. “He got down on himself. His body language…there’s a hang-dog look to him when it’s not going his way. The coaches are trying to work him through it, don’t put your head down. Get more competitive as opposed to getting negative on himself.”
20. Kuznetsov could take a lesson from Nash, who showed up in a positive frame of mind despite a hard season that ended with trade rumours swirling. “You can dwell on the negatives for a long time if you want, but no one feels sorry for you,” he said. While he’s trying a few new things, Nash says he’s stayed with pretty much the same routine he started three years ago, before he scored 42 goals in 2014-15. “Last year was so tough. I couldn’t score and before I could find the rhythm, I got hurt. It’s like a cliche, but I felt I finally found my stride in Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs.” Pittsburgh eliminated the Rangers in 5 “and I worked as hard as I could all summer.”
Over this summer, several of the Caps’ promising young players will be restricted free agents including Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, and Philipp Grubauer. Meanwhile veterans Karl Alzner, TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, and Daniel Winnik will all be coming off the books as unrestricted free agents July 1.
Kuznetsov ($3,000,000) and Burakovsky ($894,167) are both due huge raises while the 28-year-old Alzner ($2,800,000) remains one of the team’s most reliable defensemen. Additionally, several players in Hershey including Jakub Vrana, Travis Boyd, and Madison Bowey could all be pushing for roster spots next season as well.
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