The NHL’s “31 in 31” series have done their analysis of the Washington Capitals.
Senior writer for NHL.com Dan Rosen and Mike Johnson of the NHL Network talk about the Capitals’ recent postseason exit, their offseason alterations, and the effect that could have on the upcoming 2019-20 season.
The takeaway? “No question about it,” Rosen said, “the Washington Capitals: playoff team again.”
Rosen was optimistic about the changes general manager Brian MacLellan has made, in order “to slot everyone most appropriately and try to maximize their salary structure.”
Departed players like Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, and Andre Burakovsky could demand higher salaries higher than the Capitals could justify given where they would land on the Caps’ depth chart.
The Capitals’ top-six forwards remain the same, but there have been major changes to the projected third and fourth lines.
The defensive end has gone through even more of a shake-up. Matt Niskanen’s trade to the Flyers and Brooks Orpik’s retirement opened up space which will need to be filled by new acquisition Radko Gudas, a hopefully-healthy Michal Kempny, and Nick Jensen who came in late last season and was quickly signed to a four-year contract.
One of the players the two singled out to watch for improved performance is 23-year-old Jakub Vrana, the Czech winger who scored a career-best 24 goals and 47 points last season. “There’s more there, absolutely,” Johnson said. “He’s got more in him, there’s 30-goal, 60-point potential.”
With the same top-six forwards, a nipped-and-tucked back end, and better showings from players like Vrana and Braden Holtby, Rosen and Johnson do indeed think the Capitals have enough improved depth to make it deeper into the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2019-20.
Johnson was confident that the Capitals “are a legitimate–again–Stanley Cup contender.”
Headline photo: NBC Sports Washington
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