The Seattle Kraken will enter the NHL in the 2021-22 season. On July 23 and 24, there will be an Expansion Draft where the Kraken can select one player from every team to field a competitive roster. Each NHL franchise will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie.
TJ Oshie is one of the players that Capitals GM Brian MacLellan could leave unprotected. The reasoning is simple. It would help the Capitals recoup money towards a static salary cap and protect the organization from Oshie’s possible regression due to age. The Osh Babe is 34 and has four years remaining on an eight-year, $46 million deal. Being drafted would also make sense. He’s from Washington state. If selected, Oshie could end up being captain of the Kraken and the face of the franchise.
However, in no uncertain terms, Oshie made it clear on Tuesday during Capitals’ Breakdown Day that he wants to remain with the Capitals and not be left unprotected.
“I guess I’ve given thought to the possibility (of being selected by Seattle),” Oshie said. “My allegiance is here. I’ve done, I feel like, as much as I can to prove this is where I want to be. I’ve got family out there. That’s great, but Washington’s where I want to be. I’ve bled and cried here. This is where I want to stay long term. People can speculate and make assumptions about what I want to do or what I like. People bring up the ‘C.’ That stuff is not that important to me. This is where I want to be with my buddies, with my family. My kids are growing up here. This is where I love to play hockey.
“I signed an eight-year deal here because this is where I wanted to spend the rest of my career and retire here,” he added. “I know there’s a business side of things and there’s a reality to pro sports, team sports in particular, that there’s always a chance you could go somewhere else or be traded. I’ve approached every day since I’ve been here like it’s the last team I’ll ever play for. I think I’ve done a decent job of proving that to Lavy and Mac that this is where I want to be and can still be a big part of this team moving forward here as I get older. Had one of the better years scoring this year. I don’t feel like I’m slowing down at all and I’m looking forward to bringing another Cup to DC.”
What complicates a decision by the Capitals is that the 2020-21 season was one of the best of Oshie’s career if projected out to 82 games. Oshie scored 22 goals in 53 games and was on pace to score 34 times – a career-high. The 22 lamplighters were the fifth most of his career and the sixth time he’s scored 20 goals in a season. He was also on pace for 66 points (43p in 53g), which would have been another career-high. He remains an above-average top-six player and the best five seasons of his career have been in Washington after a normal player’s prime.
“This expansion stuff, I wouldn’t want to be the guy that has to select who to protect and who not to,” he said.
Then there’s the fact that Oshie is also one of the most beloved players in team history by fans. He’s a part of the Capitals’ leadership group and considered a glue guy by his teammates.
“We stand behind that guy for anything and everything. He’s the heartbeat of our team,” John Carlson said recently.
Oshie said the rumors of him possibly being left unprotected by the Capitals weren’t “a distraction just because I don’t really look at anything on social media or the news.” He also believes the Capitals core, despite its age, is good enough to continue making championship runs.
“If you knew these guys like I did, I don’t know if it matters how old this core gets,” he said. “We’re going to be right there. We’re going to be battling. We’re going to be contending and we have a real shot. As long as this core’s here, we have a real shot to win the Cup.”
He added that the team’s third straight first-round loss could force change and that the team is hurting behind the scenes.
“These days are tough,” Oshie said referencing the team’s elimination game and Breakdown Day. “It’s a lot better when you’re hungover from celebrating for sure. It’s a lot of hard questions like the ones we’re answering right now. A lot of tough goodbyes. More tough questions in the back of the dressing room about what needs to change, what can change, what we didn’t do good enough. These days are definitely tough but it is a day to go in and thank the guys for what they did this year. It’s a day to go in and thank the trainers and the staff for all the support we get that you guys maybe don’t see behind the scenes. It is a good day in that regard to show our respects to those guys.
“I think any summer you don’t end up at the end, or even when you do raising the Cup, I don’t know what’s going to happen. You kinda sit and wait. You hope you did enough of a job to be here and part of the process of making another run at it next year.”
Headline photo courtesy of @TJOshie7
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