By Ian Oland
The Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights four games to one to win the Stanley Cup four years ago this week.
Since then, the Capitals have not won a playoff series since, getting first-rounded four consecutive times. While the Caps’ core and identity have largely stayed the same, the 2018 team’s supporting cast has moved on. Only nine of those 27 players are still on the team while two others, Shane Gersich and Pheonix Copley, remain in the organization.
Some key members of the 2018 championship team have flourished elsewhere. Others have wound down their careers or retired in different organizations or leagues.
For this exercise, we’re going to focus on the “departed” in alphabetical order. The Capitals’ championship players that remain on the NHL team include Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, Michal Kempny (pending UFA), Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and TJ Oshie.
Fun fact: Since winning a championship, Ovechkin has scored 173 goals in four seasons, including 50 goals twice. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy back-to-back in 2019 and 2020. Next season will be his age-37 season. Ovi has 780 career goals now. He had 607 then.
Jay Beagle #83
THEN: Capitals fourth line center
NOW: Arizona Coyotes, pending UFA
Jay Beagle was an unsung hero on the Caps championship team, scoring eight points (2g, 6a) in 23 games. Beagle won 60.1 percent of his draws that playoff year, forming a dangerous trio with Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly. When the Capitals won, Beags became the first player ever to win the Kelly Cup (ECHL), Calder Cup (AHL), and Stanley Cup (NHL). A beloved member of the DC community, Beagle held a special connection with fans that has endured.
After the Cup win, Beagle left the Capitals during the offseason of 2018, inking a four-year $12 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Beagle’s return game to DC on February 5, 2019, was emotional. Fans overwhelmed Beagle with signs during warmups.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 5, 2019
Multiple times during the game the checking-line centered appeared to be choking back tears, including during a tribute video that garnered a hug from Alex Ovechkin out on the ice.
💙❤️ #HockeyHugs pic.twitter.com/aOVszVtgYg
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 6, 2019
While Beagle remains elite in the dot, his overall production has lagged since leaving the Capitals. Beagle scored 23 goals in his final three seasons for Washington, but only found the back of the net six times in three years for the Canucks. Vancouver eventually flipped Beagle to the Arizona Coyotes in a salary cap dump during the 2021 offseason. The Coyotes played Beagle at times at its first-line center position, but injuries plagued Jay’s 2021-22 season leaving him with two points in 33 games. Beagle also became public enemy number one when he beat up Troy Terry during the same game Trevor Zegras scored on The Michigan. Beagle, 36, enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. It’s possible he could end up retiring if he doesn’t land a deal.
Madison Bowey #22
THEN: Capitals depth defenseman
NOW: Vancouver Canucks, pending UFA
Bowey, as a rookie, played 51 games for the Capitals’ championship team during the regular season but did not suit up in the playoffs. The next season, Bowey was traded to the Detroit Red Wings as part of the deal that sent Nick Jensen to Washington. Bowey spent two seasons in Detroit before moving on to Chicago and Vancouver. Bowey made two appearances for the Canucks this past season. He’s a UFA this summer.
Notably, Bowey wrote about his experience as a Black hockey player growing up in the Players’ Tribune. It’s a must-read.
Travis Boyd #72
THEN: Capitals bottom six forward
NOW: Arizona Coyotes’ first-line center
Like Bowey, Travis Boyd made his NHL debut during the 2017-18 regular season, playing in eight games. Boyd made one appearance for the Caps during the postseason that year. He stuck around two more seasons in DC before signing as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boyd had a modicum of success north of the border before signing the next season with the Arizona Coyotes during the 2021 offseason. Boyd got a huge opportunity in Glendale, playing a large chunk of his time as the team’s first-line center. The Yotes gave Boyd a two-year extension in March worth $1.75 million per season.
This past May, Boyd got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Kelsey.
Andre Burakovsky #65
THEN: Washington Capitals middle six forward
NOW: Colorado Avalanche top six forward
Former brobean and Tom Wilson roommate, Andre Burakovsky, scored huge goals in elimination games for the Capitals. His clutch performances late in series, especially his two-goal night during Game Seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning, were one of the many reasons why the Capitals went so deep that year.
But despite Burakovsky’s scintillating wrister and high-end skating ability, the 2013 first-round pick could never permanently carve out a top-six role for himself with the Capitals. Players like Ovechkin, Oshie, Vrana, and Wilson relegated Burra to a smaller role. After having arguably his worst season pro during the 2018-19 season under new coach Todd Reirden, Burakovsky requested a trade, which Brian MacLellan honored. The Capitals’ GM sent Burakovsky to the Avalanche for draft picks.
Since then, Burakovsky has scored 20 goals twice and tallied a career-high 61 points during the 2021-22 season. He’s gotten opportunities to skate with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the first line. He’s also received a ton of power-play time, something that he was not afforded in Washington. Burakovsky has scored double-digit power-play points every season in Colorado. He never accomplished that once with the Capitals.
Monday night, Burakovsky’s Avalanche swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final. Burakovsky is returning to the championship series for the first time since winning it all with the Capitals in 2018.
Alex Chiasson #39
THEN: Washington Capitals fourth-line forward
NOW: Vancouver Canucks middle-six forward/PP specialist/pending UFA
An achievement to be proud of.
600th game for Alex Chiasson! pic.twitter.com/eCiK5Qas8a
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 1, 2022
Alex Chiasson was a journeyman pickup by the Capitals during the 2017-18 season. Chaser made the team out of training camp and carved out a role for himself as a depth forward on the team’s fourth line. The Canadian sniper scored nine goals and had 18 points in 61 regular-season games. He played in 16 games during the Caps’ Cup run. His only goal came in the Capitals’ elimination of the Penguins in Game Six.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan opted not to bring Chiasson, an unrestricted free agent, back the next season and his career in the NHL seemed over. Chiasson would not get an offer over the summer and eventually settled for another professional tryout with the Edmonton Oilers. Chiasson once again made the team out of training camp and had his biggest year pro in 2018-19, scoring 22 goals for the Oilers. Chiasson also became a valuable player on the power play, rubbing elbows with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the first unit. He registered eight goals and 15 points on the power play.
After seeing his goal totals decrease the next two seasons, Chiasson signed with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2021 offseason. Chiasson, 31, rebounded with 13 goals in 67 games. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent in July.
Alex Chiasson agent Pat Morris : Alex has no intention to sign in Switzerland. His 1st intention is to resign with VAN if there is reciprocal interest…or failing that continue his career with another NHL team at the appropriate free agency period. VAN is his 1st choice.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) May 26, 2022
Taylor Chorney #4
THEN: Washington Capitals depth defenseman
NOW: Retired from hockey in 2021
#4 Taylor Chorney nimmt den Pass auf die rechte Seite direkt ab und schießt zum 2:0 ein. #GoRedBulls #RedBullsGameday #warriorhockey @betathomeICE pic.twitter.com/VxwAKt7brq
— EC Red Bull Salzburg (@ecrbs) November 27, 2020
Taylor Chorney was traded midseason to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2017-18 season. A beloved teammate, the Capitals got Chorney a championship ring even though he only 24 games with the team that season.
This is pretty awesome. Taylor Chorney, who was with the Washington Capitals until late last season, went to visit his old teammates… and they had quite the surprise for him. VIDEO >>> pic.twitter.com/vjvpac2edn
— Brad Elliott Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) April 6, 2019
After the season, Chorney left the NHL after eight seasons and went to Europe. He first signed a two-year contract with HC Lugano of the Swiss National League. Chorney then finished his career in 2020-21 with EC Red Bull Salzburg of the IceHL. He announced his retirement on Instagram.
“It has been a heck of a journey over the last 13 years,” Chorney wrote. “Hockey has always been at the front of my mind but with some time now to reflect, the friendships and experiences along the way are what I will cherish the most. Thanks to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of ‘working’ with along the way.”
[Sounds the ‘Chorn Horn’]
Brett Connolly #10
THEN: Washington Capitals third line forward
NOW: AHL Rockford IceHogs forward
Medical Update: Forward Brett Connolly will miss 4-6 weeks (left knee) after suffering an injury in Winnipeg last Saturday. https://t.co/ybomBkSOTc
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) April 23, 2022
Brett Connolly was a Tampa Bay Lightning first-round draft pick in 2010 that finally realized his talent in Washington, tying or tallying new career highs in goals every season he was in DC (15, 15, and 22). Connolly found a home on the team’s third line with Lars Eller, scoring six goals in the 2018 playoffs including twice in the Stanley Cup Final (G1, G4). He was on the ice for Lars Eller’s Cup-winning goal. Brett’s pizza-eating tattoo photo inspired one of the best fan tattoos honoring the Capitals’ championship team from Tyler Duchaine.
I uh…yeah. pic.twitter.com/lnWqdGelTJ
— Tyler Duchaine (@tylerduchaine) June 7, 2022
After a career year during the 2018-19 season, Connolly left the cash-strapped Capitals for Florida as an unrestricted free agent, inking a four-year $14 million contract. The grass was not greener in Sunrise, however. Connolly started strong (19 goals in 2019-20) but eventually fell out of favor with Joel Quenneville. Connolly was put on waivers and eventually traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in April of 2021. Connolly, 30, played a majority of the 2021-22 season for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, after delivering a terrible but accidental hit to Tanner Kero. The right-winger was elite in the A, scoring 35 points (17g, 18a) in 37 games. Connolly’s season ended early after suffering a left knee injury in April.
Connolly remains under NHL contract for the 2022-23 season where he will make $3.5 million in the final year of his contract.
Christian Djoos #29
THEN: Washington Capitals bottom pairing defenseman
NOW: Plays in Swiss National League for EV Zug
Christian Djoos was a long shot to make the NHL. But the undersized 2012 seventh-round pick defied the odds. The Swedish rearguard worked hard in the AHL and used his smarts and good skating ability to earn an opportunity from the Capitals. Djoos made his NHL debut for the Capitals in the 2017-18 season and played virtually every game for the Capitals during their Stanley Cup run (22), cementing the Djoos is loose pun in Capitals canon.
New shirt 👌 #DjoosIsLoose pic.twitter.com/mQVLP6lAnr
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 9, 2018
Djoos’ Caps’ career was never the same after missing a significant amount of time during the 2018-19 due to a gnarly compartment syndrome injury to his left thigh and then getting a favorable arbitration award during the 2019 offseason, which left the cap-strapped Caps without an avenue to play him at the NHL level to start the 2019-20 season.
Djoos scored Hershey’s Teddy Bear Toss goal in 2019 before eventually being flipped to Anaheim in a trade deadline deal later in the year for talented forward prospect Daniel Sprong. Djoos had a modicum of success with the Ducks but got placed on waivers ahead of the 2020-21 season where he was claimed by the Detroit Red Wings. Djoos played out the year with Detroit before deciding to leave the NHL for Europe, signing a two-year contract with EV Zug of the Swiss National League.
Djoos was a big minute player for the team in 2021-22 and helped lead EV Zug to the Swiss league championship. Djoos had 12 points (4g, 8a) in 15 games during the team’s postseason run.
Christian Djoos a joué de chance sur le deuxième but de l'@official_EVZ dans l'Acte IV de la #finale de #NationalLeague, mais cette réussite s'est avérée être celle de la victoire!
Tous les highlights et interviews de la soirée ⤵https://t.co/uYzhiXQ9sZ pic.twitter.com/gZU7NBOCms
— MySports_CH_fr (@MySports_CH_fr) April 25, 2022
Djoos also got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Ebba in 2020.
Philipp Grubauer #31
THEN: Washington Capitals backup goaltender
NOW: Seattle Kraken starting goaltender/Vezina Trophy finalist with Colorado Avalanche
When I talked to Olie Kolzig about Philipp Grubauer back in the day, Kolzig told me to pay attention to the then German prospect goaltender because he was something special. He was right.
Grubauer, the backup during the regular season, began the Capitals’ 2018 playoff run as the team’s starter after late-season struggles by Braden Holtby. Grubi would lose the first two games against Columbus, leaving Barry Trotz to cosmically turn back to Holtby and the rest is history.
With Holtby as the team’s entrenched starter for 2018-19, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan flipped Grubi and another Capitals legend that we will talk about later to the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche for draft picks. The move was to give Grubauer the opportunity he craved but wouldn’t get in Washington and save the team cap space. Over a three-year period with the Avalanche, Grubauer eventually grabbed the reigns of the team’s starting job, becoming a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2021 after posting these sensational numbers during the pandemic shortened season: a 30-9-1 record, 1.95 GAA, .922 save percentage, and seven shutouts in 40 appearances.
An unrestricted free agent during the 2021 offseason, Grubauer chose to leave the Avs for the Seattle Kraken, signing a six-year, $35.4 million contract with the expansion team ($5.9M AAV).
The goaltender’s first season with the Kraken was poor as the team scuffled to the league’s third-worst record (27-49-6). Grubauer posted a .889 save percentage and had a league-worst -33.7 goals saved above expected per Money Puck. Grubauer will be the starter next season as Chris Driedger had surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Braden Holtby #70
THEN: Washington Capitals starting goaltender
NOW: Dallas Stars backup goaltender/pending UFA
We all remember The Save.
But Holtby did a lot more than that to will the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup win in 2018. Holtby came in relief of Philipp Grubauer in Game Three of the team’s first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and basically became A God with an aggressive neckbeard. Holtby backstopped the Caps to four straight victories over CBJ to push the team to a 4-2 series win. Then, in the Eastern Conference Final, he posted two consecutive shutouts in Games Six and Seven to eliminate the Tampa Bay Lightning and send the Caps to the Stanley Cup Final.
Holtby remained in DC through the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season where the team got first-rounded by the New York Islanders in the Bubble Loffs. Then changes were made. Brian MacLellan decided to give the keys to prospect goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek – an experiment that is still playing out – and Holtby, who wanted to return, signed a two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks as an unrestricted free agent. Moving north of the border proved initially difficult due to his tortoises.
Holtby showed flashes of brilliance in Vancouver, but the Canucks, as a team, were a mess in 2021.
Vancouver finished last in the North Division and decided to buy out Holtby during last summer’s offseason as Thatcher Demko took the reigns as the team’s full-time starter. Holtby then signed with the Stars as a free agent.
2021-22 played out much the same as 2020-21 did. Holtby split time with prospect Jakob Oettinger, but there were some huge personal highlights. Holtby was honored by the NHL for making the best save/s of the season.
Holtby also became the winningest goaltender in NHL history through their first 500 games last season. His homecoming game in DC was also memorable. Braden is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Holtby still has strong ties to DC. Despite selling his Alexandria, VA, home after signing with Vancouver in 2020, Holtby recently bought a new house in the area. He’s been spotted at Washington Nationals games, too.
For his efforts on the ice in a Capitals uniform, Holtby is one of the most revered players in team history. But his activism and kindness to the most vulnerable communities have made him one of the most beloved and respected Capitals players of all time. His legend has only grown with time.
Jakub Jerabek #28
THEN: Washington Capitals depth defenseman
NOW: Signed to HC Oceláři Třinec in Czechia for the 2022-23 season
Do @telhcz se Kuba Jeřábek vrací po letech v NHL a KHL. „Během těch 6 let v zahraničí jsem toho hodně zažil a doufám, že mě zlepšily, i jako hokejistu k lepšímu. Vracím se do Česka jako zkušenější a klidnější hráč, kterému jde o týmový úspěch."
📰➡️ https://t.co/Fiv2trtPWf pic.twitter.com/MbnPt7crwb
— 🏆🏆🏆 Oceláři Mis3 (@hcocelaricz) June 6, 2022
Brian MacLellan acquired Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline for added depth in the playoffs. The Czech defenseman played in two games during that playoff run, tallying an assist.
Jerabek did not return after that. He signed with the St. Louis Blues over the 2018 offseason and spent most of the 2018-19 season in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage (52 games). After only getting one game with the Blues, Jerabek took his talents overseas and became a full-time effective defender in the KHL. Jerabek spent two seasons with Vityaz Podolsk (his first season he was a first-team All-Star) and one campaign with Spartak Moskva before leaving Russia to sign with HC Oceláři Třinec in Czechia.
“I like the vision of the club, I was impressed by the coach,” Jerabek said per Google Translate in June. “But most of all, I heard from a lot of guys what the background is here. And I know that the conditions in the area and the Beskydy Mountains are ideal for the family as well. And I’m definitely looking forward to returning to the extra league, after six years abroad I have great respect for it. Extraliga has its quality.”
Jerabek represented Czechia in the 2022 Winter Olympics. His sister Margaret is a star on Czechia’s national handball team.
Matt Niskanen #2
THEN: Washington Capitals top four defenseman
NOW: Retired from the NHL in 2020
13 seasons, 949 regular season games and a #StanleyCup – an NHL career to be proud of. Best of luck to Matt Niskanen as he enters retirement! pic.twitter.com/6r8R0VKygF
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) October 6, 2020
Matt Niskanen teamed with Dmitry Orlov to form the Capitals’ best shutdown pairing in the 2018 playoffs. The pairing’s effectiveness waned in 2018-19 though and the Capitals jettisoned Nisky to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas.
Niskanen played one season for the Philadelphia Flyers before retiring at 33, turning down the remaining $5.75 million of his seven-year contract.
Since leaving the sport, Niskanen has largely disappeered from social media except for when he settled the score with a Penguins fan who got a vulgar tattoo of him done. It’s one of our favorite RMNB exclusives of all-time.
Brooks Orpik #44
THEN: Washington Capitals bottom pairing defenseman
NOW: Retired from the NHL in 2019, Graduated from college in 2022.
Now serves Capitals Development Coach and Boston College Assistant Coach
☑️ NCAA Champion
☑️ Stanley Cup Winner
☑️ @BostonCollege Graduate
Congrats to assistant coach Brooks Orpik ’22 🤝 pic.twitter.com/r9IMgeKrXN
— BC Men's Hockey (@BC_MHockey) May 24, 2022
Brooks Orpik was hailed by the media (especially us) as the NHL’s worst free agent signing of the 2014 offseason. Looking to overhaul the Capitals’ defense, Brian MacLellan gave Matt Niskanen a seven-year deal and inked a mid-30s Orpik, who was coming off a poor season with the Penguins, a five-year, $27.5 million contract worth $5.5 million a season. Orpik and MacLellan got the last laugh however and Caps fans all benefitted.
Orpik ended up being a crucial piece of the Capitals’ championship team — he scored the game-winning goal in Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final — and was a warrior throughout that year’s playoffs run.
That marriage ended briefly during the Caps’ summer with Lord Stanley. Orpik was part of a trade that sent Philipp Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche on Draft Day. Orpik, who was going into the final year of deal, was only an Av for three days before the team bought him out of his deal. The Avalanche legend then re-signed with the Capitals on a one-year, $1 million contract a month later raising some eye brows across the league. Kinda fishy! No?
The 2018-19 would be Orpik’s final season playing professional hockey. Orpik retired at its conclusion at age 38, citing knee issues and wanting to spend more time with his family.
“I guess it doesn’t matter (if I’m honest) at this point,” Orpik said. “I’d use the elevator at (Capital One Arena) to go up and down because I couldn’t go up and down the stairs. When I couldn’t do that, it was probably time to stop playing hockey. It was at a point where I could play for two and a half hours and pay for it afterward and try to do it all over again. The trainers helped me out a lot here this year and I almost felt guilty because they’ve got 23, 24 guys to take care of and I was taking up so much of their time.”
Since ending his hockey career, Orpik became a Development Coach with the Capitals and an Assistant Coach for Boston College’s men’s hockey team. The coach also began taking college classes again and officially graduated in May 24 years after he began his freshman year. What an inspiration!
Devante Smith-Pelly #25
THEN: Washington Capitals bottom six forward
NOW: AHL Laval Rocket/pending free agent
DSP 🤩#GoRocket pic.twitter.com/4Ts7bc7rq1
— x – Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) May 14, 2022
After a down 2016-17 season in New Jersey due to injury, Brian MacLellan took a flyer on bottom six forward Devante Smith-Pelly. DSP ended up becoming one of the biggest legends in Capitals history.
Devante scored seven huge goals during the Capitals’ playoff run. None bigger than his Game Five game-tying goal in the Stanley Cup Final where he scored on future Hall of Fame goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury while falling to the ice. Wayne Gretzky called DSP the Capitals’ “unlikely hero.”
Smith-Pelly would turn down a multi-year deal from another team to re-sign a one-year deal with the Capitals over the offseason to try and run it back. When reporting to training camp, Todd Reirden said DSP was “not at the level he needs to be”. That seemed to set the tenor for the season. Smith-Pelly would be sent to Hershey at the trade deadline before returning briefly for three games in the playoffs.
Over that summer, Smith-Pelly did not receive a new contract, instead having to try and play onto the Calgary Flames through a PTO. DSP did not make the team and eventually decided to pick back his hockey career with a Chinese KHL team, the Kunlun Red Star.
The 2020-21 season saw Smith-Pelly suit up in the AHL with the Ontario Reign. Along with Quinton Byfield and Akil Thomas, DSP helped form hockey’s first all-Black line since the 1940s.
Midseason in 2022, Smith-Pelly signed a PTO with AHL Laval Rocket. DSP’s contract was extended after that. He scored four goals and had eight points in 24 games.
C'est au tour de Smith-Pelly de marquer!
It's DSP's turn to score!#GoRocket pic.twitter.com/IIbMIMmrWt
— x – Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) March 10, 2022
Laval is currently in the Eastern Conference Final against the Springfield Thunderbirds. He’s played in three playoff games and has two shots on goal.
Chandler Stephenson #18
THEN: Washington Capitals bottom six forward
NOW: Vegas Golden Knights top six forward
Slick-skating Chandler Stephenson played in all 24 games of the team’s Stanley Cup run, contributing two goals and four assists.
After one more season with the Caps where he was unable to carve out a major role for himself (11 points in 64 games), the Capitals flipped Stephenson to the Golden Knights. It is there where Stephenson has realized all of his potential. Lil’ Steve had 35 points in 51 games in 2020-21 and hit the 20-goal plateau (21) for the first time in 2021-22. Stephenson was at times the team’s first line center and tallied 64 points in 79 games, including double digits in power play points (14) for the first time in his NHL career. He signed a four-year deal worth $11 million in 2020.
Not only is Stephenson a bonafide star now, but he’s also a dad of tiny Ford Stephenson.
Jakub Vrana #13
THEN: Washington Capitals middle six forward
NOW: Detroit Red Wings’ superstar
#RedWings Wrap-Up: Vrana's return provides offensive spark; finishes with 13 goals and six assists in just 26 games.
📰 » https://t.co/ixVboR0Rzc pic.twitter.com/GW5pyYORJ9
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) June 3, 2022
Young star Jakub Vrana had eight points (3g, 5a) in 23 games during the ’18 loffs, including the first goal of Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final.
Vrana was a fan favorite in Washington. NBC Sports Washington’s Craig Laughlin frequently called him a future superstar during telecasts. But V’s two-way play clashed with Capitals coaches and the problem came to a head under Peter Laviolette. Brian MacLellan flipped Vrana (and Richard Panik) to the Detroit Red Wings for Anthony Mantha.
Vrana scored eight goals in his first 11 games with the Red Wings in 2020-21 including a four-goal game.
Ahead of the 2021-22 season, Vrana injured his shoulder on the first day of training camp. He returned later in the year and had 13 goals in 26 games.
Vrana could eclipse the 40-goal mark in Detroit if he keeps up this pace over a full season.
Nathan Walker #79
THEN: Washington Capitals black ace
NOW: St. Louis Blues forward
Nathan Walker was one of the black aces on the Capitals’ Cup team. He ended up playing in two games and tallied a primary assist on an Alex Chiasson goal during the Penguins’ elimination in Game Six. He should have gotten his name on the Stanley Cup.
Walker spent one more season with the Capitals in 2018-19 before signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues. Walker spent a majority of the last three seasons with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, San Antonio Rampage. During the 2021-22 season, Walker scored his first career NHL hat trick against the Red Wings, becoming the first Australian in NHL history to do so.
He had eight goals in 30 games for the Blues this season.
Walker is under contract for next season with St. Louis. He makes $750k.
Walker now has two children, Winnie and Storm.
THEN: Washington Capitals head coach
NOW: Fired by New York Islanders
The @NYIslanders have relieved Barry Trotz of his duties as Head Coach. pic.twitter.com/v7f8XuAGOl
— NHL (@NHL) May 9, 2022
Barry Trotz helped the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup in the playoffs, but was reportedly nearly fired by Caps brass during the regular season. Trotz tried to renegotiate his contract in the summer so that he could get a raise (or IMO force his way out). The two sides eventually agreed to part ways and Trotz stepped down.
Trotz was hired by the New York Islanders shortly after and given a five-year $20 million contract where he made $4 million a year.
Trotz led the Isles to an unlikely playoff appearance in 2019 (lost in the second round), and then to consecutive Eastern Conference Final appareances in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, the Islanders had a down year and missed the playoffs for the first time under Trotz. GM Lou Lamoriello fired Trotz at season’s end.
THEN: Washington Capitals assistant coach
NOW: New York Islanders head coach
Lane Lambert has been named Head Coach of the @NYIslanders.
Read more ➡️ https://t.co/OUmxauaMZH pic.twitter.com/2vFpUSsWFk
— NHL (@NHL) May 16, 2022
Which leads us to Lane Lambert! Lambert was on Trotz’s staff as an assistant and followed his lieutenant to Long Island. A few weeks ago, he was hired by Lou Lamoriello to be the team’s new coach after the firing of Trotz. The opportunity is Lambert’s first head coaching gig in the NHL.
THEN: Washington Capitals associate coach
NOW: Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach (defense)
05.20.09: Reirden named coach of WBS
07.31.10: Reirden named assistant coach of PIT
06.12.13: Reirden signs contract extension
06.25.15: Reirden leaves Penguins staff
09.02.20: Reirden is back!
Reirden circles back to Pittsburgh: https://t.co/mgOC40ULGC pic.twitter.com/UU11moIP3o
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 2, 2020
Todd Reirden was promoted and hired as the Capitals’ 18th coach in team history after Barry Trotz left. Reirden led the Capitals to an 89-46-6 record during his two years behind the bench, but could not get the team past the first round of the playoffs. Reirden was promptly fired after Trotz’s Islanders took the Capitals to the woodshed during the Bubble Playoffs in 2020, losing in five games.
At the time, Reirden’s .642 point percentage ranked fifth in NHL history among coaches with at least 100 games.
Reirden did not stay unemployed long. The Penguins re-hired Reirden as an assistant coach as part of Mike Sullivan’s staff. Reirden was tabbed to be head coach for at least one game again after Sullivan was out due to COVID-19 in November 2021.
More bad news to report.
Head coach Mike Sullivan will not be available for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers due to COVID-related protocols. Assistant coach Todd Reirden will assume Sullivan’s duties behind the bench tonight in his absence.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 4, 2021
Reirden is now under consideration to be a head coach again. Elliotte Friedman reported in his 32 Thoughts podcast that the Chicago Blackhawks were considering hiriing him.
THEN: Washington Capitals head goaltending coach
NOW: New York Islanders director of goaltending
Lane Lambert, Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn (left to right) display their Stanley Cup rings after being presented with them prior to tonight’s #Isles – #Capitals game. pic.twitter.com/jBbC5QMCap
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) November 26, 2018
Mitch Korn also eventually followed Barry Trotz to the New York Islanders after the Caps’ breakup.
THEN: Washington Capitals PP coach
NOW: Washington Capitals PP coach
He’s still here.
P.S. – Here’s a photo of him with hair.
Big congratulations to former #WHLHitmen assistant coach Blaine Forsythe on becoming the seventh Hitmen alumnus to win the Stanley Cup!! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/MQt3bdjXAk
— Calgary Hitmen (@WHLHitmen) June 8, 2018
Headline photo: Ian Oland/RMNB
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