The Washington Capitals are entering an important time period that could reshape the franchise during the final years of the Alex Ovechkin Era in DC. The NHL Draft, where the team could make a trade, is on July 7 and 8, and free agency opens on July 13.
The Capitals, who have not won a playoff series since lifting the Stanley Cup in 2018, will have approximately $25 million to play with after second-line center Nicklas Backstrom had a second hip surgery last month that few athletes have returned from.
Now, Elliotte Friedman is reporting one of the Capitals’ first major moves of the offseason.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan tried to re-up 30-year-old, third-line winger, Conor Sheary, who will be an unrestricted free agent next year.
“The uncertainty around Nicklas Backstrom makes it difficult to pinpoint Washington’s cap flexibility, but there have been some rumblings around the Capitals,” Friedman wrote in his most recent 32 Thoughts column. “For example, that they tried to extend Conor Sheary earlier this off-season, but not sure where that stands.”
The five-foot-eight Sheary is coming off his second best year professionally, where he scored 19 goals, had 24 assists, and registered 43 points. Sheary got big minutes in the top six from Peter Laviolette after the Capitals lost TJ Oshie and Anthony Mantha to injury for large swaths of the season. Sheary had one assist (PP) in six postseason games.
Wanting to extend Sheary is curious, however, for a team that Brian MacLellan says needs a “youth injection.” Sheary does not penalty kill much and the bottom six is a place where young players can learn on the job and develop in the NHL. While the Capitals want to avoid rebuilding wholesale and continue to challenge for the Stanley Cup every year they have Ovechkin, better options may develop internally if they give some of those prospects, like Connor McMichael, Axel Jonsson-Fjällby, Aliaksei Protas, and Joe Snively, more of a chance to play. Sheary will also be able to demand a raise over his $1.5 million salary where he currently provides value.
Friedman also reported that there’s “mixed messages” on which young goaltender, Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek, the Capitals may move this summer. He also added a prediction on two star players that could land in DC.
“If Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper hits the market, this could be a landing spot,” Friedman said. “They also make sense as a potential (JT) Miller home. I always assume they’re going for it.”
In late June, Friedman reported that JT Miller (trade) or Nazem Kadri (UFA) could end up replacing Nicklas Backstrom next season depending on how the market shakes out.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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