The Washington Capitals made a long-term commitment to Tom Wilson on Friday, inking the big winger to a seven-year, $45.5 million extension. The Caps, a team expecting to be in big-time transition in upcoming years, made Wilson just the third player on their roster to be signed to a deal for more than the next three seasons.
The move was a statement from the team that in the post Ovechkin Era, Wilson will be the bridge between the old and the new players. Despite the risk of locking down a player outside of his prime years with a contract structured to prevent a buyout down the line, the Caps have made it clear that they wanted their potential future captain to go nowhere.
Something that also increased the urgency of the extension was trade rumors that popped up involving Wilson.
“I think we got a little taste of it this summer with how crazy it can get once stuff in the media gets people to start talking,” Wilson said while talking to reporters on Monday. “A couple times I just texted my agent and was like, ‘What’s going on?'”
Wilson’s name has come up in potential trade talks for the past six months, kicked off by former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy who terrified many Caps fans with a troll tweet announcing that Wilson was headed to the Pens at last year’s trade deadline. Kennedy wasn’t the last former NHL player to get in on the Wilson rumor mill though.
Jason York, a one-time defenseman of the Ottawa Senators and brother of Senators new partial owner Jeff York, sparked even more talk when he made it known on a podcast with former TSN broadcaster Brett Wallace that the Sens had concrete interest in trying to acquire Wilson. York’s “breaking news” came just weeks after Los Angeles Kings blogger John Hoven and The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein also discussed the Kings “allegedly kicking the tires” on a Wilson trade of their own.
The rumors got denials from leading hockey insiders Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun as well as statements from MacLellan himself. “We haven’t had one discussion about it,” MacLellan said at the 2023 NHL Draft.
The absurdness of the hockey hot stove turned out to be partially responsible for why Wilson did not want to wait any longer to sign on the dotted line in DC.
“I think I’ve been around long enough that you see some of these contract years and some of the distraction as the year goes along,” Wilson said. “We just kinda wanted to get rid of that and not have to worry about that. I knew I wanted to be here for as long as I could and the team expressed the same. I think it just makes it easier. Get it out of the way now. I’m pretty fortunate to be able to do it now and I’m just glad we could get it done.”
“It was important for us to get him in our lineup and not create a distraction going forward this year,” MacLellan added. “Tom creates a lot of attention and even this past offseason he was creating attention about future contracts and possibilities of being traded so it was a priority for us to get him signed.
“I talked to [Tom’s] agent regularly when they were coming out just to assure them that wasn’t the case and that people were creating false narrative out there. Still, I think it’s unnerving when you hear your name [in rumors]. I tried to reassure Tom and his representatives that it wasn’t the case. It looked like if we went into this year that was going to continue to happen whether we were pursuing that avenue or not so it was important for us to get a contract signed.”
While some athletes might get annoyed by their name constantly popping up in rumors, Wilson took them in stride and even found them entertaining as he tends to be the ire of many a fanbase around the league. In fact, Wilson got to see some of those same fanbases react towards him in a more positive manner on social media.
“It’s funny when that stuff starts swirling around and people are a fan of you or people aren’t a fan of you,” Wilson said. “It all changes pretty quick from other cities’ viewpoints. But, it’s all fun, it’s all passion. It’s why the sport of hockey is great.
“I guess weird would be a good way to put it. You try not to look at it too much but it can be funny. You read some of the stuff, you’re only human. I think they know I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can against them next year and maybe they were excited about maybe possibly having that be for their city but they’ll probably tell you [they’re] not now. It’s part of what I love about hockey and being a Cap. Going out there, having those rivalries, playing in big games, meaningful games, and meaningful moments. There are a lot of passionate fanbases out there that want their team to win and want their team to be hard to play against.”
Only eight players in the NHL have recorded over 2,000 hits since Wilson’s 2013-14 rookie campaign. The 29-year-old forward ranks seventh on that list with 2,039, an average of almost exactly three hits per game.
“There’s a lot of different opinions that get voiced now with social media and it can obviously get a bit carried away,” Wilson said. “I’m glad it didn’t go too far before we could put that stuff to bed and get back to being a Cap and making their lives difficult again.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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