Sometimes winning hockey teams face a Stanley Cup hangover during the summer months. No, I’m not talking about what the Capitals players felt the morning after the parade from that wild weekend of partying. A hangover in terms of not being able to bring everybody back and losing many key guys from that respective playoff run due to free agency. One year ago Capitals fans said goodbye to the likes of Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt, Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk and Marcus Johansson.
It was a Stanley Cup hangover without the Cup.
Of course, there are some significant folks the Capitals lost. For starters, Barry Trotz resigned then Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik got traded. (Rumor has it Orpik will be back.) Jay Beagle also found a new home close to his original dog house. However, there are even more who are coming back.
John Carlson, who was the biggest offseason priority for general manager Brian MacLellan, was signed to an eight-year $64 million contract. His playoff partner Michal Kempny, who found a home in Washington after being traded from Chicago back in February, agreed to a four-year extension worth $10 million. Having the duo return means that the Capitals are bringing back each of their top four defensemen. It’s likely they’ll pair at the top once again with Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen in the middle. On the third is Christian Djoos and likely either Madison Bowey or Jakub Jerabek.
On the forwards, Devante Smith-Pelly is back for another year. Last year you may not have heard of him. In the wake of the Marcus Johansson trade, Smith-Pelly was bought out by the Devils and the Capitals picked him up and signed him to the veteran minimum of $650,000. It turned out to be the biggest acquisition the Capitals got that summer.
Aside from Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Smith-Pelly, or DSP as many fans call him, came through in the playoffs numerous times. In the postseason, Smith-Pelly scored seven goals including three goals in the Stanley Cup Finals in the final three games. The final one may have been the biggest goal of his life as it came in the third period with the Capitals trailing 3-2. First, he delivered a forecheck along the boards. As the puck headed back close to the neutral zone Brooks Orpik caught it and flung it toward the net. Smith-Pelly got it and scored a Bobby Orr-like goal to tie the game, eventually leading to Lars Eller’s game-winner and the celebrations in Sin City and the District afterward.
Next up on their priority list for the offseason is re-signing Tom Wilson and there’s no reason why they can’t get a deal done. Hopefully, an agreement between the two parties will be here soon. Bring back Wilson, and the Capitals will be even more primed to make a run. After all, what chant did T.J. Oshie lead at the victory parade? That’s right, “back to back!”
There are two differences this summer. The first is that the Stanley Cup is in Washington. The other is that there’s no sign of any hangovers.
Anybody else thinking about fountains?