The theme of this past NHL playoffs was that anyone can beat anyone. All four division winners were eliminated in the first round, applying to the Metropolitan Division winning Capitals. The offseason saw the unloading of some 2018 Stanley Cup champions, and they also signed three depth players to four year contracts. However, the Capitals are still favorites for the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Additions: Radko Gudas, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic
Subtractions: Matt Niskanen, Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brooks Orpik, Dmitrij Jaskin, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber
It was another amazing season for Alex Ovechkin. Arguably the greatest goal scorer ever, Ovechkin scored 51 goals with 89 points. It was his 8th 50 goal season, and he was a point away from his first 90 point season since 2009-10. He won the Rocket Richard trophy for the 8th time in his career, and for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. One of the best pending free agents is Nicklas Backstrom. The center scored 22 goals with 74 points. In his 10 seasons with at least 70 games played, Backstrom has reached 70 points eight times. Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to serve a minor suspension to start the season. He scored 21 goals with 72 points, and might now be the best number two center in the league. TJ Oshie had a great season, with 25 goals and 54 points in 69 games. Jakub Vrana had a big breakout season, as the now 23 year old scored 24 goals with 47 points with a +20 rating, all career highs. Tom Wilson played in just 63 games after being suspended for parts of the season. He scored a career high 22 goals with 40 points. Lars Eller had another solid season, with 13 goals and 36 points. The Capitals signed Richard Panik. For the Coyotes last year, Panik scored 14 goals with 33 points. Carl Hagelin had 11 points in 20 games after the trade deadline from the Capitals. However, he had just eight points in 38 games for the Penguins and Kings earlier in the season. The Capitals signed Garnet Hathaway to a questionable four year deal. In a career high 76 games for the Flames last year, Hathaway scored 11 goals. Nic Dowd scored a career high eight goals with 20 points in 64 games. He competes with Travis Boyd for the fourth line center role. In his first full season, Boyd had 20 points in 53 games. Boyd could move to the wing, pushing out either Chandler Stephenson or Brendan Leipsic. Stephenson played in 64 games with 11 points and a -13 rating. In 62 games for the Canucks and Kings, Leipsic scored seven goals with 23 points. The Capitals are already Leipsic's 5th team, and he has played in just three seasons.
In the first year of a new deal with an $8 million AAV, John Carlson scored 13 goals with a career high 70 points and a +21 rating. Dmitry Orlov had 26 assists with 29 points. Michal Kempny had a career season, with six goals and 25 points. He missed the playoffs after tearing his hamstring. The physical Radko Gudas was acquired via trade. He had 20 points with a +6 rating. He also had 63 penalty minutes. The Capitals acquired Nick Jensen at the trade deadline, and he had five assists in 20 games. Christian Djoos played in 45 games, with 10 points. It was a step down from a solid rookie season. In his rookie season, Jonas Siegenthaler played in 26 games, with four assists.
Not only is Nicklas Backstrom a pending free agent, but Braden Holtby is too. The former Vezina winner had a .911 SV% and a 2.82 GAA. In his first season as Holtby's backup, Pheonix Copley had a .905 SV% with a 2.90 GAA.
Tyler Lewington made his NHL debut, and had a goal and an assist in two games. He also had seven penalty minutes. Liam O'Brien scored 15 goals in the AHL, with 118 penalty minutes. Michael Sgarbossa scored 30 goals with 65 points in the AHL.
Up and Coming
Ilya Samsonov had a weak first season in North America after dominating in the KHL. He had a 2.70 GAA and a .898 SV% in the AHL. 2018 first rounder Alex Alexeyev had 10 goals with 43 points in 49 WHL games. 2016 first rounder Lucas Johansen had 14 points in 45 AHL games.
2019 draft class
Round 1, 25th overall: Connor McMichael
Round 2, 56th overall: Brett Leason
Round 3, 91st overall: Aliaksei Protas
Round 5, 153rd overall: Martin Has
After losing the eventual Jack Adams winner, Barry Trotz, the Capitals hired his assistant, Todd Reirden to be their Head Coach. The Capitals had another great season under Reirden. Brian MacLellan returns as GM. The Stanley Cup victory probably keeps him his job for a couple more seasons.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TJ Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Garnet Hathaway - Nic Dowd - Travis Bowd
Extras: Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson
Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen
Christian Djoos - Radko Gudas
Extras: Jonas Siegenthaler
The Capitals are a very good team. They have a great core, and even though they are aging and some are reaching free agency, they will still be very good in 2019-20. I predict a first place finish.