Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has been working to correct a team that suffered in 2016-17 and entered this offseason with 14 pending free agents and a murky long-term future for Alex Ovechkin.
Whether he's actually succeeded is in question.
The final verdict won't come until Washington gets a shot at redeeming itself in the postseason, where history says they will run into another wave of trouble.
before free agency ensured the Caps wouldn't lose a big-time contributor coming off a career-best offensive season. But it also committed what was essentially top-10 RW money to a 30-year-old on an eight-year contract. Oshie belongs in Washington, and Caps fans should be excited to have him back, but an eight-year, $46 million deal would have made more sense from a team desperate to overpay for numbers Oshie will be hard-pressed to replicate.
Then came an extension for defenseman Dmitry Orlov, a six-year, $30.6 million pact. An easier pill to swallow, considering Orlov's age (25) and long-term prospects. But re-upping Orlov set the stage for top-four D-man Kevin Shattenkirk, the Caps' prized addition at March's trade deadline and the consensus No. 1 free agent, to head elsewhere. His four-year deal with the New York Rangers on featured a reasonable salary, although Washington would have been hard pressed to maneuver enough cap space to keep Shattenkirk.
Shattenkirk's departure started an unofficial and potentially unplanned makeover for the Caps.
Then, on the heels of another big-money extension for restricted free agent center Evgeny Kuznetsov on Sunday night, gone was 26-year-old forward Marcus Johansson, shipped to the New Jersey Devils for a pair of draft picks.
Keeping Kuznetsov, even on a lucrative eight-year, $62.4 million deal, marked a firm and admirable commitment to the Caps' talent of tomorrow by MacLellan. But couple the team's shaky start to the offseason -- the big deal for Oshie, the handful of free-agent subtractions and a generally apparent lack of direction -- with salary cap limitations accentuated by huge yearly hits off the Kuznetsov contract, and it's easy to see why Washington was forced to deal Johansson.
Johansson, by the way, was no slouch for the Caps. He was a top-six forward coming off career highs in goals and assists. But shedding his $4.5 million salary became a priority because Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer are still unsigned.
Let's boil it all down just to review.
The Capitals, since their latest postseason disappointment, have:
- Re-signed F T.J. Oshie to an eight-year contract
- Re-signed D Dmitry Orlov to a six-year contract
- Lost D Nate Schmidt to the Vegas Golden Knights (expansion draft)
- Lost D Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers
- Lost D Karl Alzner to the Montreal Canadiens
- Lost F Justin Williams to the Carolina Hurricanes
- Re-signed F Evgeny Kuznetsov to an eight-year contract
- Traded F Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils
Are they really any better?
Locking up some young talent, overpaying for some older talent and watching plenty of talent walk out the door, the Caps are now left to fill remaining holes with unsigned vets on league-minimum deals, indicated with the one-year addition of Devils outcast Devante Smith-Pelly on Monday.
Seems like MacLellan has quite a ways to go to correct these Caps.