Stanley Cup discounts really could help Caps go 'back-to-back'

Chris Russell
July 02, 2018 - 12:08 pm
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When a team wins a championship – in any sport – it's almost always time to blow apart the core and rebuild while many individuals cash fat paychecks in new cities.

That easily could have been true for the Capitals after their first Stanley Cup title, but for now, it appears the mantra is to stay home, enjoy the summer of bliss and, as T.J. Oshie chanted at the championship parade, ramp up for "back-to-back" championship runs.

John Carlson could have left. He didn't. He didn't even wait for free agency before signing a massive eight-year, $64 million contract.

His tag-team partner, Michal Kempny – acquired via trade from Chicago in February – has officially re-signed with the champs on a four-year deal, at an average annual value of $2.5 million.

Devante Smith-Pelly, a playoff hero several times over, easily could have left for a multi-year deal elsewhere and for more money. He chose to return to the Caps for one-year and $1 million.

There’s no doubt about the next huge task – a multi-year deal for restricted free agent and top-line right wing, Tom Wilson. He's expected to get a contract for somewhere in the $4 million per-year range. It could be higher, depending on what both sides work out, and will probably be at least four years in term.

Once that gets done, and it could happen shortly, the Caps will be able to address their other issues. They have other RFAs, like defenseman Madison Bowey. They re-signed center Travis Boyd on Sunday, who was also restricted. 

Those two factor in heavily because they are natural replacements for Jay Beagle and Brooks Orpik. Beagle – the notable exception to the feel-good story of all the champs returning by their own choice – left for a multi-year deal with Vancouver. It's hard to blame him, however. The Caps were never going to be able to give him what he was worth and what he earned. 

The trade of Orpik two weeks ago, along with Philipp Grubauer – who started the playoffs as the Caps goaltender – freed up more than $6 million worth of cap space, which allowed them to bring back Carlson, Kempny, Smith-Pelly, and have enough money to work on a long-term deal with Wilson and smaller deals with Boyd and Bowey.

The Caps also signed young veteran center Nic Dowd, who can help push Boyd for the role of Beagle's replacement. It's the typical low-risk, high-reward signing Brian MacLellan has specialized in during his tenure (Smith-Pelly, Kempny, Brett Connolly, Alex Chiasson)

It's even possible, after all these deals, that the Caps could bring Orpik back on a one-year deal and a much lower rate than he would have otherwise made before his buyout with Colorado ($5.5M).

As of Monday, the Caps have about $8.26 million in cap space, per CapFriendly.com. That's before the Wilson contract and after deals of the past week-plus. 

Without the brilliant Orpik trade by MacLellan, the Caps would never be in this position to have the flexibility needed to retain nearly everyone, outside of Beagle, Orpik and Grubauer (who was an RFA as well).

It also took sacrifice on the part of Smith-Pelly, Kempny and Carlson, in ignoring free agency and seeking every available dollar when their value was at an all-time high.

That's what we normally see when a team wins a championship. Barry Trotz chose not to sacrifice because he felt disrespected and undervalued. With no salary cap restrictions for coaches, he has a valid argument.

No team, championship or not, is going to return everyone. Last year's team proved that as they were decimated by the cap and free agency.

This year's defending champions received a massive boost over the past ten days when three core pieces looked out for the team, and for Washington D.C., as much, if not more, than they looked out for themselves.

That's how you attempt to go "back-to-back."

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