RUSSELL: Wilson deal another great off-season move for Caps

Chris Russell
July 28, 2018 - 11:23 am
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The Stanley Cup Champions are at it again! It was expected for a while, but Tom Wilson’s contract is finally done, and he is under contract to the Washington Capitals for six more years starting in 2018-19.

The average annual value for the last remaining free-agent of note will be $5.17 million against the Caps salary cap, the team announced. Washington was able to cover the first few years of Wilson’s unrestricted free agency, as he was only restricted this year.

The 24-year old Wilson had 14 goals, 21 assists and contributed for much of the regular season and the entire championship run on the number one line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He had five goals and ten assists in the four playoff rounds, including two goals in the Caps five-game Stanley Cup Final win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

“Tom is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased that he is committed to sign a long-term deal at this point in his career,” said General Manager Brian MacLellan.

Invaluable is one way to describe Wilson, who clearly contributes on the offensive end and is one of the Capitals best penalty killers along with a key member of the team’s ability to close out games with a lead in 5-on-6 situations. That was something that new head coach Todd Reirden pointed out recently about Wilson and their connection.

Wilson plays with a physical edge that borders on controversial if you are a Capitals fan, and dirty if you are not. He was suspended for three games in the Caps series win over Pittsburgh for what the NHL viewed as an illegal hit. It indeed was, but three games was an absurd amount of discipline

Wilson also pummeled Chris Kunitz of Tampa at center-ice early in Game 7 of the Capitals Eastern Final win, forcing a turnover and then assisting on the set-up of Alex Ovechkin’s early strike moments later after that clean hit.

Two moments that perfectly describe the edge and the essence of “Top-Line Tommy,” as some call him. You get all of that and the great hockey contributions that are incredibly difficult to find in a player his age, in one package.

Wilson was always going to get a deal – but it was a matter of how long and how much. The Caps started working on a longer-term deal early in the process, which MacLellan admitted was his preference.

Normally, with the NHL cap puzzle, a longer-term deal is done to lower the AAV of contracts, such as the T.J. Oshie contract last summer. In this case, the Caps wanted Wilson for the longer-term and they had to essentially pay him more than the expected amount of a four or five-year deal to secure his rights.

Think about this contract in the same context as the Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov deals that the Caps signed before last year. They were higher in value than many thought the Caps should pay because Washington wanted security and a fixed cost for players they had determined were their core and future.

That’s exactly the case here with Wilson, who celebrated the signing by posting a message on Twitter saying in part that he is “beyond excited to stay a part of the Capitals family.”

No matter what you may hear elsewhere around the league and in Pittsburgh – trust me on this – this deal is an absolute STEAL for the Capitals and the champs have mastered this off-season yet again!

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