The summer following a Stanley Cup victory is full of many things. Excitement, rising expectations, the thought of a title defense, and of course, celebration. We have already seen all of these things come to fruition as the summer drags along. From all of our favorite Capitals partying with the Cup, to seeing the Vegas odds of Stanley Cup favorites, to the coming and going of some familiar faces, the offseason has been one worth keeping an eye on. With the season just over two months away, the time to look ahead to the 2018-19 season is here.
First things first, the losses. So far this offseason, we have said goodbye to both Philipp Grubauer and Jay Beagle, two long-time Capitals who have played key roles on the team. Grubauer heads to Colorado in the deal that saw Brooks Orpik go along with him, only to see him re-sign with the Capitals after being bought out by Colorado. As for Beagle, he decided to sign with the Vancouver Canucks. Both of these players will play important roles with their new teams and will be missed greatly.
After these two losses, however, the Capitals did make one addition in the form of Nic Dowd. Nic will be coming over from Vancouver and looks to compete with Travis Boyd for the fourth center spot on the depth chart. Off the ice, we have also seen coaches Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn leave the nation’s capital to join the New York Islanders. The absence of Barry Trotz left room for former assistant coach Todd Reirden to take over the reigns as head coach of the Capitals.
Outside of these few changes, the team remains much the same. The core, with the re-signing of Tom Wilson and John Carlson, will all be remaining with the team, as well as depth players such as Devante Smith Pelly and Brooks Orpik. It is hard to complain about any of these signings, as the team is coming off of a championship, but the Tom Wilson ($5.17 million cap hit per season) contract is one that could definitely be hard to swallow a few years down the road. One key thing that is easy for many to miss is the fact that Ilya Samsonov is planning to join the organization in North America after playing the last few seasons in Russia with the KHL. This puts pressure on Phoenix Copley, as the two will be competing for the full-time backup role in Washington. Samsonov also projects to eventually take over as the starting goalie for the NHL club, should he live up to expectations, and this projection could slowly begin to put pressure on Braden Holtby. However, for this season at least, it should be very clear who the Caps’ starting netminder is.
So, can we expect another Stanley Cup out of the Washington Capitals in the 2018-19 season? The thought of a repeat is pretty optimistic, as well as an extremely difficult thing to do in the salary cap era of the NHL. However, the Penguins completed their repeat just last year, so it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. The Capitals can certainly be expected to be one of the best teams in both their division and the conference, but teams like the Penguins, Leafs, and Lightning have all made signings to strengthen their respective rosters, and coming out of this strong Eastern Conference will be no easy task. However, for the team that very few people gave a chance to win the Stanley Cup in 2017-18, the sky is truly the limit for these 2018-19 Washington Capitals.