Where Are They Now: 2018 Washington Capitals

Where Are They Now: 2018 Washington Capitals

It’s been only five years since the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup. With the dog days of summer now upon us, it’s a good opportunity to look back on the noteworthy players on their 2018 playoff roster and see where they are today.

Alex Ovechkin: Now 37, the Washington Capitals captain remains his club’s most powerful scoring threat. Since winning the Cup, he’s had two seasons with 50 or more goals and two with 40 or more. With 822 career regular-season goals, he’s closing in on Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.

Nicklas Backstrom: A nagging hip injury limited the Capitals center to just 86 games over the last two seasons. Following a hip resurfacing procedure, the 35-year-old Backstrom hopes to stage a bounce-back performance in 2023-24.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: The leading scorer of the 2018 postseason (32 points) has struggled with consistency. He’s had two 70-plus point seasons along with two disappointing campaigns of 52 and 55 points. The 31-year-old center is currently the subject of trade speculation.

John Carlson: One of the NHL’s elite puck-moving defensemen, the 33-year-old Carlson netted over 70 points in three of the last five seasons. He was limited to just 40 games in 2022-23 after suffering a serious head injury but has since recovered and will return to action with the Capitals.

2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals (NHL.com).

T.J. Oshie: When healthy, Oshie remains a dangerous offensive presence. However, age and injuries appear to be catching up with the 36-year-old Capitals winger. He was limited to 44 games in 2021-22 and 58 games last season.

Tom Wilson: Knee surgery limited the 29-year-old Wilson to just 33 games last season. The big Capitals power forward is a year removed from a career-best 52-point performance and will attempt to regain that form in 2023-234.

Braden Holtby: After backstopping the Capitals to the Cup in 2018, Holtby’s performance steadily declined. The veteran goaltender played for the Vancouver Canucks in 2020-21 and with the Dallas Stars in 2021-22. A lower-body injury kept the 33-year-old out of action last season. It could lead to his retirement though he hasn’t made it official yet.

Dmitry Orlov: The 31-year-old defenseman spent almost 12 seasons with the Capitals but was traded to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 23. On July 1, he inked a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Matt Niskanen: Traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2019, Niskanen played a key role in helping his new club reach the 2020 playoffs. The veteran defenseman retired in October 2020 at age 33.

Brooks Orpik: After playing one more season with the Capitals, the rugged defenseman announced his retirement in June 2019. Orpik, 42, has spent the past four seasons as a player development coach for the Capitals working with their defense prospects with their AHL affiliate in Hershey.

Lars Eller: After nearly seven seasons with the Capitals, Eller was traded on March 1 to the Colorado Avalanche. On July 1, the 34-year-old center signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chandler Stephenson: Shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights in Dec. 2019, Stephenson has blossomed into an invaluable top-six forward. Now 29, he tallied 64 points in 2021-22 and 65 points last season helping the Golden Knights win the 2023 Stanley Cup.

Andre Burakovsky: Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in June 2019, Burakovsky enjoyed three seasons with 44 or more points in the Mile High City, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2022. Signed to a four-year contract last summer with the Seattle Kraken, the 28-year-old winger had 39 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Jakub Vrana: Dealt to the Detroit Red Wings in April 2021, Vrana struggled on and off the ice, entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program last season. Traded to the St. Louis Blues on March 3, the 27-year-old winger had 10 goals and 14 points in 20 games with his new club.

Philipp Grubauer: Following the Capitals Cup win, Grubauer was shipped to the Colorado Avalanche. He spent three seasons with the Avs, establishing himself as a starting goalie. Signed by the Seattle Kraken in 2021, the 31-year-old shares the netminding duties with Martin Jones.

Brett Connolly: Signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers in 2019, Connolly was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in April 2021 and was bought out last July. The 31-year-old winger spent last season with Lugano in Switzerland’s National League.

Devante Smith-Pelly: After spending 2018-19 bouncing between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate, Smith-Pelly played for KHL club Kunlun Red Star in 2019-20 and two seasons in the AHL with the Ontario Reign and Laval Rocket. After 11 pro seasons, the 31-year-old winger announced his retirement last December.

Jay Beagle: Signed a four-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks in 2018 and was traded in April 2021 to the Arizona Coyotes. The 37-year-old center did not play last season. He’s listed as retired by Cap Friendly.

Michal Kempny: Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in Feb. 2018, Kempny skated in all 24 Capitals playoff games. After three more seasons in Washington, the 32-year-old defenseman was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Kraken for 2022-23. However, his contract was terminated and he signed a two-year deal with Czech league club Sparta Praha.

Alex Chiasson: Signed with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent, he spent three seasons with them followed by a one-year stint with the Vancouver Canucks and spending 2022-23 with the Detroit Red Wings. The 32-year-old winger is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Christian Djoos: Appeared in 16 playoff games for the 2018 Capitals. Spent the next two seasons split between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate in Hershey before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2020. He spent 2020-21 with the Detroit Red Wings. For the past two seasons, the 28-year-old defenseman skated with Zug EV of Switzerland’s National League.

NHL Random Takes – July 9, 2023

NHL Random Takes – July 9, 2023

The Montreal Canadiens created a stir among their fans with their selection of Austrian defenseman David Reinbacher as the fifth-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. If social media was anything to go by, most of them preferred much-touted – and little-scouted – Russian winger Matvei Michkov, who was chosen seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Disagreeing with a team’s first-round draft choice is fair play. No fan worth their salt should blindly accept every decision made by their favorite team at the draft table.

The initial critique was about the Canadiens choosing a defenseman in a draft filled with promising young scorers. Many correctly pointed out that the Habs haven’t had a scoring superstar since Guy Lafleur in the 1970s or a 50-goal scorer since Stephane Richer in 1990. “We’re starving for a scorer!” was the refrain.

Montreal Canadiens prospect defenseman David Reinbacher (NHL.com).

Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some of the numpties among the Canadiens faithful decided to take out their outrage on the 18-year-old Reinbacher via Twitter and Instagram with some vile comments. The type of gutter talk that pathetic fools spew from behind the safety of anonymity and distance on social media because they lack the courage to say it to the person’s face.

Some Twitter trolls masquerading as “insiders” tweeted that Reinbacher received “thousands” of direct threats (nowhere close), that he didn’t want to suit up for the Canadiens (which he did just two days following the draft ahead of their prospect development camp) and was so upset that he didn’t want to sign a contract with the Habs (which he did following the development camp).

It’s a reminder that, contrary to popular belief, Twitter is not the real world. Several Canadiens fans preferred Michkov but most seem fine with the player dubbed the top defenseman in the 2023 draft.


Late in the 2012-13 season, goaltender Roberto Luongo bemoaned that his expensive contract was to blame for hurting his chances of the Vancouver Canucks trading him before the 2013 trade deadline.

I wonder if Erik Karlsson feels the same way a decade later. The 33-year-old Norris Trophy-winning defenseman would prefer a trade to a contender and the San Jose Sharks are trying to accommodate him. So far, however, no deal has emerged, mostly because of Karlsson’s $11.5 million AAV through 2026-27 and his full no-movement clause.

There’s reportedly legitimate interest in Karlsson from several playoff contenders but they cannot afford to take on his full contract. Those clubs would prefer if the Sharks retained half of his annual cap hit but they’re reportedly only willing to pick up between 20 and 30 percent.

Thanks to a flattened salary cap for 2023-24, there aren’t many teams that can comfortably afford to take on the entirety of Karlsson’s remaining cap hit, let alone pay what’s expected to be an expensive asking price by the Sharks.

Unless San Jose general manager Mike Grier is willing to retain more of Karlsson’s cap hit, or somehow swing a three-team trade where everybody takes on a third of it, Karlsson will be suiting up next season with Los Tiburones.


Twenty-two players filed last week for salary arbitration. Among the notables were Anaheim Ducks winger Troy Terry, Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman, Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov and Winnipeg Jets forward Gabe Vilardi.

The period for their hearings is between July 20 and Aug. 4. However, don’t be surprised if all of them end up re-signing with their clubs before their soon-to-be-appointed dates with the arbiter.

It’s a rare occurrence when players and teams end up making their case before an arbitrator. In the past, the two sides would in most instances reach an agreement within the 48-hour period before the arbiter’s decision was rendered. That option, however, was removed in the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NHL and NHL Players Association extending the collective bargaining agreement to 2026.

Most players file as a means of setting a deadline for hammering out agreements on new contracts rather than have them drag on throughout the offseason or into training camp. That’s also usually the motivation for teams that take players to arbitration.

That number has already dropped by two with the Seattle Kraken re-signing defensemen Will Borgen and Cale Fleury. The others will likely follow suit in due course.

Why the Bitterness Toward the Golden Knights?

Why the Bitterness Toward the Golden Knights?

It’s been a week since the Vegas Golden Knights won their first-ever Stanley Cup.

They’re the seventh team since 2000 to win their first Cup, joining the Tampa Bay Lightning (2004), Carolina Hurricanes (2006), Anaheim Ducks (2007), Los Angeles Kings (2012), Washington Capitals (2018) and St. Louis Blues (2019).

The Golden Knights also became the fastest expansion team to win the Cup by doing so in their sixth season, breaking the record of seven seasons set by the 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers.

Vegas Golden Knights – 2023 Stanley Cup Champions (NHL.com).

Their fans are deliriously happy over their franchise’s success, bouncing back from missing the playoffs last season to win hockey’s hold grail. It also comes five years after the club stunned the hockey world by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural campaign.

Nevertheless, some fans of other teams took to social media to express their bitterness toward the Golden Knights following their Cup win.

Most spouted tired conspiracy theories claiming the Golden Knights benefited from an expansion draft supposedly rigged in their favor by league commissioner Gary Bettman.

Others claimed the Golden Knights cheated by keeping sidelined captain Mark Stone on long-term injury reserve until the playoffs when the salary cap no longer counted, enabling them to add Ivan Barbashev, Jonathan Quick and Teddy Blueger at the trade deadline.

All of this, of course, is sour grapes.

Some of it comes from so-called “traditionalists” who can’t stand to see Sun Belt franchises winning the Cup. Some of it emanates from supporters of teams in the midst of lengthy Stanley Cup droughts.

It’s true that the NHL changed the expansion draft rules for the Golden Knights. Those rules stayed in place for the Seattle Kraken’s draft in 2021.

The slim pickings in previous expansion drafts left the new teams struggling for years as league doormats before they could build into playoff contenders. It wasn’t a smart way to draw supporters in those new markets.

Building fan support and growing the game in non-traditional markets is the point of expansion. It boosts the league’s hockey-related revenue and improves its visibility in the ultra-competitive North American sports market.

Everyone knew that the rules for the 2017 expansion draft would force established teams to expose better players. Nevertheless, some of those clubs – the Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild – made questionable trades with Vegas to protect other players.

That’s how Shea Theodore, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch wound up becoming invaluable players for Vegas in their early years. It’s how they got a franchise goalie during those years in Marc-Andre Fleury. They were among the players who helped the Golden Knights reach the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, forming the basis of a core that became a solid playoff contender for the following three seasons, including two more trips to the Western Conference Final.

When that draft was completed, however, no one at the time pointed to their roster and said, “This is a team that’s going to be a Stanley Cup Finalist in their first season.”

The Golden Knights were expected to be competitive in their NHL debut season but nobody predicted they would reach the playoffs, let alone march to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Postseason contention was projected to be three or four years away. Not even team owner Bill Foley, predicting his club would win the Cup by 2023, expected his team to have such impressive success in their first three campaigns.

Fortunately for the Golden Knights, they had an experienced, shrewd general manager during the expansion draft named George McPhee during the expansion draft. He’s now their president of hockey operations.

Of those original “Golden Misfits”, as they were self-dubbed, only six remain – Smith, Theodore, Karlsson, Brayden McNabb, William Carrier and playoff MVP Marchessault. The rest of their roster was built largely on trades by McPhee and his successor Kelly McCrimmon.

Drawing on existing talent, draft picks and their prospect pool, McPhee and McCrimmon acquired Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, Alec Martinez, Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, and playoff hero Adin Hill.

Nobody gifted those players to the Golden Knights. They acquired them fair and square, just as they did with their original gang of misfits in the expansion draft. If anyone’s at fault, it’s the general managers of those rival clubs who got lured into bad trades.

As for the supposed “cheating” of having Stone on LTIR for the season, this goes back to Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov missing the entire COVID-shortened 2020-21 season recovering from offseason hip surgery only to return to action in the 2021 playoffs and help his club win the Stanley Cup.

This complaint goes back even further, to the 2014-15 season and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane missing the final two months of the regular season with a broken collarbone, returning for the Blackhawks’ postseason march to the Cup.

In those cases, the Lightning and the Blackhawks garnered cap relief with their high-salaries stars on LTIR that was put toward loading up the roster for the playoffs. The Golden Knights drew on the precedent set by both clubs.

In each case, those teams had to prove to the league that those players could not be cleared medically to play until the postseason. It’s still a legal loophole in the collective bargaining agreement. General managers don’t like it unless, of course, it’s their teams that benefit from it. Don’t expect to see any change to that rule anytime soon.

If you’re a fan of a club that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in years or decades and you’re upset over the Golden Knights winning hockey’s holy grail, your frustration is aimed in the wrong direction.

Instead of dreaming up wild conspiracy theories or baseless accusations of cheating, perhaps you should be demanding more from the folks who are running your team.

Maybe the fault lies with years of mismanagement and incompetence that has kept your team out of the playoffs or hamstrung their ability to become more than a marginal contender or prevented them from winning more than a playoff round or two.

Let the Golden Knights and their fans enjoy their moment. In today’s salary cap world, they’ll face the same difficulties maintaining a Stanley Cup contender as most of their predecessors.

At some point, the Golden Knights’ core players will age and management will have to replace them. Cap constraints will one day see them lose talent to free agency or cost-cutting trades. The ongoing pillaging of their shrinking prospect pool for short-term gains could prove costly over the long term.

By that stage, maybe your team will finally get their act together and end their long Stanley Cup drought.

There Could Be More Short-Term NHL Contract Signings This Summer

There Could Be More Short-Term NHL Contract Signings This Summer

For the first time since 2019, the NHL’s annual free-agent period will open on July 1.

Apart from spoiling the Canada Day holiday for pundits, bloggers and freelancers (like me), it represents another return to normalcy for a league that – like everyone and everything else in the world – saw its normal calendar upset by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s usually a time when restricted and unrestricted free agents sign lucrative long-term contracts. Some players and teams are wasting little time getting the jump on things.

On June 5, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed RFA winger Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8-million deal. Four days later, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired pending UFA defenseman Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils and signed him to an eight-year, $50-million contract.

Those deals seem to signal that it could be business as usual in this year’s free-agent market. However, sandwiched between the Caufield and Severson signings was Vladislav Gavrikov’s two-year, $11.75 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

Acquired before the March trade deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Gavrikov quickly established himself as a key member of the Kings’ defense corps.

The 6’3”, 217-pound blueliner played so well for the Kings that they offered him a long-term contract. However, his agent reportedly pushed for the shorter term in order for Gavrikov to reenter the UFA market when the salary cap is expected to be significantly higher.

The salary cap for 2023-24 is projected to remain flattened, rising only by $1 million to $83.5 million as per the terms of the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Meanwhile, Cap Friendly indicates 16 clubs carry less than $10 million in cap space while another five teams have less than $15 million. That’s 21 out of 32 NHL teams facing a difficult offseason bidding for UFA talent or re-signing key talent.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently explained the reason behind that ongoing flattened cap for next season is the players still have outstanding escrow payments owed to the NHL team owners due to the imbalance in hockey-related revenue during the COVID-shortened seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21.

That outstanding balance will be paid off by the end of 2023-24, after which the cap is projected to rise by at least $4 million in 2024-25 and another $4 million in 2025-26. Some speculate those increases could be even higher.

For Gavrikov, this means he’ll become a UFA in the summer of 2025 when he’ll be 29. If he continues playing well for the Kings, he could be in line for a longer-term contract with an average annual value worth much more than the $5.875 million AAV of his upcoming deal.

Not every player will follow Gavrikov’s example, preferring the security of a long-term deal. Others, however, could see this as an opportunity to get a good raise now on a shorter term while betting on themselves to receive much bigger paydays in two or three years’ time.

2023 Stanley Cup Final Prediction

2023 Stanley Cup Final Prediction

Well, my Stanley Cup playoff prediction record for this season is in ruins.

I went a respectable four-for-eight in the first round, a pathetic one-for-four in the second round and an embarrassing oh-fer in the Conference Finals.

Honestly, I’ve enjoyed the chaos of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. I loved seeing the 16th-seeded Florida Panthers reach the Final. It’s been fun watching Jack Eichel giving a good account of himself in his first-ever postseason with the Vegas Golden Knights.

That being said, it’s time to have a laugh and see if I can at least get the Stanley Cup Final right.


The Golden Knights got this far by eliminating the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars. Meanwhile, the Panthers upset the first-overall Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the second-overall Carolina Hurricanes.

Both clubs are seeking their first Stanley Cup championship.

Looking at the Golden Knights, they should be the favorite to win this series. Their goals-per-game (3.65) is better than the Panthers (3.13). Six Golden Knights – Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Ivan Barbashev, Mark Stone, William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson – sit among this postseason’s top-15 scorers whereas Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov are the only Panthers among that group.

The goaltending appears to be a wash. Vegas’ Adin Hill (2.07 goals-against, .937 goals-against average) has slightly better stats than Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky (2.21 GAA, .935 SP), who is a former two-time Vezina Trophy winner. It’s the first time both netminders have gone this far in postseason play.

Hill was a castoff of the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks and was a third-stringer for the Golden Knights until pressed into service due to injuries to Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit.

Bobrovsky, meanwhile, struggled to regain his former Vezina form after joining the Panthers as a free agent in 2019. He took over midway through the first round with the Panthers down three games to one to the mighty Bruins and carried his club into the Cup Final.

The Golden Knights appear to have a deeper, more experienced roster. Their skilled blueline is anchored by former Stanley Cup champions Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez. They possess plenty of scoring punch with original Golden Knights Marchessault and Reilly Smith being Stanley Cup finalists in 2018 while Barbashev won a Cup in St. Louis with Pietrangelo in 2019.

Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the Panthers. They’re a hardworking underdog that’s been fun to watch during this postseason, upsetting three heavily-favored opponents along the way.

Bobrovsky and Tkachuk are the prime reasons the Panthers have reached this far and must be considered the front-runners for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Bobrovsky has reminded everyone this spring why he was a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. Tkachuk, meanwhile, has been clutch for the Panthers, leading them in scoring and has four game-winning goals, including three in overtime.

However, the exploits of Bobrovsky and Tkachuk overshadow a solid lineup for the Panthers. Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Brandon Montour, Aaron Ekblad and Anthony Duclair have all stepped up and played well. This club plays an aggressive, physical forechecking style that punishes and frustrates their opponents.

My head tells me to choose the Golden Knights. My heart says to go with the Panthers.

In the end, doesn’t everyone love an underdog story?


Conference Finals Predictions – 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Conference Finals Predictions – 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

After going four-for-eight with my first-round predictions, I went a pathetic one-for-four in the second round. So, folks, don’t base your Conference Finals bets on my prognostications. Remember, this is all just for fun.

Anyway, let’s see if I can have better luck this time around. Feel free to point and laugh in the comments section. Bet responsibly, kids. A fool and his money and all that…


Carolina Hurricanes vs Florida Panthers

The Hurricanes got here by eliminating the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils while the Panthers upset the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despite the absence of sidelined forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty and Teuvo Teravainen, the Hurricanes got production from depth forwards Jordan Martinook, Jesper Fast and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Sebastian Aho remains the linchpin of their offense.

Defense and goaltending are the Hurricanes’ strengths. Led by Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns, their blueline has contributed offensively while shutting down opposing scorers. Their 90.0 penalty-killing percentage is the postseason’s best. Frederik Andersen was superb between the pipes against the Devils. The Canes’ 2.55 goals-against per game is the second-lowest. 

The Panthers’ physical style and gritty offense were critical factors in getting them to this point. Matthew Tkachuk has risen to the occasion as a playoff performer, Brandon Montour provides invaluable production from the blueline while forwards Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair have proven difficult to contain.

Sergei Bobrovsky has been solid in the Panthers’ net since the midpoint of their first-round series against Boston. Their overall defensive game did a fine job neutralizing the Bruins and Leafs best scorers.

It’s going to be an interesting matchup between Carolina’s strong defense and Florida’s aggressive forecheck. Considering how games become tighter-checking affairs as the playoffs roll along, that could favor the Hurricanes. PREDICTION: Hurricanes in 6.


Dallas Stars vs Vegas Golden Knights

The Stars reached this point by beating the Minnesota Wild and the Seattle Kraken. The Vegas Golden Knights bested the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers.

This is the fourth time in six years Vegas has reached the Western Conference Finals. It’s also the second time since 2020 that they will face the Stars, who bested them the last time around.

Vegas’ 3.73 goals-per-game average is the second-highest in this postseason. Leading scorer Jack Eichel is thriving in his first-ever NHL playoffs. Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson have also flourished in these playoffs.

The Golden Knights possess a solid defense anchored by Alex Pietrangelo. Their goaltending has been decimated by injuries yet Adin Hill replaced the sidelined Laurent Brossoit midway through the Oilers series and backstopped them to victory.

Led by Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, the Stars have plenty of scoring punch of their own. Regular-season scoring leader Jason Robertson only has two goals but collected 10 assists thus far. Veterans Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and trade-deadline pickup Max Domi have also been key contributors.

Dallas’ starting goaltender Jake Oettinger has had a handful of difficult games but has also shown that he can bounce back well. Led by Miro Heiskanen, the Stars have given up the third-fewest shots (29.4) and possess the third-best penalty kill.

Both clubs have plenty of talent and roster depth so this series could go the distance. Defense should make the difference here. If Oettinger remains sharp, this should go Dallas’ way. PREDICTION: STARS IN SEVEN.