Money is particularly tight for the Washington Capitals as they try to make it back to the postseason after missing them for only the second time in 16 seasons. With the team at the cap ceiling and money tied up with many veterans, every penny needs to be well allocated.
In a previous article, I highlighted what I thought were the best contracts for the team going into this season. But there are two sides to the medal, so here I’m looking at the Capitals’ worst ones going into the 2023-24 season.
When Capitals fans think of bad contracts, they often look to Anthony Mantha first. The Quebec-born winger is entering the final year of his four-year, $22.8 million contract he signed while playing for the Detroit Red Wings, the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2013 Entry Draft. The winger was traded to Washington the following month in return for a package involving a first-round pick, a second-round pick, Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik.
The heavy price to pay at the time was worth it given his promising goalscoring talents with the Red Wings. However, he hasn’t found his footing since coming to Washington. Not only has the winger been criticized for his low point production given he’s never put up more than 27 points in a season, but he’s also been criticized for his lack of effort on the ice.
This summer, Mantha confided about his recent struggles and admitted to working on his game and his physical shape, having lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. In addition, he’s hired a mental coach to help him with his confidence and discipline. So while Mantha’s contract hasn’t been worth it for the Capitals so far, he’ll certainly look to prove everyone wrong in the final year of it.
The second player on this list could disappoint many Capitals fans as one of the favorites on the team. He joined the Capitals back in the 2015-16 season when he was traded for a third-round pick, current Los Angeles Kings goalie Pheonix Copley and Troy Brouwer. It’s not difficult to like TJ Oshie. Early on, he gave the Capitals some good offensive years and was a huge part of the team in 2018, crowning it off with one of the most emotional post-Stanley Cup-winning speeches you’ll ever see.
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While all these memories will stick with Capitals fans for life, Oshie is getting older and as a result, hitting a bit of a decline. The 36-year-old veteran has been hit by the injury bug in the past few seasons and has seen his point production dip. Yes, he registered 19 goals and 35 points in 58 games, which isn’t bad altogether. But is he worth the $5.75 million price tag this season and the next one? While his leadership is undeniable, that is still to be determined.
If there’s one thing fans have seen from Oshie, it’s that he’s a warrior and can always prove people wrong. The notable shootout specialist will look to do just that as Washington tries to propel themselves into the postseason.
The final player on this list could be controversial given he’s one of the team’s all-time greats alongside Alex Ovechkin. The reason he’s included isn’t because of his poor play, but rather because of whether or not he’ll still be able to play as effectively given his injury history in the past few seasons. The 35-year-old center had hip resurfacing surgery, which is notoriously difficult for players to come back from.
Backstrom is set to be paid $9.2 million this season and the following one as well. While he’s undeniably talented, having passed the 1,000-point mark in his career already, the surgery itself was a big risk. An injured Backstrom at any price tag wouldn’t be of great use to the team on the ice.
In the end, it all comes down to risks for Backstrom. Another injury could be career-ending, but he can still be effective if he remains healthy. So this could be the worst take of the article by April. Hopefully, for Backstrom and the Capitals, that is the case.
The Big Extension
This article can’t end without mention of the big extension the team signed this offseason. About a month ago, Tom Wilson earned a lucrative seven-year, $45.4 million extension, which only kicks in at the start of the 2024-25 season. While he is a unique player in the NHL, some question whether his physical style of play can be sustainable for him during the entirety of the contract. At the moment, he hasn’t proved us wrong. However, he has also been a victim of injuries, only suiting up for 33 games last season.
There are many questions for the aging Capitals core. However, with everyone fresh to start off, there is room for improvement this season. They’ll have to find a way to crawl up in the standings as they find themselves in a strong conference alongside many much-improved teams.
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