2021-22 Record: 44-26-12 (100pts)
Goal differential: 275-245 (+30)
Key Additions: G Darcy Kuemper, F Connor Brown, F Marcus Johansson, F Dylan Strome, G Charlie Lindgren
Key Subtractions: G Vitek Vanecek, G Ilya Samsonov
The Capitals choose to run it back with basically the same team as last year – with the exception being an entirely new tandem in goal. As the team gets older, it’s clear that management and ownership are looking to give this group one more shot at the Cup. But, the outsider’s perspective here tells me that their window may be closed.
Up front, the team adds a couple of nice depth pieces in Brown and Johansson. Neither guy will move the radar much, but they add some physicality and some secondary scoring here. Dylan Strome is a nice bargain buy and will look to break out on his own, after spending last season on Patrick Kane’s line. If he can continue to produce at a high level, this team might have found its lineup replacement for future HOF center Nicklas Backstrom, whose future in the sport may be in jeopardy due to injury. On a productivity scale, however, it’s hard to see Strome getting anywhere near the levels Backstrom has sustained over his career.
Defensively, the Caps make no major changes, and will roll out a core group with an average age over 30 years old. Led by John Carlsson, they can produce from the backend and have plenty of experience, but from my viewpoint; look to be one or two injuries away from really struggling. In my opinion, they really need to freshen up this group and bring in some youth while there are still good pieces here to teach them.
In goal, they add Stanley Cup pedigree in Darcy Kuemper, who will be backed up by one of Charlie Lindgren or Zachary Fucale. This will be the first time the Caps will have a consistent #1 goaltender since Braden Holtby left … but Kuemper is 32 years old and had a variety of injuries that left him on the IR last season. Running with Lindgren or Fucale in case of injury, is a risky situation. For my betting money, if I were to pick a Metropolitan Division team that will take major steps back at some point in the near future, I’m betting on the Caps. Whether or not it will be this year, we’ll have to wait and see.