Caps win Stanley Cup; NHL business season kicks off

Marc Elliott

Father, Son and Stanley 2018
Father, Son and Stanley 2018

HERMANTOWN… It took 59 days, 24 games over four series (6-6-7-5, 16-8) and several thousand airmiles of travel, and a lot of the old blood, sweat and tears. And now the Washington Capitals can refer to themselves as something they could not call themselves until now; Stanley Cup Champions. They defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in a Game 5 thriller to win the series and the Cup. It’s a title, a thing, that can never be taken from you. Once you have attained it, it is yours forever. As a long-time fan, as someone who has seen well over 50-some of these tournaments, I might think I know what that’s like. But I don’t. I don’t have a clue actually. That’s a “thing” that’s reserved for a very special few. A club that is essentially quite hard to get into. That’s why it is as special as it is. And now a whole new set of players save for one who already had his name engraved upon the silver beauty will live in a state of fame forever. 

The Knights played their hinders off, they absolutely did. For the better part of three periods in Game 5 it appeared as if the Knights were taking this show back to DC, and then, a roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel and who knows? In the end the Caps were on a mission. A mission to right a whole lot of wrongs. A mission to atone for all of the times they came to this dance and had to go home before midnight… empty handed at that. There were many pundits who didn’t see this team doing this particular thing this year. There were many that thought this group would take a step back this past regular season. But Head Coach Barry Trotz had different ideas. And as a longtime observer of Trotz, about all I can say is that his approach to this post-season, I’ve just never seen this before from him. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the team had not given him a contract extension during the season, heck, it’s still unclear if they even discussed one. But I have to believe his no-pressure attitude, his if we win we win deal, his stance that there are many more important real-life things beside this hockey tourney, I must believe that he was green-lighting his players to just go out and play without a lot of mental clutter that can send so many championship missions south in the sports business. 

The resolve the Caps played with after losing the first two home games of the tourney, then besting the Columbus Bluejackets 4 straight games after, well, that should have served notice that the old Caps, the ones who were regular season ice gods for so many years and then post-season flops, weren’t playing in this tourney, the “new” Capitals were. They then met up with their perennial nemesis the Penguins of Pittsburgh, going for a three-peat no less and promptly dispatched them from their quest. Then they popped a pretty good team, the Tampa Lightning right on the chin in G1 and G2, before the Bolts said, not so fast and took the middle three tilts, until the Caps rallied it up and dominated G6 and G7 en route to a Finals berth, only the 2nd one ever in club history. Out in Sin City, on a business trip, they stumbled in G1 before resuming with their power game to take 4 straight from the Knights and then they tumbled out on to the Vegas strip, Cup in tow, champagne flowing, Vegas lights glowing and the par-tay was on. 

The Caps victory parade is tomorrow and then the league gets on with it’s off-season business and so forth. It’s mostly un-exciting, but necessary. For instance, will the Caps look different next season? That possibility exists. In the Cap era most Champions lose some of their pieces in the off-season after a win. It just might start with the bench boss Trotz and could include their number one D-man John Carlson, and very important centerman Jay Beagle. All three are Unrestricted Free Agents. Rumors have been floated that Trotz is somewhat miffed that an extension offer had not been made earlier in the season and might just be on his way out, Cup ring and all. There is yet another that he will be seeking a multi-year deal and will want $4mil plus per season and some analysts don’t believe the club would be willing to pony up to that extent for a Coach. The team also has assistant Todd Rierden in the wings as leverage should Trotz try some extra special negotiating tactics. The players though, really like Trotz. Would management be willing to tamper with that with a chance to repeat on the horizon?

Carlson is in his prime and could be seeking an 8 year/$8mil plus sort of deal. Would the Caps pay that? He earned $4mil this year, and the Caps will have $16.2mil and change worth of cap space in a projected $80mil cap for next year. And there will be competition for his services. Beagle is a solid multi-purpose center of which I would feel the Caps could ill afford to let go.

So, the Caps won’t be facing the same sort of cap headaches the Blackhawks did post Cup wins, but there will be some delicate maneuvering. For now, enjoy the victory boys, you have most assuredly earned it… 
EMOTIONS CAN RUN high for players, families and friends in the Cup run. For the Caps TJ Oshie, if you are a hardcore fan you most likely know of the story of his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In a postgame interview after winning the Cup Oshie struggled with emotion as he talked of his father and if he would know and understand what was going on that night. If you’ve not seen it and have online access, I encourage you to seek it out and watch it. You know where to find it… 

THE NHL AWARDS ARE next week on Wednesday June 20th at 7PM CT on NBCSN. The NHL Entry Draft will be held on Friday June 22nd and conclude on Saturday the 23rd. Round One will be broadcast on NBCSN beginning at 630PM CT. This year the Dallas Stars are the Hosts…
If you were new WILD GM Paul Fenton, what would you do this summer that would have the most impact for the team for next season, and then for the team’s future as well? I’ll tell you what I would do, and I’ll tell you next week! Until then, over and out… PEACE

CONGRATS to JUSTIFY, Bob Baffert and former Canterbury Downs Jockey Mike Smith on a very sweet Triple Crown victory! Awesome doesn’t cover it…