With another disappointing second-round exit, the Washington Capitals have some needs to fill and questions to answer. They must address whether or not they will promote Jay Beagle or head to free agency to fill their need for a third line centre, and they must also decide on the fate of three pending unrestricted free agents: Jason Chimera, Mike Richards and Mike Weber.
Out of these three, the biggest uncertainty lies with Chimera. The 37-year-old veteran has been with the Capitals for seven years, ever since he was dealt from Columbus to Washington in the 2009-10 campaign. Despite the unknown future, Chimera is confident he will return next season.
“I still think I’m going to be back,” Chimera told The Washington Post. “I’m not confident in anything. In this game, I think you’re not guaranteed anything to be back. I want to be back. You don’t think of playing anywhere else. You know the business side of it, but I still don’t think I’m going to play anywhere else, but you’ll see what happens, right?”
Here are four reasons why the Capitals should bring back Chimera for his eighth season in red, white and blue.
They don’t call Chimera “Ice Cheetah” for nothing. He is by far one of the fastest skaters in the National Hockey League, making him a lethal weapon and a perfect fit as a third-line winger. He is able to keep up with the pace of the game, offensively and defensively, and can adjust to the pace faster than many other players on Washington’s roster.
General Manager Brian MacLellan explained in an interview with CBS how one of Washington’s biggest flaws is a lack of speed, and how they are not as fast as some of the other teams that are bigger and quicker. He also discussed how he wants to improve the third line, due to the pressure that fell on them when the second line’s production fell short.
MacLellan pointed out that he wants to improve the bottom six with “a little more offensive, a little more speed.” By re-signing Chimera, and upgrading the rest of the third-line with a better, faster winger on the right side and a third-line centre (whether or not it’s Beagle or another UFA), MacLellan will have a fast, strong third line at his disposal.
Size and Physicality
Chimera brings an incredibly aggressive, physical presence to the lineup. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound winger has delivered over 100 hits in his last three seasons with the Caps. Along with his physical play and strong penalty killing, he strives to win battles in front of the net.
In addition, he has cut back on penalty minutes, only in the box for 22 minutes this regular season. If he continues to cut back on the calls, he can be a tough guy for Washington who doesn’t cost the team penalties (like Tom Wilson does), but isn’t afraid to get gritty when he has to. He’s also had his fair share of fights and gritty tangles in his long time in the NHL.
Not to mention, Chimera consistently brings a lot of offense to the table. His battles and grind in front of the net got him a promotion to the second power-play unit, and age doesn’t seem to slow down his scoring ability. This past season, Chimera finished with 40 points (20 G, 20 A), one of the best seasons of his career.
He also works wonders when it comes to special teams. On the power-play, Chimera recorded a career-high nine points (4 G, 5 A) and was one of the best players on the man advantage. Early in the season, he worked on the penalty kill, finishing with two shorthanded goals and some pretty good stats in 5-on-4.
For someone who only averages 14:03 TOI per game, Chimera was one of the best offensive players for Washington, finishing fourth in goal-scoring on the roster.
The Capitals are a close-knit team, and appear to be a team where everyone in the locker room has a positive relationship with one another. Chimera is a factor in that, as it has been said by his teammates that he is a great presence to have around.
When talking to reporters about his older teammate, Beagle emphasized how Chimera is “a great guy in the locker room” and a “great guy to be around.” CSN called Chimera “by far the loudest and often most unpredictable voice in the Capitals’ locker room.”
"You want win with these guys right now… Guys love each other in here, kisses all over the place." -Jason Chimera pic.twitter.com/M8sI44bHNv
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 9, 2016
With Chimera apparently bringing a lot of leadership, influence and smiles to the locker room whenever he can, the long-tenured Capital should definitely be one that stays with the team.
Overall, Chimera is a strong veteran winger with a few more good years left in him. He is consistent and brings physicality, positivity and offense to the line-up. Not to mention, he currently only has a cap hit of $2,000,000, and even if he were to want a pay raise, it wouldn’t be too much and would barely cut into the $12,788,204 Washington has remaining in cap space.
With Chimera putting up excellent numbers, and making an outstanding impact, he certainly deserves an extension from the Capitals, who are closer and closer to finding the right formula to reach their first Stanley Cup.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.