After an up and down 2021-22 regular season, the Washington Capitals were able to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year, but were eliminated in the first round by the Florida Panthers. That said, they did put up a great fight against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning squad, but ultimately fell in six games.
With the inconsistencies they experienced this past season, paired with the fact they were eliminated early in the playoffs for a fourth straight year, there could be some significant changes to the Capitals’ roster moving forward. While the main core is expected to stay intact, several other pieces may be changed as they look to give players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom what could be one last shot at a Stanley Cup run. With that said, let’s take a look at four players from this year’s Capitals team that will likely have to find a new home for the 2022-23 campaign.
For plenty of years, Ilya Samsonov was regarded as one of the best goaltending prospects in the entire NHL, appearing to have an extremely bright future ahead of him. After being selected 22nd overall by the Capitals in 2015, he posted fantastic numbers in the following two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League before heading over to North America for the 2018-19 campaign.
His first season in North America came with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League, and while there were some positives, it was filled with inconsistency. Years later, those same inconsistencies still plague the 25-year-old.
Though Samsonov remains extremely talented, the fact of the matter is that he has just a 2.82 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .903 save percentage (SV%) in 94 career games. Both he and Vitek Vanecek are restricted free agents heading into this offseason, meaning the Capitals brass will have to make a decision on which one to keep. It won’t be an easy one to make, but the latter has been slightly more consistent, meaning Samsonov may very well be on his way out of town.
After a very solid first season with the Capitals in which he scored 27 points in 46 games, things fell off in a big way for Justin Schultz in 2021-22. The 31-year-old struggled immensely with just four goals and 23 points in 74 games, this coming despite the fact that he received nearly a minute and a half of ice time per game on the power play.
While Schultz was able to step things up slightly in the postseason, the very small sample size is unlikely to convince Capitals management to give him another shot. With his two-year, $8 million deal having expired, it seems very likely that both parties choose to move on and he looks to find a new home for the 2022-23 season.
Once a very dependable defensive player who could provide some secondary scoring as well, Carl Hagelin’s game has declined in a major way over the past two seasons. Over his past 109 games, he has managed just nine goals and 30 points. Even worse, his once great play in his own zone has taken a serious dive as well.
To make matters even worse, Hagelin suffered a nasty eye injury in early March that early on had some worried could jeopardize his career. Thankfully, that isn’t the case, though the 33-year-old has said his vision in that eye will never be back to 100 percent.
Given his declining play in the past two seasons paired with the uncertainty moving forward regarding his eye, this is a player the Capitals are probably best moving on from. That said, however, he does still have one more year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $2.75 million, meaning general manager Brian MacLellan will need to make a decision on how to move him.
At this year’s trade deadline, the Capitals chose to make a move with the Seattle Kraken that saw them acquire Marcus Johansson. It was a reunion between the two, as the 31-year-old spent the first seven seasons of his career in Washington.
Unfortunately, the scoring touch he showed back in the day with the Capitals wasn’t overly existent this go around, as he had just three goals and six points in 18 games along with a goal and two points in six playoff outings. He simply doesn’t appear to be the player he was during his prime days with the Capitals, and it is fair to question whether this may have been the last we see from him in the NHL.
As mentioned previously, there are likely several changes coming for this Capitals team, meaning these four may not be the only names to go. Vanecek remains a possibility though Samsonov feels more likely, and other names such as Michal Kempny, Matt Irwin and Johan Larsson will almost undoubtedly move on as well.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.