Caps face an aging, expensive roster after fourth straight first-round playoff exit


The Washington Capitals suffered yet another overtime playoff loss to be eliminated by the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday, a fate that has become shakingly familiar to Caps fans.

"Shocker, another overtime loss," said John Auville of The Sports Junkies on Monday morning. "They flashed the graphic of how often teams have gone to overtime, I think since 2008, in the first round, and the Caps are basically, they're lapping the competition. They've had 17 first-round overtime playoff games, where like the next closest team had eight. They're always in overtime. Always."

"And they always seem to lose 'em," said Jason Bishop.

"Yeah. It's kind of frightening when they go to overtime," Auville lamented.

"And I think it's pretty common," said John-Paul Flaim. "Maybe the Caps do it more frequently than others, but weren't both games [Sunday] decided in overtime?"

"Yes, they were," said Bishop. "Both game sevens decided in overtime."

The immediate reality is the Capitals have an aging core and a top-heavy salary cap, both of which make the retooling that's needed burdensome. Alex Ovechkin, though he just completed a 50-goal season, will be 37 come fall, and Nicklas Backstrom turns 35 in November and could potentially opt for hip surgery this summer.

Together they're owed $18.7 million against the cap next season and that's to say nothing of John Carlson and T.J. Oshie's combined $13.75 million hit against the cap. Carlson is 32 years old and Oshie is 35. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who turns 30 in two days, is owed $7.8 million against the cap next season. All told, that accounts for $40.25 million.

"You just wonder what's next for this Capitals [team]," It's four years, four first-round exits. Two different coaches, same outcome. Obviously the first two years with [Todd] Reirden, after winning the Stanley Cup Final, and the last two years with coach [Peter] Laviolette. They appear to be an aging team."

"They don't appear," said Auville, "they're the oldest team in the league. They have a lot of retooling to do."

Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Caps have suffered first-round exits from the Hurricanes, Islanders, Bruins and now the Panthers, respectively.

"Is that true," asked Eric Bickel. "They're statistically the oldest team?"

"The oldest team in the league," Auville said. "So they have to bring in some youth, obviously, to augment the core: Ovi, Nicki, Tom Wilson. Hopefully his knee injury isn't too severe, but that's what was keeping him out of the playoffs. It has to worry you that Nick Backstrom has come out and said 'my hip's never going to be 100 percent.' I mean that's got to be alarming. We knew he was banged up, we knew that was an issue coming into the season, but it's apparently something that's lingered throughout the season and will now linger through the rest of his career by the sound of it."

"Did he say what it is?" Bickel asked. "Is it just a degenerative thing?"

"He didn't say anything specific, but it just alarms you that that's something that he's gonna have to deal with as an older player," said Auville.

"And he's on the hook for almost $20 million for the next two years," said Bishop. "That's the problem, see it's very top heavy when you look at the payroll, because Ovi, Backstrom, Carlson, Oshie and Kuznetsov are all booked through 2024, at least 2024, and that's $41 million that they're gonna make each year."

"And I'm not sure of Wilson's contract status," Auville said.

"Wilson's got one more year, I think," said Bishop. "And so does [Anthony] Mantha."

Wilson and Mantha are both due to hit free agency in the summer of 2024.

"You're gonna have to pay that guy," Auville said of Wilson.

"So, there's just, they're in a spot, man," Bishop said. "They're in a pickle."

This article is driven by Dulles Motorcars.