After failing to advance beyond the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight year, the Washington Capitals are prepared for a Redemption Season. With a new head coach in Peter Laviolette and some new faces up and down the lineup, the Capitals should be in a good position to dominate their newly-realigned East Division. That is, if they can hold off some of their toughest rivals of years past, including the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps will also face the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils, and the Philadelphia Flyers, a total of eight times per team.
Due to COVID restrictions and limited ability to travel cross-continentally as would normally occur, the NHL ‘created’ four new divisions, including the North Division, entirely composed of Canada’s seven teams. Each team will play a shortened 56-game sprint, and the top four teams in each division will qualify for the Playoffs, where all four rounds will return to the traditional best-of-7 series.
In the off-season, the Washington Capitals said goodbye to goaltender Braden Holtby, which was especially painful for long-time Caps’ fans who followed the now-Vancouver Canuck all the way from his Hershey Bears days through winning a Stanley Cup, and his last games during the playoffs.
After failing to make his mark in Washington, Ilya Kovalchuk returned to Russia and signed with Avangard Omsk in the KHL, and lost defenseman Radko Gudas to the Florida Panthers. Additionally, Washington welcomed a number of new players, including Daniel Sprong (ANH), long-time Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (who will not participate this season due to a heart condition), Justin Schultz (PIT), Trevor van Riemsdyk (CAR), Paul LaDue (LAK), Conor Sheary (BUF), goaltender Craig Anderson (OTT) to a professional tryout, and former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (BOS). The Lundqvist and Chara acquisitions were arguably the most surprising. Unfortunately, as previously noted, The King will not join the team this season. The Capitals signed Sprong to a 2-year extension, as well as defenseman Brenden Dillon to a 4-year contract, Schultz to a 2-year contract, van Riemsdyk, LaDue, Sheary, and Jonas Siegenthaler to 1-year contracts.
Although the 2020-21 season formally starts on January 13th, Washington does not play until Thursday the 14th, where they will face the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00pm EST. The Capitals play the Sabres four times in 11 days, all in the month of January. Washington’s last game before the suspension of the 2019-20 season was against the Sabres, a game they ultimately dropped in a 3-2 shootout loss.
The Washington Capitals had just two ‘real play’ opportunities to make final roster decisions, with two scrimmages having been held at Medstar Capitals Iceplex. The “White Team” won both scrimmages, and it was the defensemen who ended up showing up the most offensively. Coaching staff only had three days of additional practice to decide who will make the official roster, and who will be a part of the new ‘taxi squad’.
The idea of the ‘taxi squad’ came about due to the unique nature of this season, which features interdivisional team only and a condensed schedule where teams will play multiple back-to-backs or have just one day of rest. Four to six additional players, most likely current or potential AHL’ers, will be able to accompany their respective teams in the event that a member of the official roster is deemed ‘unfit to play’. These players can be forwards or defensemen, and if there are less than three goaltenders on the active roster, one of the 4-6 must be a goalie.
Below you can see my predicted official roster and six potential taxi squad inclusions for the 2020-21 Washington Capitals.
Predicted 2020-21 Capitals Roster
Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Hagelin – Eller- Panik
Sheary – Dowd – Hathaway
Orlov – Carlson
Dillon – Jensen
Chara – Siegenthaler
Predicted 2020-21 Capitals Taxi Squad
Any combination of the following player to meet a maximum of six (6).
|Daniel Sprong||Martin Fehervary||Craig Anderson|
|Brian Pinho||Trevor van Riemsdyk|
|Connor McMichael||Justin Schultz|
The following players were placed on waivers on Monday:
- G Zach Fucale
- G Pheonix Copley
- F Daniel Carr
- F Shane Gersich
- F Mike Sgarbossa
- F Phillipe Maillet
- D Lucas Johansen
- D Paul LaDue
- D Cameron Schilling
The following players were loaned to the AHL Hershey Bears:
- Kody Clark
- Brett Leason
- Garrett Pilon
- Joe Snively
- Riley Sutter
- Hendrix LaPierre loaned to Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
- Axel Jonsson-Fjallby re-assigned from Sweden to AHL Hershey Bears
- Martin Fehervary (waiver-exempt) and Craig Anderson (PTO) not at Medstar Capitals Iceplex for Monday practice.
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