Oshie, who was traded from St. Louis, had 26 goals in his first season with Washington and 33 in the second. Both were then career highs and Oshie emerged as a third star for the Capitals next to Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
“Just my spot on the team really fit my game and hopefully they felt the same about the fit as me,” Oshie said on why he played so well. “There’s not one thing that team-wise or structurally that I don’t like about playing here.”
But now, Oshie is set to be a free agent and both parties have tough decisions to make.
For the Capitals, is it worth bringing Oshie back? The right winger certainly filled a hole, but the Capitals failed to advance past the second round. Would Oshie keep them in contention? If so, how much money is Oshie worth?
Of course, the decision is up to Oshie as well. In his exit interview with reporters on Friday, Oshie said he loved playing in Washington and was uncomfortable with change. But Oshie is 30 and his upcoming contract will most likely be the most lucrative of his career. And of the available right wingers this summer, Oshie led the league in points for his position while only playing in 60 games.
The answer depends on what Oshie’s market will be.
“This group of guys, organization, coaches, it’s been a great fit for me. It’s been a great fit for my family,” Oshie said. “So, I’d like to come back, yeah.”
The Capitals will have nearly $23 million in salary cap space, but Washington has 11 free agents, six of which are restricted. Of the six restricted free agents, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov are young important pieces to the Capitals‘ future and need to be extended.
The majority of that $23 million will go to them and then money gets tight. Washington also could slightly have more room if the salary cap increases to a projected $76 million from $73 million, which Sportsnet reported was possible in March.
To try and figure out what Oshie is worth, it’s helpful to first look at his last contract. On July 19, 2012, Oshie signed a five-year deal with an average salary of $4.18 million per year. Oshie made $4.5 million in the last year of his deal.
From 2009 to 2012, there were three other right wingers who signed similar deals in length and money and saw considerable pay raises on their next contract. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek signed an eight-year, $66 million contract in 2016 when he was 26. Ryan Callahan signed a six-year, $34.8 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014. Loui Eriksson signed a six-year, $36 million deal in 2016 with the Vancouver Canucks.
Callahan and Eriksson are particularly noteworthy, because like Oshie, they were 30 when they signed their deals.
Last summer, the top two right wing free agents were David Backes and Kyle Okposo. Okposo signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins signed Backes to a five-year, $30 million deal.
The Capitals will also have a huge gap at the right wing position if they let Oshie walk. Besides Oshie, second-line right winger Justin Williams is also a free agent. Tom Wilson played on the right wing in the playoffs on the third line.
“I think T.J.’s a big part of our hockey team,” Trotz said. “He’s what you look for in a Washington Capital. You talk about someone who’s passionate, T.J.’s passionate. Someone who plays with joy, he plays with joy. Someone who’s got creativity in his game, T.J. has that. Someone who’s got a lot of competitive spirit in his game, T.J. has that.
“Can he play and be a productive player for us? T.J. can do that. All those things he’s saying is all the things that we’re saying. I think (general manager Brian MacLellan) and him will probably discuss that and hopefully we get something done.”
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