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Capitals face tough decisions in offseason following winning Stanley Cup

Futures of Trotz, defensemen Carlson, Kempny, goalie Grubauer among questions

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup celebration will culminate with a parade down Constitution Avenue leading to the National Mall on Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

The focus will return to business Wednesday when the players, coaches and management gather at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for exit interviews before heading their separate ways for the summer, and, for some, beyond that.

 

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Playoff top memories | MacLellan quietly savors Stanley Cup victory]

 

The two-month Stanley Cup Playoff run to winning the Cup for the first time in the Capitals' 43-season history put off making some difficult decisions.

Here are five of the biggest questions they face heading into the offseason:

 

1. Will coach Barry Trotz be back?

This is a question for general manager Brian MacLellan, but also for Trotz, whose contract expires July 1.

After a 4-3 championship-clinching win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, MacLellan said of Trotz, "If he wants to be back, he'll be back." That seemed to leave it up to Trotz, who said, he "absolutely" could see a future for himself in Washington.

But if Trotz has any bitterness about not getting a contract extension last summer or during the season, we're about to find out. The Capitals probably will have to pay more now to keep him.

In Trotz's four seasons in Washington, the Capitals have finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division three times, won the Presidents' Trophy twice and won the Stanley Cup once. The New York Islanders are the only NHL team without a coach, so Trotz's options appear limited.

But would another team suddenly choose to change coaches if one who won the Stanley Cup last week became available?

Trotz grew close with this group of players over the past season. Would he be willing to walk away from them now?

Video: The impact the Cup win will have on Trotz's career

 

2. Will defenseman John Carlson be re-signed?

MacLellan made it clear he'd like to re-sign Carlson, but the price is going to be hefty.

A 28-year-old right-handed defenseman who can play the power-play point, Carlson would be one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents available if he makes it to the open market July 1.

After leading NHL defensemen with a career-high 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) during the regular season, Carlson did it again during the playoffs with a Capitals-record 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) by a defenseman. Carlson likes it in Washington, which selected him with the No. 27 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, but would he be willing to take a discount to stay?

Before the playoffs began, MacLellan said fitting Carlson under the salary cap might be an issue.

"It depends on how much money he wants," MacLellan said. "It's going to be a trade-off on do we want to create some space or what the salary level we're willing to go to and he's willing to accept."

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Carlson blasts one-timer for PPG

 

3. Should backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer be traded?

Grubauer began the playoffs as the starting goaltender before Braden Holtby reclaimed the job after Washington lost in overtime in each of the first two games of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But Grubauer, 26, is coming off a strong season in which he was 15-10-3 with a 2.35 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and three shutouts and appears ready to take on a bigger role.

The Capitals eventually will have to make room for goaltender Ilya Samsonov, their first-round pick (No. 22) in the 2015 NHL Draft who was signed to an entry-level contract May 3. Grubauer is slated to become a restricted free agent July 1, so Washington might opt to save salary cap space by trading him rather than re-signing him.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm2: Grubauer stones Letestu's backhander

 

4. Will defenseman Michal Kempny re-sign?

Kempny said he was thinking about returning to Europe when his contract expired after this season before the Capitals acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 19 for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The 27-year-old went from being a frequent healthy scratch with the Blackhawks to solidifying the Capitals top four on defense by playing next to Carlson in their second pair.

Kempny no doubt opened eyes around the NHL with his play in the playoffs, averaging 17:42 of ice time per game. As a potential unrestricted free agent, he will have other options if the Capitals aren't able to re-sign him.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Kempny pots one-timer to pad lead

 

5. What is Jay Beagle's future?

Although Beagle ranked eighth among Capitals forwards in ice time per game (12:43) in the playoffs, he was invaluable to their Cup run because of his ability to kill penalties and win face-offs. He took 306 face-offs and won a team-high 184 for a team-best 60.1 winning percentage.

Initially signed to an American Hockey League contract as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Beagle is the first player to win the Kelly Cup (ECHL), Calder Cup (AHL) and the Stanley Cup. But the Calgary native can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and will turn 33 on Oct. 16.

With Chandler Stephenson, 24, in line to likely take over the fourth-line center job, Beagle's days with Capitals could be over.

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm1: Beagle slips puck past Vasilevskiy

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