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Oshie says young Capitals must emerge this season

'We need everyone' to make up for losses of Williams, Johansson

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Forward T.J. Oshie knows who the Washington Capitals lost this offseason, but he believes they have the players to replace them.

"We lost a lot of really, really good players, and I think we knew that was going to happen," Oshie said Monday. "Now we're going to need a lot of younger guys to fill in for a lot of different roles."

Two of those younger guys are forwards Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana. Burakovsky, 22, signed a two-year, $6 million contract (average annual value $3 million) on July 4 after he had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 64 games last season and six points (three goals, three assists) in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Vrana, 21, had six points (three goals, three assists) in 21 games with the Capitals last season, and 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 49 games with Hershey of the American Hockey League. 

"I'm looking for everyone to take that next step," Oshie said. "It's not one or two guys; we need everyone to get on board and to find that next level. From our star players to our support players and to the guys that play the dirty minutes, we need everyone."

The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons but were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs each time. This offseason, Washington lost forwards Justin Williams (Carolina Hurricanes) and Marcus Johansson (New Jersey Devils), and defensemen Karl Alzner (Montreal Canadiens), Kevin Shattenkirk (New York Rangers) and Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights), in part to stay below the NHL salary cap.

"I don't expect us to run away with it like we did the past couple years in the regular season," Oshie said.

The 30-year-old was an unrestricted free agent before signing an eight-year, $46 million contract ($5.75 million AAV) to stay with the Capitals on June 23. He had 56 points (33 goals, 23 assists) in 68 games, tying forward Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals lead in goals, and 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 13 playoff games.

Williams and Johansson combined for 106 points (48 goals, 58 assists) and were tied for third among Capitals goal-scorers.

"You look at our goal scoring and we have [Ovechkin] coming back for another great year," Oshie said. "[Nicklas Backstrom], who in my mind is the best two-way center in the League, and then you got [forward Evgeny Kuznetsov] who also got that big contract (eight years, $64 million). That's a pretty solid group with a lot of offensive threat.

"But again, we can't rely on one or two or three guys to make or break us. We will really need to make it a group effort to make up for players that we've lost and to help lead the young guys that are now going to be stepping in."

Oshie spoke between games in Da Beauty League at Braemar Arena, where NHL players are among playing for charity twice a week through Wednesday. He said the Capitals can look to the Penguins, who have won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with an infusion of youth.

"You look at Pittsburgh, for instance, and see how they had those young guys step up," Oshie said. "That's what we are going to need to do. Between the younger players stepping up and the veteran players continuing to produce at the high level they have, we'll be OK. 

"We just need to keep playing our best hockey, starting at training camp, and be ready for playoffs when they roll around."

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